TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska - Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE
The 2013 Ole Miss Rebel baseball season begins this Friday at Swayze Field when the Rebs take on the TCU Horned Frogs in a matchup of two top-25 programs. To prepare you for this, here is but one installment of a multiple part series previewing this team and their schedule. First up is the Rebel rotation and bullpen.
Mike Bianco's Rebels look to again have one of the more dominant weekend rotations and bullpens in the Southeastern Conference for 2013. Here is a quick look the Friday-Sunday starters, likely midweek starters, and top relief options as we see them.
JR RHP Bobby Wahl - Arguably one of the best starting pitchers in the SEC, Wahl will again be the powerful Friday night starter we Ole Miss Rebels have come to expect out of our program over the past several seasons. Wahl earned a somewhat disappointing 7-6 record last season, but accompanied that with a 3.07 ERA, 130 strikeouts, 43 walks, and an opposing batting average of .226.
JR RHP Mike Mayers - A fan favorite due to the license his name gives our fans to wear creepy masks, Mike Mayers should be one of the SEC's more reliable Saturday starters. Notching 16 starts last season, Mayers notched a 7-3 record with a 3.89 ERA, 98 strikeouts, and 39 walks. He and Wahl should combine to form one of the better Friday/Saturday combinations in the nation.
SO RHP Chris Ellis - Ellis should be our Sunday starter according to coach Mike Bianco, but don't be surprised if the Sunday spot is given to Tanner Bailey if Ellis struggles. Ellis was fantastic last year in relief for the Rebels, going 4-0 with a 2.84 ERA, 29 strikeouts and only 8 walks over just 31.2 innings pitched.
(RS) SR RHP Tanner Bailey - Over 17 appearances last season, Tanner Bailey earned a 2-2 record with a 3.86 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 8 walks over 32.2 innings of work. His most impressive stat though is is .188 opposing batting average.
SO RHP Hawtin Buchanan - At 6'9" and 250 pounds, I almost wish this guy would strap on the Jordans and give power forward a shot, but his fiery fastball benefits him well as a mainstay out of the Rebel bullpen. Buchanan had 15 relief appearances last year, earning one win with a 3.98 ERA, 31 strikeouts and just eight walks over 20.1 innings. Buchanan will see a lot of weekend action in relief I would wager, and could even be a midweek starter along with...
SO RHP Josh Laxer - The Madison Central Jaguar (go Jags) alumnus made 12 appearances last year, five of which were midweek starts. In spite of a 5.60 ERA, Laxer earned a 4-0 record - probably because of his role in the middle of the week, meaning that Rebel bats were up against less-than-SEC-calibur pitching - striking out 16 and walking 10 over 27.1 innings. He is far from ready to be an SEC weekend starter, but he should be a solid midweek guy and an option in relief against tougher foes.
SO RHP Sam Smith - Sam Smith appeared in 13 appearances last season, starting nine. Posted a 2-3 record, 5.80 ERA, 27 strikeouts and eight walks over 35.2 innings of work. Smith is a promising young arm, but will need to be more consistent if he is to become a reliable option against SEC bats.
SR RHP Brett Huber - The Ole Miss career saves leader (26) will play out his closer role for one last season in Oxford. Last season, Huber went 2-2 with a .284 ERA, a whopping 29 strikeouts to only 10 walks over just 25.1 innings of work. Oh, and he led the team in saves with 10. If the Rebels can carry a lead into the 8th and 9th innings, Huber gives us a damn good chance to seal the deal.
"But what about the lefties?" Good question, what about them? Well, this program has four new southpaws in junior college transfers Scott Ashford, Austin Blunt, and Jeremy Massie, and freshman Jackson Academy grad Matt Denny. I haven't a clue how they'll fit in right away. They're here though, and they'll certainly see action in Bianco's system of playing heavily towards the righty-lefty matchups.
Freshman Brady Bramlett though is a newcomer to look out for, especially during midweek games. The 6'4", 245 pound righty had a tremendous senior season at Arlington High School in Bartlett, Tennessee where he was a part of Tennessee's 2012 State Championship team. He posted a perfect 11-0 record with a 1.01 ERA during that year, striking out 123 and walking 22 over 90.0 innings. He was arguably the best player in the Volunteer State, earning Louisville Slugger All-American honors. Surely he'll find some manner to contribute early to the Rebels' successes this season.
[ED: If any of you have any interest in helping with these previews, please say so. Baseball is a coverage-intensive sport, so we appreciate any sort of input y'all may have to offer.]