The grass at Swayze is getting that near Spring green hue to it even though temperatures aren't quite right for sitting leisurely in the stands. Baseball is very nearly here, but let's not forget the shortcomings of last year's team before we look at next year.
With Lance Lynn and Cody Satterwhite as our 1-2 punch on the weekends, there should have been a good chance to make it to Omaha. These guys had been with the program for a couple years and were going to lead us to the promised land. Unfortunately, there just weren't enough bats in the line-up last year along with Satterwhite's pitching inconsistencies that settled the Rebels into an uncomfortable situation, making it to the Coral Gables regional against one of the strongest college baseball programs- the Miami Hurricanes. We won't relive all of the gory details, but with the return of Scott Bittle, I have a feeling that fans are thinking this could be a strong team yet again. That feeling is raw common sense.
Let's take a gander at pitching first.
Bittle was awarded the best player in the state award last year by Cellular South. He's got a pitch called "The Thing" and has been the closer for the past two years with a few spot starts from time to time. Bittle's finishing pitch drops as it approaches the plate and bears strong resemblance to Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn's "Decimator." When the ball is in his hands late in the game, early in the game or at any point, I'm confident he'll get the outs needed to keep Ole Miss in the game.
Along with the Bittler comes Drew Pomeranz, one of the great freshmen from last year's team who struck out over 80 in 70 innings while only walking 30. Pomeranz took over in mid-season for Satterwhite in the weekend rotation and went through some freshmen growing pains. He got a DUI during the offseason, but as Mark Wright proved, you can still have a decent college career and move on to obscurity. Pomeranz should be the Friday starter in my opinion to give him a great chance to prove his worth, develop his stuff and prepare for next season when he'll be the go-to guy.
Phillip Irwin hasn't gotten a lot of pub, not only because he's only got about 35 innings to his credit at Ole Miss, but they aren't really fantastic innings either. He was used mainly in relief roles last year but did have a couple starts and should compete for a weekend role if he's improved in the offseason.
Aaron "Erik the Red" Barrett and Kyle Barbeck are two new faces to the Rebel pitching staff that will get playing time early on. Barrett is a juco transfer that was drafted in the 20th round by the Minnesota Twins. He's going to be looking to improve his draft stock in one year and will push for PT. Barbeck is a freshman southpaw from Missouri who had a Maddux like ERA through high school. He could be one of our pitchers who grabs a mid-week start against teams like Central Arkansas or Belmont.
Brett Bukvich and Nathan Baker will battle it out for a weekend spot as well as two names who Rebel fans should be fairly familiar with. I'm not crazy about either one, but I'd feel better about having Baker on the mound as Bukvich might have a Tommy Baumgardner-like senior year.
Weekend rotation we'd like to see:
Friday: Drew Pomeranz- L, Soph.
Saturday: Nathan Baker- L, Jr.
Sunday: Aaron Barrett- R, Jr.
Next up: A look at the other end of the frame- hitting.
P.S. We won't necessarily miss Cody Overbeck.