By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco is pleased with his team’s fast start and eager to see how it fares in a road series against a quality opponent.
The Rebels leave Swayze Field for the first time this season, traveling to face Conference USA member Houston.
Game times against the Cougars, under first-year coach Todd Whitting, are 6:30 p.m., today, 7 p.m., Saturday and 1 p.m., Sunday.
Home was good for the Rebels, who swept Wright State on opening weekend and defeated Memphis and Arkansas State in mid-week competition.
Relief pitching has been spotty, but starting pitching – a question mark with the losses of Drew Pomeranz and Aaron Barrett – has been strong through five games. The Rebels go into the weekend with a 2.93 earned run average.
The highlight of opening weekend was the start of right-hander David Goforth, who pitched seven shutout innings but did not get a decision. Goforth scattered five hits, walked one and struck out five.
“I’m happy with our starters,” Bianco said. “All four have pitched really well. You want guys who haven’t been in these roles to have success early, and all of them have. David was just incredible on Saturday.”
The Rebels will again go with Matt Crouse tonight, Goforth on Saturday and left-handed junior college transfer Austin Wright on Sunday.
Offensively, junior designated hitter Matt Snyder says he’s experienced no more shoulder issues and heads into the weekend leading the team with a .471 batting average.
Snyder got off to a slow start against Wright State, a fact Bianco attributes to Snyder’s time away after re-injuring the surgically repaired shoulder at the start of January practice.
“You watch him this week, and he looked just like he did last year,” Bianco said. “He can be a force for us, no doubt.”
Snyder has eight hits, one for extra bases, a double. Freshman third baseman Preston Overbey has debuted strong, hitting .368 with a team-high seven RBIs.
About the Cougars
In July, Houston named Whitting to replace Rayner Noble, who was 551-420 in 16 seasons. He stepped aside following the 2010 season in what a university news released termed a “mutually agreeable resignation.”
The Cougars were 25-32 last season.
Whitting spent the last seven seasons as an assistant at TCU. He was the recruiting coordinator and coached infield and hitting for a team that set school records for batting average, home runs and runs per game.
Prior to TCU, Whitting was an assistant at Houston and was credited with much of the recruiting success that helped the Cougars reach super regionals in 2000, 2002 and 2003.
“We have a lot of respect for Todd Whitting,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “When a new coach takes over a program, either the kids buy in and there’s energy, enthusiasm and instant success, or its like it goes in reverse, and they do less.”
Reverse isn’t the gear for the Cougars right now. Houston is 4-0 after an opening weekend sweep of Texas-Arlington and a Tuesday win against Stephen F. Austin.
The Cougars are hitting .353 collectively and have three individuals hitting better than .500. The pitching staff has a 2.25 earned run average.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600