By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – There will be pitching experience in both dugouts when No. 13 Ole Miss opens the season against No. 14 TCU this afternoon.
One important difference in the Rebels this season and last will not just experience on the mound but quality depth behind it, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco says.
Right-hander Bobby Wahl will start for the Rebels against TCU for the third time in a year when he throws the first pitch at Swayze Field at 4 p.m.
Ole Miss and TCU opened the 2012 season with two games in Fort Worth – one was rained out – then played three more times in the College Station Regional. The Horned Frogs won the last two to advance to the Super Regional.
Quality pitching depth was something that cost the Rebels in the regional. When Wahl started the championship game he was going on short rest, and it was his only loss in the three starts against TCU.
Wahl is clearly the ace, sporting a 2.30 earned run average in 582⁄3 SEC innings last year.
Mike Mayers, who will start Saturday’s game, was peaking near the end and finished the season by allowing two earned runs on four hits in 61⁄3 innings to beat Texas A&M on its home field in the second round of the regional.
But Bianco was forced to move starter R.J. Hively to the pen for added depth in the second half of the season.
Earlier this week he singled out the experience of last year’s newcomers in Josh Laxer, Aaron Greenwood, Sam Smith and Hawtin Buchanan as guys he believes will make this staff more productive overall.
Tanner Bailey is a senior right-hander whose experience Bianco hopes will translate into big things in 2013.
“We have a lot of guys who pitched last year and gained valuable experience,” Bianco said.
He even has some new parts with which he can strategize. Dylan Chavez was the only left-hander Bianco felt comfortable going with last year. This year has three he’ll no doubt tinker early with two junior college transfers and a freshman.
While Bianco expresses confidence in his offense where the biggest producers and leaders will have to emerge, the Rebels, 37-26 and 14-16 in the SEC a year ago, will lean on their starting pitching early.
“Last year I learned a lot going through the grind of the SEC and the grind of the season,” Wahl said.
Chris Ellis learned two, and the sophomore will round out the rotation in the third spot.
Wahl calls him “a superstar.”
Wahl is quite certain that both starters and relievers will be challenged this weekend by TCU.
“They have a bunch of guys who are very talented you have to pitch to them. You can’t just go out there and try to blow fastballs by them. It doesn’t work that way,” he said.