OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco was still processing information Monday afternoon and not ready to name a starting pitcher for Friday’s NCAA tournament opener.
The Rebels had learned minutes earlier that they are a No. 2 seed in the Raleigh, N.C., Regional and will face William & Mary at 1 p.m. CST, the first game of a regional that also includes No. 1 seed and host, North Carolina State, and No. 4 seed Binghamton.
N.C. State coach Elliott Avent was quicker with that decision and has announced that he will hold his ace, sophomore left-hander Carlos Rodon, until the regional’s second round.
Rodon (8-2, 3.48) leads the nation in strikeouts with 151 and in strikeouts per nine innings with 13.46.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Bianco said. “Do you throw Bobby (Whal) against William and Mary, or do you hold him one day? I don’t know. Once we get more information and look at some lineups, we’ll probably make a decision in the next 24 hours or so.”
If Wahl doesn’t pitch in the opener, it means one more day of rest for the Rebels’ No. 1 starter, who did not pitch in the SEC tournament.
That would mean two solid weeks without game action. Wahl last pitched on May 18 at LSU in a very uncharacteristic performance, lasting just 22⁄3 innings against the Tigers with six hits, six earned runs and two walks.
Bianco said it was a day that started well for Wahl but quickly turned south.
He enters NCAA play at 9-0 with a 1.99 earned run average in 902⁄3 innings.
“I feel great. I threw a bullpen a couple of days ago. It went well. The arm feels great, and I’m ready to go,” said Wahl, adding that his bullpen session focused on command.
“When you’re throwing as much as some of the guys do and being on a weekend rotation it gets tough, but at the same time it’s always good to be in routine. Even though I didn’t get to throw in Hoover, we’ve done a great job of keeping my routine, making sure I’m still throwing off a mound on the days I usually do.”
William & Mary is 37-22, as is Ole Miss. The Tribe went 17-10 to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association regular season.
William and Mary is making its third appearance in the NCAA tournament, the first time as an at-large bid. The CAA has three teams in the field.
Bianco says his confidence in his No. 2 pitcher, Mike Mayers, makes the decision he faces less taxing.
Mayers went 61⁄3 innings with four hits, two earned runs and nine strikeouts to beat No. 1 seed Texas A&M in College Station in last year’s NCAA tournament.
“The good news for us is we have two guys who we have the utmost confidence in, two guys who have been on the big stage and beaten big teams. I don’t know if there is a right or wrong way for us,” Bianco said.
At Doak Field, Raleigh, N.C. Friday
William & Mary (37-22) vs. Ole Miss (37-22), 1 p.m.
Binghamton (30-23) at N.C. State (44-14), 6 p.m.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal