By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – If Bobby Wahl were a professional wrestler his ring name might not be “Master of Disaster.”
Instead, the way his junior season is playing out, a better name might be “Mister Blister.”
The blister on his pitching hand has been a season-long impediment for Wahl, an obstacle he’s pitched through while keeping opponents pinned down.
A junior from Springfield, Va., Wahl is most likely pitching his final days for the Rebels. The blister has given him one more thing to think about to keep his mind off the coming Major League Baseball draft.
The regular Friday starter for the Rebels, Wahl will be on the mound tonight as they try to extend their SEC win streak to seven games. First pitch at Swayze Field against Kentucky is 6:30, and the game will be televised by ESPNU.
Friday’s game starts at 6:30, Saturday’s at 2:15 and will be televised by Fox Sports Net.
Wahl is a big reason the Rebels have gotten off the mat in the SEC, rising from 4-8 to 10-8 after consecutive sweeps at home against Alabama and at Tennessee.
“A lot of times when those guys are in the program, the stars, the Lynns, the Pomeranzes, the Heads, when those guys are here in their third year you almost take it for granted. It’s a shame,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Kentucky (24-16, 7-11 SEC) arrives having lost seven straight including a 3-2 decision Tuesday at Western Kentucky.
Wahl leads SEC starters in earned run average at 1.22, is tied for second in wins with eight and tied for third in opponent batting average at .183.
He hasn’t given up a run in 162⁄3 innings or given up an earned run in his last three starts.
Walks have sometimes been a problem, giving up 32 in 66.2 innings. That’s due in part to the blister, and he’s often pitched out of trouble because opponents haven’t hit him consistently.
“It affects my breaking ball command a little bit. To off-set that I just throw as hard as I can,” said Wahl, laughing.
It is in fact the breaking ball, the slider, that sets Wahl apart, Bianco says.
“Against Tennessee the slider was just tremendous. His breaking ball, I think, is underrated,” Bianco said.
Wahl’s control was better against the Vols as he walked just two in a complete game shutout.
He was a projected first round pick before he began his current tear.
He says he doesn’t think about the draft.
“It’s really not that hard. I’m enjoying every second of this. I love every guy on this team,” Wahl said. “It’s really not that hard to focus on anything but Omaha.”
Bianco disagrees. He says it’s unfair to ask Wahl not to ponder such a looming life-changing event.
That’s perfectly fine with Bianco as long as Wahl thinks of a few other things too.
“One of the things we talk about a lot is, ‘Remember how you got here. You put yourself in this positions because of certain things you do well, certain ways you prepare.’
“I think everybody would agree that if you just try to do your job like you always have, you try to win games, get hits, make pitches … it will take care of itself.”