Mon Jun 11 12:23pm EDT
OXFORD, Miss. -- Yeah, sure, fall practice is still several months away, but it's never too soon to look ahead to next baseball season. As I've done the past few years, here's my way too early guess at Ole Miss' 2013 Opening Day lineup. The Rebels start next season by hosting TCU for three games at Swayze Field. The offensive order will have a different look to it, but most of the pitching staff returns from 2012's 37-win team that lost in the finals of the College Station Regional.
Catcher: Austin Knight .267 BA/.371 OBP/.267 SLG OR Stuart Turner .332/.457/.529 (LSU-Eunice)
I cheated a little here and decided to write both down. Knight was very solid behind the plate in 2012 as a freshman, and I expect him to make a significant push toward the starting spot next season. He threw out 6-of-8 would-be base stealers and showed adequate bat control in only 30 at-bats. Turner helped Eunice to a 57-5 record and a national title while hitting seven home runs and 16 doubles. He walked 39 times and struck out just 22 times. Turner threw out 36 percent of runners on attempted steals.
First base: Will Allen .302/.333/.391
Allen started 56 games at catcher this past season, but I expect a position change for next season. He was much improved offensively, and another jump should be expected with Allen spending the summer in the Cape Cod League. Ole Miss will likely need more than one home run out of the Gainesville, Fla., native next season, and he should bat in the middle of the order.
Second base: Chase Nyman .359 as senior at Pascagoula (Miss.)
Nyman should begin his career with significant gap power from the left side and transition that into legitimate power as his career progresses. The batting average was down, but that shouldn't be alarming. Nyman had little protection in the order and was extremely aggressive -- to a detriment -- for much of the season. He was 9-for-12 with five extra-base hits during the 5A championship series. I expect a solid defender in the field.
Shortstop: Austin Anderson .239/.352/.312
Anderson started 2012 in a deep hole and never fully recovered from it. I hate using luck as a reason for anything, but he definitely didn't catch any breaks during the season offensively. Normally that kind of thing averages out. For Ole Miss to be as good as it can be, I think Anderson needs to progress before next season and be an important part of the lineup. Defensively, Anderson fielded .939 with three of his eight errors coming in one game against Alabama.
Third base: Andrew Mistone .243/.305/.299
The Rebels return the best defensive third baseman in the league -- no matter what the postseason list said. Mistone saved a couple games at the hot corner and was automatic for much of the season. Mistone needs to improve offensively, and that usually happens with second-year JUCO transfers. His bunt game is solid, and he'll work hard to find a way on base. The average needs to jump up.
Left field: Tanner Mathis .359/.460/.462
Ole Miss got a huge lift last week when Mathis turned down an offer from the Astros and chose to return to Oxford for his senior season. He's the Rebels' offensive spark plug at the top of the order and will be a huge key to Ole Miss in 2013. He was UM's best offensive player in the postseason, and his energy can't be overstated. Mathis started the year with several defensive miscues, but those went away as as the year moved on.
Center field: Auston Bousfield .281/.352/.362
Bousfield played in 62 games this past season in the outfield and showed a ton of promise. He was clutch offensively at times and is already a plus defender with a strong, accurate arm. He had six assists in his rookie campaign. Bousfield compares well to a young Alex Yarbrough, so it'll be interesting to see him develop. He's staying in Oxford this summer and working out with Mistone and Mathis.
Right field: Will Jamison .247/.289/.325
I expect a platoon situation in right field unless someone really emerges. Jamison and Preston Overbey are the main candidates, and I decided to go with the defense and speed. Jamison is spending his summer in Alaska, and he needs to better his bat control and pitch selection. He struck out 15 times with five walks in 2012. Overbey hit .296 in SEC play -- 41 points above his overall average -- and could be in right or at first base.
Designated hitter: Sikes Orvis .232/.317/.321
Orvis could also find time at first base, but I'll go with Allen there and Orvis here. He showed power at times and was serviceable late in the season with increased at-bats. Orvis' big moment came with a ninth-inning home run against Tennessee to sweep the series when the Rebels won a couple innings later. Orvis should have some left-handed pop in the middle of the order next season. He's playing this summer in the Northwoods League, which has arguably become the second-best summer league behind the Cape.
Friday starter: Bobby Wahl 2.55 ERA/.211 BAA/104-32 (strikeouts-walks)
Shocker, I know. After an excellent sophomore season, Wahl will likely compete against Arkansas ace Ryne Stanek to be the top arm in the SEC West. He's pitching for Team USA this summer and should have the Rebels an advantage on most if not all Friday nights. Wahl took a significant step from 2011 to 2012, and he could continue to improve with another year of experience.
Saturday starter: Mike Mayers 3.50/.222/71-30
Mayers should team with Wahl to form an extremely potent top end of the rotation. It's what next season will have to be built around, and Mayers is an extremely talented No. 2 arm. Mayers will be in the Cape this summer to further his progression. Mayers was better than his numbers for most of the season, and I expect more command with runners on base in 2013.
Sunday starter: Tanner Bailey 3.86/.188/35-8
This is the inevitable question. Someone like Chris Ellis could take a Mayers-like jump from freshman to sophomore, but I'll go with the junior-to-senior jump that Bailey could possibly make. The .188 average against and control numbers gave him the edge here. His 32 innings this past season are more than Wahl or Mayers had in 2011.
Closer: Brett Huber 2.84/.256/29-10
The Rebels' all-time saves leader will return as a fifth-year senior in 2013. Huber struggled early in 2012, but after a short break due to a sore arm, he was electric, hitting some mid 90s on the gun and pitching very well the final portion of the season. I expect the Rebels' bullpen to be better next year, as guys like Hawtin Buchanan improve, and Huber will start the season at the back end with a chance to crush the career saves mark.
Mon Jun 04 09:01pm EDT
Gavin Cecchini was in attendance for Johan Santana's no-hitter a couple nights ago, the first such event in Mets' history.
On Monday, he became a part of the Big Apple franchise.
The Lake Charles (Barbe), La., shortstop and Ole Miss signee was drafted No. 12 overall by the Mets. He had worked out for the National League East club last Friday and is a certainty to skip his college career.
The slot value for the No. 12 overall pick is $2.55 million.
"I'm really speechless, and it's a dream come true," Cecchini said on Monday. "I talked to Mets' star) David Wright. We're like best friends. Hopefully we'll be teammates in a few years."
Cecchini's brother, Garin, is a prospect in the Red Sox organization. Garin Cecchini signed for $1.31 million in 2010.
"(Garin) just tells me that it's an everyday grind," Cecchini said, "but I love the game. To play a game and get paid for it, nothing better than that."
Cecchini heard his name called while in attendance on the MLB Network set.
"That's such a neat event, and it's an honor to be invited," Cecchini said.
DIAMONDBACKS TAKE TRAHAN: Arizona took catcher Stryker Trahan with the No. 26 overall pick.
The Ole Miss signee from Scott (Acadiana), La., could move to the corner outfield at the next level, but the Diamondbacks are excited by his left-handed power and excellent speed.
Slot value for that position is $1.7 million.
HENSLEY ALSO A FIRST-ROUNDER: Ty Hensley had to wait a little longer than expected, but the New York Yankees took the Edmond (Santa Fe), Okla., right-hander with the No. 30 overall pick on Monday.
Hensley, who signed with Ole Miss over Arizona State, Texas and Arkansas, is the Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year and features a heavy fastball that moves into the high 90s and a knee-buckling 12-to-6 curve.
The slot value for Hensley's spot is $1.6 million, and it's likely the Yankees will increase that if necessary to get the deal done.
Mon Jun 04 10:14am EDT
It's been three years and three days since Ole Miss was last in this situation.
Dropping a game to get to the super regional round of the NCAA Tournament and having to win an if-necessary contest a night later to continue the season. This time, it's the Rebels against TCU in College Station, Texas. The Horned Frogs knocked out host Texas A&M Sunday afternoon and kept the Rebels quiet in a 5-2 win Sunday night. The final game of the regional begins at 6:35 p.m on Monday.
Ole Miss hasn't announced a starter, but ace Bobby Wahl, who threw 118 pitches on Friday, is available in some capacity. It's unfair -- to say the least -- to expect Wahl to duplicate Drew Pomeranz from 2009, but it is a good time to look back at that incredible night.
That time, three years ago, it was Pomeranz becoming an Ole Miss legend. The host Rebels blew a six-run, eighth-inning lead against Western Kentucky in the first chance to clinch the regional, and UM coach Mike Bianco handed Pomeranz the ball that Monday night. Three days after throwing 109 pitches in a shutout of Monmouth, the left-hander tossed a 118-pitch complete game with 16 strikeouts. Ole Miss beat the Hilltoppers, 4-1, as Pomeranz allowed just two hits.
It was the most well-pitched game I've ever seen in person. Against a really good offensive club, Pomeranz put the Rebels on his 6-foot-5 frame and willed them to the win. I mostly remember the DRRREEEWWWW cheers after each strikeout -- all 16 of them. It was cool because the people in attendance could feel something special happening as it moved along. What started as "Can he give Ole Miss four or five innings" turned into a helpless bunch of Hilltoppers.
Here was our coverage from that night in June 2009:
That night was anything but normal. It was memorable and special.
FIRST ROUND FOR THREE OLE MISS SIGNEES?: The Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft begins at 6 p.m. (CT) on MLB Network, and three Ole Miss signees are potentially first round picks.
Lake Charles (Barbe), La., shortstop Gavin Cecchini is in New York for the event tonight. He was invited by MLB Network to join the festivities. He was even in attendance for Johan Santana's no-hitter the other night. Cecchini has long been the likely first Rebel off the board. The Blue Jays and Cardinals are possible destinations, and the possibility of him not coming to terms with a professional franchise is next to zero.
The one that will likely hurt for Ole Miss is Edmond (Santa Fe), Okla., right-hander Ty Hensley. I was guilty of providing the Ole Miss fan base hope when it came to the two-way star, but he's rocketed up draft boards and industry scuttlebutt says his signability won't be an issue. What's he's looking for and the expected slot value will be in the same ballpark.
The Dodgers have been linked to Hensley for a while now by experts, while the Giants and Rays are also early possibilities. It's unlikely he tumbles out of the top round.
Scott (Acadiana), La., catcher Stryker Trahan is the one to watch if you're looking for the most likely possibility to slide down the draft board. The left-handed hitting speedster has elite tools, but that hasn't produced stats yet, and some teams doubt his ability to stay behind the plate at the advanced levels -- perhaps having to switch to the outfield.
The Cardinals or Rays are ones to watch, but it wouldn't be a shocker if Trahan slid out of the top round. Opinions are pretty mixed on when he should be selected.
Here's a refresher on the changes to the Draft after the recent collective bargaining agreement.
The Draft has been reduced from 50 round to 40 rounds. This helps Ole Miss with guys like Tanner Mathis, who could jump at a late-round offer.
Each team gets a budget for the first 10 rounds of the Draft -- with the total budget the sum of the slot recommendations of all of a team's picks in the top 10 rounds. They can pay whatever to each individual pick inside the top 10 rounds, but the overall total has to be at or under budget by the end of the 10th round to avoid penalties.
If a team fails to sign a player in the first 10 rounds, budget is reduced by the assigned value of his pick. It can't reallocate that value to sign other players. However, it can reallocate the difference between a player's bonus and the value of his choice. This is why I say is a player is taken in the first round, the drama is over. He's signing. Teams aren't going to lose the highest number out of its budget.
After the 10th round, the max amount a player can sign for without penalty is $100,000. If a team gives a player above that after the 10th round, the excess either comes out of the budget of the first 10 rounds or the team will have to pay a luxury tax and possibly lose future picks.
Not only has the signing deadline moved from Aug. 15 to mid-July, it will be at 5 p.m. rather than midnight ET. The 2012 deadline is July 13. We'll know quickly, in other words.
Teams get an extra year of protection for compensation picks for failure to sign draftees from the first three rounds. For example, the Blue Jays get the 22nd pick in 2012 after not signing No. 21 overall choice Tyler Beede in 2011. If Toronto can't come to terms with the compensation selection, it would get another one in 2013.
While the new CBA helps colleges get players to campus who are drafted, the elite players will likely still sign because of lofty slot values to the top 50 or so picks. Here are the slot values for tonight's Draft. Again, a team can pay more or less than these numbers, but it can't exceed its budget for the top 10 rounds without penalty.
|PICK #||TEAM||PCT. OF # 1||VALUE|
Wed May 30 10:30am EDT
Newcomers began college coursework on Tuesday, while veterans returned to campus.
The offseason program has kicked off. Hugh Freeze made his Southeastern Conference spring meetings debut in Destin, Fla.
In other words, despite the fact that the season opener is some 100 days (give or take a day; I don't feel like doing the math) away, it's time to talk expectations.
What's realistic? One poster, 1williamreb, posted that he believes six wins in 2012 is realistic. He drew some ridicule from said post, but rest assured, he's far from alone. Optimism rules in the offseason, even when said optimism isn't grounded by logic or facts.
So what's realistic? Here's one guy's opinion:
1. Expect a better prepared team. I won't turn this into a Houston Nutt bashing session, but I think it's fair to say Ole Miss wasn't exactly ready to go on multiple Saturdays last season. Freeze appears to have an eye for detail, a reservoir of energy and a passionate commitment to the job at hand. I believe Ole Miss will play with a better tempo. I think the Rebels will appear more organized. Timeouts will be better utilized. Substitutions will likely seem more seamless. You get the picture. Will that result in wins? Well, probably not, at least not immediately. But it should make the product more appealing to fans (and recruits). If he can maintain that energy and commitment, players (both current and future) and fans will buy in. Eventually, it stands to reason, results will follow.
2. Expect better effort. If you've followed my work for any length of time, you know I hate using the word quit if that word isn't in quotes. So I won't say Ole Miss quit last season. But boy, it's tempting. Ole Miss didn't just lose to Louisiana Tech, LSU and Mississippi State down the stretch. The Rebels rolled over and played dead. The effort, let's just say, was lacking. I suspect Freeze won't tolerate that. I expect to see an Ole Miss team that fights the good fight from kickoff to the final gun/buzzer. Does that mean the Rebels go from losing by seven touchdowns to Alabama to winning in Tuscaloosa? No, but it should mean Rebel fans walking out of Bryant-Denny Stadium leave with more hope and less embarrassment.
3. Expect a team that handles adversity. What was the turning point in 2011? If you ask me, it was Nick Brassell's dropping of a touchdown pass from Zack Stoudt, one that likely would have given the Rebels a win over Brigham Young, essentially marked the end of hope inside the program. That happened in the third quarter of the season opener. From that point forward, at least in this opinion, Ole Miss seemed to wait for bad things to happen, and then disaster struck in spades. That was a sign of a lack of mental toughness. The Rebels were 2-10 last season. It stands to reason they won't improve to the point of having no adversity. How will they handle it this season? I expect a dramatic improvement in that category, and if I'm right, it will be something fans can cling to during some otherwise depressing Saturdays.
Other than that, any other expectations are unrealistic. Fans love to do win-loss projections. I understand. It's part of the fan DNA. Ole Miss should beat Central Arkansas and Tulane. It should win at home against UTEP, though that's not going to be the breezy walk in the park some make it out to be. Other than those three games, there are no guarantees. The Rebels could beat Vanderbilt at home. They could beat Mississippi State. Auburn and Texas A&M, at home, could be vulnerable. Ole Miss could lose all of those games, too.
Ole Miss doesn't have an established quarterback. It has no depth at running back, not nearly enough at wide receiver, unproven commodities at both offensive tackle spots, not enough depth up front, question marks at defensive end and a lack of depth in the defensive secondary, all trying to learn new schemes while playing a brutal schedule. Other than that, it's all peaches, cream and championships.
Six wins would mean the Rebels won the aforementioned three games and either beat Texas in Oxford or won three SEC games. Six wins next season would be borderline miraculous. Miracles aren't likely in a league where talent rules. Incremental improvement, however, is the stuff that fuels a turnaround.
Freeze faces a challenge this season. He is charged with rejuvenating a beaten-down program, getting kids who haven't had real success in the SEC to believe again. He must convince kids to fight through adversity, likely in games that deep down they know they can't and won't win. In other words, he has to lay the foundation for future success. That can be a difficult sales job.
Can Ole Miss win six games? Sure, but it would require breaks and probably a dose or two of luck. In my opinion, the 2012 season shouldn't be judged by the win-loss column. It should be judged by your eyes and your gut.
Mon May 28 10:44am EDT
OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss went to Texas and beat TCU in the season opener. The Rebels will need to do it again if their postseason is to get off to a good start.
Ole Miss (35-24) was selected as the No. 3 seed in the College Station (Texas) Regional and will face No. 2 seed TCU on the opening day. No. 1 seed and host Texas A&M and No. 4 seed Dayton comprise the rest of the regional field, sources told RebelGrove.com on Monday.
It will likely be a rematch of the season opener with Ole Miss' Bobby Wahl facing TCU's Andrew Mitchell. The Rebels won that one, 7-4, and TCU won on Sunday, 5-3, to split the series. The Horned Frogs are 36-19 and an at-large team out of the Mountain West Conference.
Texas A&M, an at-large selection out of the Big XII, is 42-16 (30-10 at home) and rides an impressive group of starting pitchers. The Aggies are led by right-handers Michael Wacha (8-1, 2.21) and Ross Stripling (10-3, 2.90). TCU is A&M and Ole Miss' common opponent. The Aggies won at TCU, 4-1, on April 24.
Dayton is the Atlantic-10 tournament champion. The Flyers are 31-28. Kentucky is the only common opponent between Dayton and Ole Miss. The Wildcats beat the Flyers, 19-6, in a midweek game.
The host site for the College Station Regional is Blue Bell Park, which was recently renovated prior to the 2012 season. Capacity is approximately 6,000.
Tue May 22 04:17pm EDT
HOOVER, Ala. -- Every NCAA Tournament projection had Ole Miss as a No. 2 seed prior to the start of the SEC Tournament.
After Ole Miss' 2-0 loss to Kentucky Tuesday morning, those same experts still expect the Rebels to be in, but a little resume enhancement wouldn't be the worst thing if nervousness in Oxford, Miss., is to be avoided on Selection Monday.
The main reasons for national writers' hesitation to give Ole Miss a guaranteed at-large berth is the ninth place and under .500 conference finish and what happened to LSU last season. The Tigers finished ninth at 13-17 in the SEC and missed the league tournament. This season the Hoover field is expanded to 10 teams, but so far, Ole Miss has just added another loss to the ledger. Most of the time, the committee adds "nonconference" conference games and conference tournament games to a team's league record. In that case, Ole Miss is currently 15-17 in the SEC.
There are several changes on the NCAA selection committee, including the addition of South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman, so it's impossible to know what factors the committee will value more than others.
But for conversation purposes, here's how Ole Miss' current resume lines up against LSU's last season, courtesy of SEBaseball.com publisher Mark Etheridge. As you can see, it's similar in a lot of ways. LSU was penalized for conference record and low number of road games.
LSU in 2011: 36-20, RPI #26, 5-11 (v25), 11-17 (v50), 18-18 (v100), 27-18 (v150), 12-3 (last 15), T9th in 1st rated conference, SOS #33, 7-11 (road record), n/c SOS #94
Ole Miss in 2012: 34-23, RPI #23, 8-9 (v25), 14-16 (v50), 17-20 (v100), 26-22 (v150), 7-8 (last 15), 9th in 2nd rated conference, SOS #10, 7-14 (road record), n/c SOS #50
"You don't know what the committee is going to grade as high resume factors," Etheridge said. "RPI and several RPI records are good for Ole Miss. You just don't need a committee member with a strong opinion pushing for conference finish or late-season record as the biggest factors."
This comparison to LSU means nothing definite. Results are from different seasons and different bubbles to be graded against. However, it can't be completely discounted. Like all at-large teams swimming anywhere near the bubble, Ole Miss needs conference tournaments to go as scratch as possible, with teams like TCU and Coastal Carolina grabbing automatic bids instead of possible at-large ones. That not only helps get in the tournament but also keys the seed and location.
Geography plays a factor in seeding. A team could be a No. 2 seed in a certain area or get moved to a No. 3 seed across the country if it makes the complete puzzle fit better.
"Teams close to the bubble obviously need every win, but it's almost more important to see what else happens around the country," Etheridge said. "In a way, an at-large team doesn't control its own destiny. The bubble shrinks or stays expanded based on other bids. I still think Ole Miss is in, even with a loss on Wednesday, but it obviously would be somewhat at the mercy of the committee."
Ole Miss gets another chance on Wednesday morning to add a win to the resume. The Rebels play Mississippi State or Arkansas at 9:30 a.m. Both teams are in the RPI top 50 and likely two seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Fri May 18 05:19pm EDT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ole Miss made official Friday what's been rumored _ if not known _ for months: Nick Brassell won't be eligible to play in 2012.
Further, the former South Panola High School star is leaving Ole Miss. He'll transfer somewhere, presumably, and perhaps one day he'll play football at a high level again.
That has prompted one Ole Miss fan after another to email me or tweet at me today, asking if Brassell will one day return to the Rebels.
My response: Why would Ole Miss want him back?
Sure, Brassell is talented. He's a future NFL cornerback if he ever decides he wants to be. He has elite speed and he's dangerous in the open field, though his hands are a bit too inconsistent to ever be a great wide receiver. He's from Batesville and has a cute _ albeit remarkably overused _ nickname.
However, he spent the better part of the last year insulting higher education. Getting Brassell eligible was work enough, per multiple sources. Given his apparent lack of effort in the classroom and towards academics in general, all of that effort was a waste of time and energy.
Brassell apparently believed he didn't need to attend class. Perhaps he thought he was intelligent enough to pass 24 hours of credit without putting much time into his studies. Perhaps he believed grades would be given to him. After all, he'd been coddled for years due to his athletic talents. Whatever the case may be, Brassell knew he had to have a very strong spring semester to maintain his eligibility. Obviously, his performance fell short.
Fans shouldn't, at least in my opinion, worry about getting Brassell back to Oxford. Instead, they should acknowledge this reality: Not everyone has any business in an institution of higher learning. Brassell's lack of effort and poor attitude is an insult to every student who fought to get into college in the first place.
His sense of entitlement is an affront to every student everywhere who took on student loan debt or worked a demanding job or whose parents made sacrifices to pay for an opportunity at a college education.
As fun as it would be to blame former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and some members of his former staff for Brassell's failures, it wouldn't be right. The blame here is all on Brassell. Here's a tip: Set an alarm clock, get up, go to class, pay attention, pretend to actually give a damn.
Don't give me the sob story about Brassell's upbringing, either. Sure, he comes from an underprivileged background, but college athletes are given every conceivable opportunity _ tutors, academic advisors, etc. _ to succeed. They deserve the extra help, sure, but some degree of effort is required.
There is concern among some Ole Miss fans regarding how Brassell's departure will impact the Rebels' recruiting of South Panola stars Antonio Conner and Deon Mix. It won't help, certainly, but in the event Conner and Mix are told by other schools that what happened to Brassell at Ole Miss won't happen to them, they should ask some questions. Does that mean other programs would have physically forced Brassell to classes? If so, fair enough, though I'd argue that's pathetic beyond words. Does that mean class attendance and academic effort isn't necessary at those schools? If so, that's even worse.
When Hugh Freeze sits down with Conner, Mix and prospects of their ilk, he shouldn't shy away from talking about Brassell. The new Ole Miss coach showed this spring that he had standards. It had to be difficult, at least in some regard, to do the right thing and ultimately dismiss one of the more talented players on a team lacking in talent, but Freeze did just that.
For that, he deserves kudos. Brassell deserves… well, he got what he deserved.
KID K SAYS GOODBYE: Kerry Wood's wife, Sarah, posted this on her Facebook page this morning: "Every story has an end but in life every ending is just a new beginning.''
The news didn't surprise me. I always believed Wood would walk away with something left in the tank. This afternoon, after he stuck out the one hitter he faced in the eighth inning at Wrigley Field, Wood walked off the field to a standing ovation and into the arms of his little boy, Justin. I'm man enough to admit that got me.
Wood has always been one of my favorites. The hard-throwing Texan struck out 20 Houston Astros in 1998 then fought through arm injuries to have a fabulous 2003 season. Wood provided me with one of my fondest memories of fandom in October 2003. I was in Charlotte, N.C., having covered the Saints and Panthers earlier that day. I found a bar in my hotel and settled in for Game 5 of the NLDS between the Cubs and Braves, fully prepared for disappointment.
Wood sawed through the Braves, allowing one run on five hits while striking out seven in eight innings of work.
Two weeks later, Wood was the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the NLCS. I remember being more sad for Wood than I was for myself. That next spring, I was in Arizona working on a story on then-Cubs GM Jim Hendry. Wood was generous with his time when he didn't have to be. I appreciated it. Years later, Wood returned to Chicago, leaving money on the table to finish his career as a Cub. I wasn't surprised. It had become obvious over the years that he was a humble, classy star.
Today marked the end of an era. Many will remember Wood for what could have been had his right arm held up to his across-the-body delivery. I understand that, but I'm going to remember the memories Wood provided. Thanks for those, Kid K.
Wed May 02 09:59am EDT
OXFORD, Miss. -- With nine Southeastern Conference games to go, No. 24 Ole Miss (29-16, 10-11) is in decent position to make a run and host an NCAA regional.
Perfect Game national writer Kendall Rogers said Tuesday that Ole Miss and Arkansas were the two candidates for the final spot in his host site projections. Rogers went with Arkansas, but the Rebels took two from the Hogs and have a key opportunity to enhance their resume, as LSU comes to Oxford this weekend.
The Rebels will need a productive weekend offensively to knock off the Tigers, but it's not necessarily about batting average. Ole Miss' offense is built on quality at-bats throughout the lineup -- an area the Rebels have struggled with at times this season.
The SEC provides batting analysis each week, and here's how Ole Miss stacks up inside the conference. The following stats are only for the 21 league games.
.291 batting average (2nd in SEC)
92 runs scored (10th)
.290 against left-handed pitching (5th)
.292 against right-handed pitching (2nd)
.276 with runners on base (7th)
.305 with the bases empty (2nd)
.182 (4-of-22) with bases loaded (12th)
.351 on-base percentage to start an inning (11th)
8-of-32 in pinch-hit at-bats (4th)
.244 with runners in scoring position (9th)
61 percent (26-of-43) success rate in scoring runner from third with less than two outs (7th)
.275 with two outs (4th)
44 percent success rate in advancing runners (11th)
32 2-out RBI (7th)
54 total runners have advanced on an out (10th)
164 left on base (4th)
Here's a look at the conference stats in these categories:
For Ole Miss, it's all about maximizing opportunities. The Rebels' highest conference ranks come in overall batting average, batting with the bases empty and batting with two outs. However, the rank disparity in batting average and runs scored can somewhat be explained in categories where the Rebels are in the bottom third or so of the league.
Stats don't always tell the whole story, as Kentucky is dead last in advancing runners with outs while Alabama is second, but as a whole the Rebels need better production in plus situations. The potential is there, and three weeks of execution could land the Rebels with a home weekend the first few days of June. Despite the current conference record, Ole Miss remains very much in the conversation.
Tue May 01 09:46am EDT
OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss starts a busy -- and very important -- week with a trip to Trustmark Park in Pearl to face Southern Miss at 6:30 p.m.
Coming off four losses in five games, the No. 24 Rebels (28-16) play five times in the next six days. The date with the Golden Eagles is a make-up game after their last meeting was postponed due to inclement weather on April 3. Fans with tickets from the rainout earlier this season can exchange them at the stadium box office to receive a ticket for this game.
Ole Miss returns home the rest of the week and begins a seven-game homestand, hosting Murray State on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and No. 4 LSU this weekend in a crucial Southeastern Conference series. Ole Miss is currently in a three-way tie for sixth in the SEC but would be eighth if the conference tournament started today -- due to series losses to Auburn and Mississippi State.
Rebels freshman Josh Laxer will start against USM. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 5.51 ERA. He's pitched 16.1 innings with nine strikeouts and five walks. The Madison Central product last saw action against Arkansas, throwing 2.1 scoreless innings in the series finale.
USM will start left-hander Dillon Day, who hasn't pitched this season. The junior gave up a hit and had a strikeout in a one-inning appearance against the Rebels last season.
The Golden Eagles beat Ole Miss, 10-0, earlier this season in Oxford and are 25-18 on the season. However, their postseason hopes are in jeopardy with a current RPI of 101. Ole Miss has the No. 22 RPI.
Mike Bianco is 12-13 against Southern Miss in his 12 seasons. Ole Miss leads the all-time series 70-43.
REBS NAB 2014 COMMITMENT: Ole Miss picked up a verbal commitment from 2014 right-handed pitcher John Wesley Ray on Monday.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound right-handed pitcher chose the Rebels over Vanderbilt, Tennessee, USM and Mississippi State. The Collierville (Christian Brothers), Tenn., sophomore will be eligible to sign in fall of 2013.
Ray topped out at 87 MPH during the World Wood Bat Association 18U National Championship last July. He's highly projectable moving forward.
Altamonte Springs (Lake Brantley), Fla., middle infielder Tate Blackman is also committed to Ole Miss in that class.
Thu Apr 26 09:49am EDT
OXFORD, Miss. -- With four weekends remaining in the regular season, Ole Miss will need consistency to put itself in position for an NCAA host spot the first weekend in June.
The Rebels are currently 27-14 (9-9) with a No. 17 RPI. Recent regional projections have Ole Miss a No. 2 seed on the road. North Carolina State is the current guess by most prognosticators. This is just my opinion, but I think Ole Miss needs to get to 17-13 in the league to feel good about hosting chances. That's 8-4 the rest of the way.
The Rebels' current RPI puts them in the discussion, but their conference standing is a negative right now on the resume. The SEC looks to have four locks to host -- Florida 32-10, RPI: 2, Kentucky (35-7, RPI: 4), LSU (32-9, RPI: 7) and South Carolina (30-10, RPI: 8) -- and Ole Miss and Arkansas are hanging around.
A fifth SEC host spot is also difficult because the NCAA will likely awards home regionals to Purdue (31-6, RPI: 10) and Central Florida (34-8, RPI: 13) -- leaving 14 regionals for power conferences and perennial players.
As of now, Ole Miss has the No. 13 strength of schedule nationally. Here are the RPI totals for the Rebels' slate.
No. 44 TCU (1-1)
No. 150 Arkansas State (1-0, one left)
No. 52 UNC Wilmington (3-0)
No. 105 Memphis (1-1)
No. 220 Jackson State (2-0)
No. 171 Miami-Ohio (2-1)
No. 258 UT-Martin (1-0)
No. 119 Houston (3-0)
No. 35 Louisville (1-1)
No. 61 Auburn (1-2)
No. 91 Southern Miss (0-1, one left)
No. 133 Alabama (2-1)
No. 2 Florida (2-1)
No. 4 Kentucky (1-2)
No. 181 Central Arkansas (2-0)
No. 41 Georgia (1-2)
No. 38 Mississippi State (1-0, three left)
No. 12 Arkansas (2-1)
No. 185 Murray State (one game)
No. 7 LSU (three games)
No. 68 Tennessee (three games)
No. 54 Vanderbilt (three games)
Per Warren Nolan, the Rebels are currently 9-8 against the top 50 and 13-11 against the top 100. The top 50 number is solid but not overly noteworthy. It may seem strange, but The Colonial Athletic Association could have a significant impact on Ole Miss' RPI the rest of the way. UNC-Wilmington is currently No. 52 in RPI and defeated top-50 Elon on Wednesday night.
The Seahawks are rolling through the CAA, and while the remaining schedule isn't particularly strong, the Rebels would greatly benefit from a top-50 finish from Wilmington. Ole Miss swept UNC-W the second weekend of the season, and those three wins could pay off. The Seawhawks have seven games against teams above 150 in RPI and only a date against No. 6 North Carolina to help the resume, but if they win just about all the remaining games they have a chance. UNC-W closes the season with a three-game set against George Mason. The Patriots are in the top 100, but they fell to Coppin State on Wednesday. Coppin State had lost 44 straight games and is 1-38 on the season now. Not good for the RPI.
Obviously Ole Miss needs Southern Miss to stay in the top 100 and TCU to remain the top 50. Mississippi State is comfortable inside the top 50 for now, and that makes this weekend big in every way. But, of course, the biggest thing is wins. Ole Miss needs a strong finish to make much of this relevant.
Memphis has a decently strong schedule the rest of the way, beginning with Central Florida this weekend. The Tigers also have Mizzou for three games and a midweek with Tennessee, so a few wins and Memphis could eek into the top 100. That would erase one of Ole Miss' three losses to teams outside that number.
Vanderbilt hasn't been on the radar this season, as its only 19-22 overall and four games under .500 in conference play, but the Commodores are just outside the top 50 in RPI and have a crazy schedule the rest of the way. Ten of the Commodores 13 remaining games against the top 50 and the other three are Tennessee at No. 68.
The numbers are in Ole Miss' favor but getting above .500 in the SEC is a necessity. Last weekend was a solid start with the series win over Arkansas.