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SEC Story of Character: Scott Bittle

Scott Bittle was born on August 27, 1986 to Joe and Nancy Bittle. He began pitching at the age of eight (ok, I made that up), and everyone knew he was going to be something special. The road throughout high school was not easy, but he lettered two years. During his senior year, he posted a 5-3 record with two saves in twelve appearances, and he had 77 strike outs in 55 innings pitched. His ERA was 2.08, and he was named to the All-District team.

After high school, he moved on to Northeast Texas Community College where he earned a letter. He was All-Conference, and he posted a 6-4 record in 11 appearances with a 4.24 ERA his first season. He had 67 strikeouts and walked only 23 in 58.0 innings pitched that year. However, rotator cuff tendinitis led him to receive a medical redshirt during the 2006 campaign.

In the fall of 2006, he signed on with the Rebels with 3 to play 3. He chose Ole Miss over Texas A&M, TCU, and the College of Charleston.

The 2007 campaign started hot for Scott as he earned 6 saves prior to the start of SEC play. He had saves over No. 21 Evansville (2/18), Memphis (2/20), Belmont (2/27), No. 5 Arkansas (3/2), Austin Peay (3/6), No. 23 UCLA (3/11) and South Alabama (3/20).

However, tragedy struck on the opening weekend of conference action. Will Kline had out-dueled David Price of Vanderbilt until the bitter end. With the game tied at 2, Bittle was brought in only to lose the game for the Rebels. Most of the team thought this was an aberration for a man who had absolutely mowed down opponents prior to this match. Then, it happened again during the Sunday game. The Rebels had a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Shea Robin hit a grounder to greatly missed Short Stop Zack Cozart, but Peyton Farr dropped the ball allowing Robin to reach safely. Jonathan White then hit a chopper over Farr’s head to reach on a single. Matt Meingasner delivered yet another game tying RBI single. White was thrown out on the hit as he attempted to go to third for the second out of the inning (That would be game over, and Bittle would get the save). Brad French then reached on a bunt single, before David Macias ended the game with his single to right to score Meingasner.

For the second time in three games, Bittle had failed. As usual, Mike Bianco is stubborn, and I agree with Mike in this case. Bittle had the skills to pay the bills. I mean, why not stick with a guy that had carried your team all year. The very next Friday night against Alabama, it happened again. With the bases loaded, Bittle entered to relieve Will Kline and get out of the jam. The Rebels were up by 2 and desperately needed some help. Bittle couldn't stand the pressure nor find the strike zone as he walked the first two batters to tie the contest. Then, he allowed a single that gave the game to Bama. Third appearance: Third loss.

Things just did not add up. He was unhittable. Now, he had become batting practice (when he could find the strike zone).

Bittle then found himself pitching an inning against Southern Miss in the annual midweeker in Pearl. He did well, and he had more action with .2 IP in the opening act against Auburn. In the Saturday game, he pitched his way out of a jam in the seventh, despite allowing a hit and a walk. By this time, he should have been abandoned as a closer, but Bianco wanted to try it just one more time. Against LSU on a Friday night, Bittle entered with a 3-3 score to work with. After two singles and a walk, Bittle threw four straight balls to walk Ryan Schimpf. Ok, Mike, it's time for Satterwhite to take over, and Bittle was abandoned. As the season continued, he was a role player, and he had a couple of appearances including the Regional Championship game start against Sam Houston State.

He finished the 2007 campaign with 28 appearances, including 25 relief appearances and three starts. He posted a 2-5 record on the year with seven saves. He struck out 59 and walked only 17 in 42.0 IP while turning in an ERA of 2.79.

Luckily for Scott, Satterwhite being a closer for the 2007 team was a disaster, and that job was open for anyone to take over. Sadly, the 2007 team had too many occasions where the box score read 8.2 innings pitched. But, did he want to come back to face it all again? He was drafted in the 48th round by the Yankees (which is his favorite team).

Scott has courage and heart, and he decided to stick around and give it another try. After some off season work on a change-up (that is detrimental for lefties), he entered 2008 brimming with confidence.

He did well during non-conference play, but we already knew that didn't we? His first SEC test came in the second game against Mississippi State in Starkville. Satterwhite had done a decent job, and Bittle entered to pitch the final four frames to earn the win. This was great for Scott, but he needed to do more to prove himself. He came in the series opener against Vanderbilt in relief for Lance Lynn and pitched a gem as the Rebels held on to win 7-6. So, he had redemption against his first SEC stumbling block. There was only one thing left: LSU.

April 11, 2008. Lance Lynn pitches an absolute gem, but his pitch count was running high. So, Mike puts Scott Bittle in. Bittle earned his 3rd save as he closed out the ninth inning with two strikeouts. Scott mowed LSU down, and he got revenge for the wrong doing that happened a year earlier in Red Stick. After that moment of atonement, he went one to have impressive performances against South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, and Auburn.

His most impressive outing yet came last Saturday against Kentucky. With the entire season on the line, he lasted 7 innings in relief and only allowed one run. For the largest amount of SEC redemption one can get, he struck out the best hitter in the league in Sawyer Carroll.

That performance made the Rebels season continue. What if Scott had decided to give up on college and sign with the Yankees? What if Scott hadn't had the courage to climb on the mound one more time as a closer? We will never know the answer to those questions.

However, Bittle has been the most dynamic closer in Ole Miss history. He is the only reliever in Ole Miss history to register more than 100 strike outs, and he has 109. He leads the nation in K's per 9IP with a little more than 15. On Monday night, he won the Ferriss Trophy which recognizes the top player in the state of Mississippi. He has also been named one of the semifinalists for the Clemens Award which goes to the top pitcher in college baseball.

Scott, whether you win the Clemens Award or not, you are definitely the best in the business. Thank you for being the highlight of 2008 season!

Scott Bittle: a story of character.