On His Way Back

Jake Morgan had established himself as one of the best closers in the Southeastern Conference in 2009. As a redshirt sophomore that season, he made 27 appearances and was credited with nine saves. His ERA was 3.24.

But Morgan's effectiveness went way beyond those numbers.

"He has a lot of confidence," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "His demeanor on the mound is terrific. He's very calm and nothing seems to rattle him. The team really senses that when he's out there."

Trouble is, Jake wasn't out there last spring. And the team suffered.

Not because there wasn't an effective closer. Brett Huber was a freshman sensation in the role with 12 saves. But the team could have used Jake, because it would have allowed Huber to pitch in another role, and it would have moved people around and lifted others and added depth.

Bianco is pleased to have Jake as an option again

But last October Jake Morgan was lost for a year when he had Tommy John surgery. That was then. This is now. It's been a long road back. But he is indeed back.

"I've been 100 percent on track for a while now and still moving forward," said the Canton Academy product.

Now it's about getting back to where he was before his life changed dramatically. There have really been no bumps on that long road back. Watching and not pitching last year was not an easy thing, according to Morgan.

"Not being able to help out the team was definitely the hardest part," he said. "It wasn't the rehab and stuff. It was watching the team knowing I could help out."

Morgan knows he might start out as a closer this year and then turn into a starter. A precedent has been set not too long ago.

"Look at Scott Bittle," Jake said. "He started as a closer and ended up being an unbelievable starter. So you never know."

Bianco says for now Morgan is a closer but that's what fall ball is for.

"I would think he's going to close," said Bianco, entering his 11th fall with the Rebels. "Again, we don't know, and things change from day to day. We're not going to push him a lot in the fall. He's going to throw in short stints. If there comes a time in spring where we really need him to start, then we would start him. I don't think we want to extend him too much in the fall. Let's don't forget, he really hasn't pitched in a year and a half. So let's get him comfortable back out there on the mound."

Jake hopes to be effective again like 2009

Morgan says just put me in, Coach.

"I'll tell Coach whatever you need me to do, I'll try to do it for you," he said. "If he wants me to start, I'll start. If he wants me to be mid relief, I'll be mid relief. If he wants me to close, I'll close. I feel he will know the best way to utilize me."

Bianco said Morgan has worked effectively to get back this fall, and he's done more than just get his arm back in shape.

"He's done well. Things have gone very smooth. He's worked hard as far as the rehab and also extremely hard in the weight room and with conditioning. This is the best shape he's ever been in. He's lost 15 or 20 pounds."

Jake says the road has been long, but he's happy to be ready to help out again.

"I wish I could take my year back last year and see what would have happened. But it's gone and I have to put that behind me. I can't worry about that now.

"It's been frustrating to go through it and get it back. It's definitely been challenging. But I'm feeling really good about it now."

And that can only mean good things for Ole Miss baseball in the spring of 2011.


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