By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
The body of work is small for Bobby Wahl.
While he hasn’t put up winning numbers in the Southeastern Conferece yet, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco is a believer.
He himself hasn’t been there yet, but Bianco thinks Wahl, a sophomore, can take the Rebels where they’ve been before.
Wahl will make his first start as the Rebels’ ace in the season opener tonight at 6:30 against No. 15 TCU.
Bianco believes Wahl can become an ace along the lines for former Ole Miss greats Mark Holliman, Lance Lynn and Drew Pomeranz.
“That’s one of the things we were missing last year. We didn’t have that big gun. We’ve been fortuante the previous 10 years to most of the time throw out a guy on Friday night that could really compete in the Southeastern Conference. I’m excited again for that to happen with Bobby Wahl,” he said.
It it is to happen Wahl will have to show improvement similar to what he experienced last summer when he was a Cape Cod League all-star with a 1-1 record, five saves and a 1.35 earned run average in 20 innings. He struck out 35 and walked 11.
The summer was much different than his rookie spring when arm soreness slowed his development, and, though recruited as a starter, he was thrust into the role of closer. He finished with a 4.80 ERA in 30 innings, and the ERA jumped to 6.75 in 18.2 SEC innings.
Wahl says the Cape Cod experience and the chance to go through fall and winter practice against his Ole Miss teammates while being groomed as the No. 1starter has changed him physically and mentally.
“It’s made me a completely different and better pitcher,” he said.
“He’s a tremendous talent. He’s grown a lot in the last year and a half,” he said.
The first test won’t be easy for Wahl.
TCU returns 13 players from a 43-19 team last year, junior catcher Josh Elander, a preseason All-American, among them.
Four more players were preseason All-Mountain West Conference selections as TCU, transitionning to the Big 12, was picked to win its seventh-straight Mountain West title.
“Last year I showed times where I could really pitch and felt good,” Wahl said. “Then there were times where I didn’t have it, and I wasn’t ready mentally or physically to go out and pitch with those guys.”
Wahl believes in himself and is eager to take the ball tonight.
One of the biggest reasons for his confidence is that Bianco believes in him as well.
“Coach B believes in me and trusts in what I can do as a pitcher,” he said. “I’m blessed to be in a situation where all my teammates and coaches believe in me, and it makes it a lot easier to know they believe in me.”
STARTING PITCHERS: RHP Bobby Wahl, RHP R.J. Hively, RHP Mike Mayers,
MIDDLE RELIEF: LHP Dylan Chavez, RHP Josh Laxer, RHP Sam Smith.
CLOSER: Brett Huber.
PROJECTED FIELD STARTERS:
LF Tanner Mathis, CF Auston Bousfield, RF Will Jamison, 1B Preston Overbey, 2B Alex Yarbrough, SS Blake Newalu, 3B Andrew Mistone, C Will Allen.
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: P Chavez, OF Bousfield, Jamison, Senquez Golson, INF Mistone, Jake Overbey.
WINS LAST FIVE YEARS: 193
QUOTABLE: “Our strength will be offense. Position players and defense, because of experience, from a coaching standpoint you really don’t know what to expect. I don’t know if we’ve ever been more ready to start a season than I feel we are right now.” – Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco