Armed For Battle

R.J. Hively is scheduled to visit Ole Miss for the first time the weekend of the Arkansas series. But the California right-handed pitcher knows he'll like what he sees. That's why he's already signed with the Rebels.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Santa Ana (Calif.) College originally was a part of his hometown team, Cal-State Fullerton. He redshirted in 2008, had a back injury 2009 that has healed, and pitched for his juco team this season as a starter earlyon but out of the bullpen recently.

Connections are often big in baseball, and that was true in the case of Hively. He pitched for a Northwoods League summer team in Battle Creek, Mich., for former Ole Miss assistant coach Tom Fleenor, who was a part of the UM program in the 1990s.

Ole Miss assistant Carl Lafferty began recruiting Hively, sold the program to the talented righty, and now, "I already consider myself a Rebel," the 21-year-old Hively said.

"It's definitely where I wanted to go," said Hively, who also considered San Diego, Oregon, and Coastal Carolina, among the colleges recruiting him. "It's a small college town where baseball is so important. I'm looking forward to getting out of California to play."

The Golden State has been kind to Ole Miss currently and in the past. Names such as outfielder Bobby Kielty, catcher Charlie Waite and shortstop Chad Sterbens all come to mind as players who have traveled east and south to play in the Southeastern Conference at Ole Miss. Current shortstop Kevin Mort is from there, and originally so was UM assistant coach Matt Mossberg.

Hively now becomes the latest Californian to be a part of the Ole Miss baseball program. The Rebels are looking for more good arms for next season, and Hively fits the bill.

"My slider is my best pitch," he said. "I have two types of fastballs – a cut and a two-seam – a 12-6 curve, and a changeup. I'm mainly a fastball-slider guy, but I like to mix in the other pitches to keep people off balance."

His fastball is 87-92 mph, his slider 79-81, and curve ball 74-76. The (Fullerton) Troy High School product says he continues to work on all aspects of his pitching.

"I definitely want to improve my changeup," he said. "And I want to continue to improve my repeat quality."

Hively was a two-time all-star for the Northwoods League. This season Santa Ana won the Orange Empire Conference outright and is one of the best juco baseball teams in the country. They are ranked No. 1 among the Western states in juco ball.

Hively spent most of his early baseball career as a closer and has been a starter most of this season until the last few games when he's been a bullpenner. He's got five wins this season along with three saves. His ERA is 3.25.

Now Hively looks forward to bringing his skills to the Rebels and helping a program that will lose its top two starters (senior Aaron Barrett, high draft pick Drew Pomeranz), and won't have available two of its top incoming freshmen (Casey Mulholland, Nathan Foriest - both out for a year with Tommy John surgery recovery).

"I know baseball is real big down there," Hively said. "Being able to pitch against all the SEC programs like LSU, Georgia, Auburn in those big weekend series. I love it that the town is very involved and passionate. I'm looking forward to being a part of the history of Ole Miss and helping to carry it on."

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