The 2015 Ole Miss baseball season begins this Friday with a weekend series against William & Mary. Each day this week, we'll be previewing a different position group.
After finally erasing the 42-year drought, Ole Miss baseball looks to make it in consecutive years in Omaha for the first time since never. Last year, the Rebels received masterful relief pitching from the now departed duo of Josh Laxer (ninth round to the Detroit Tigers) and Aaron Greenwood (28th round to the Houston Astros), but still have plenty on the back end for this year and the future.
Despite Laxer and Greenwood moving onto greener pastures ($$$$), senior righty Scott "The Weather Man" Weathersby and sophomore lefty Wyatt "Too" Short return to anchor the relief efforts. Along with these two veterans, there are plenty of JUCO transfers and freshmen that might get thrown into the fire early and often.
The bullpen is one of the stronger positions for the Rebels this season due to overall talent, experience and depth. There are plenty of pitchers who are battling for starting roles, either weekend or midweek, who could easily provide depth out of the bullpen this season to make Ole Miss very strong at the end of games. Whether its a veteran senior like Scott Ashford becoming a key cog as a middle relief guy, JUCO transfer Drake "0-to-100" Robison making a name for himself or a true freshman like John Wesley Ray earning his stripes by grinding out some innings, the Diamond Rebs are sitting pretty right now in the pen.
In 38 innings last season, the Weather Man was able to stabilize most of the storms. He turned in a 2.14 ERA while striking out a ridiculous 51 and only walking 10. Scotty uses his usually-cutting fastball to command the strike zone and get ahead in the count early before turning to either a curveball that can be anywhere from 75-80 mph or a nasty changeup that hovers around the low-80s. Weathersby can be a max effort guy, so look for him to probably take care of things from the eigth inning on ... but don't be surprised if he's used in some set-up positions depending on match-ups.
This true freshman put himself on the map and in a hurry last season. Very deceptive on the bump due to this small stature (5'8, 175-pounds), the kid can flat out toss the pill. With a fastball that can touch 94 mph, Short will also throw in a slider that only got better as the year went on last season. Mike Bianco and Co. look for Short to build off a season that saw him look very dominant against an insanely good ULL offense and a surging TCU team in Omaha. I think I can speak for everyone that this needs to be blasted at Swayze field when Wyatt heads to the mound.
Other Names to Know
As I mentioned already, Ole Miss has plenty of experience in the pen and can turn to a number of guys in the latter innings. One name I haven't mentioned yet that could burst onto the scene is a true freshman from Meridian, Will Stokes. Despite standing just 5'11 and 188 pounds, Stokes flat out throws gas with a lively fastball that can get up to 93 mph. A low-three-quarters arm angle helps him create natural movement on his pitches and he can also throw a hammer slider in there for good measure.
Another name to keep an eye on is JUCO transfer Sean Johnson. Not to be confused with the Olympic gold medal gymnast, Johnson is a giant at 6'7 and at one time was wanting to chase his dream as a hockey player. Originally from Durango, Colo., Johnson hit a growth spurt in high school and became a dominant force on the mound. In 2014, Johnson went 10-1 at Iowa Western Community College while leading the Reivers to the national title. He's expected to be in the mix for a starting spot, but he could end up in the pen at some point depending on how things shake out.