By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Having Jeremy Massie around in the middle – and sometimes the end – is proving beneficial for Ole Miss.
Massie had filled the role of the starting pitcher in most non-conference games, but with those games complete he’s taken on a middle relief role in SEC games, and he’s come out hot as a firecracker.
His latest outing included three scoreless innings with just one hit, no walks and four strikeouts to keep the Rebels in position for a walk-off win, 2-1, in the bottom of the 10th against Georgia on Sunday. That clinched a very important series victory for the Rebels.
“He’s been both. He’s been in the bullpen, he’s been a starter and he’s been terrific since we’ve moved him back to the pen,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Massie made his first two SEC relief appearances in mid-April at Mississippi State and was effective both times throwing a combined 31⁄3 scoreless innings.
He threw four scoreless innings in the Rebels’ 9-6 Game 3 win at Kentucky and threw four more scoreless innings against Arkansas before giving up two runs when he went out for a fifth inning, one he did not complete.
In all, Massie has thrown 152⁄3 relief innings with only two runs allowed.
He’s made a seamless transition from starter to reliever, something that doesn’t always happen.
“He’s very mature. He pitches with a lot of confidence and does what he does well,” Bianco said. “Some people complicate it. Some people think that you’ve got to do something special if you’re a starter as opposed to if you’re a reliever.”
Overall, Massie has 15 appearances with seven starts. He’s 4-2 with a 2.32 earned run average. In 501⁄3 innings, he has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 38-to-9.
If there becomes a need for a dictionary definition of “soft-tossing lefty,” Massie could be invited to write it. That’s fine with him. A senior from nearby Sardis, he’s comfortable in his own skin.
“It’s all about making pitches. If you make pitches they’ll either get themselves out or I’l come (out) on top and strike them out,” he said.
Massie’s move has been a boost for a bullpen that missed its most successful long-relief option when Aaron Greenwood was out for three weeks with an abdominal injury.
Greenwood had thrown 191⁄3 consecutive scoreless innings as the time of his departure, which just happened to coincide with Massie’s bullpen debut in Starkville.
Now Greenwood is back, and Massie’s emergence gives Bianco not only a second long-relief option but a lefty option too.
Bianco knew Massie would be his first choice against Georgia on Sunday.
“They play so many left-handers. One of two things, we knew we’d be able to take advantage of it or that they would flip some guys that would open it up for (closer Josh) Laxer at the end,” he said.
Some pitchers get caught up in the status that goes along with “starter” as opposed to middle relief, but Massie is thrilled with his new role.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve wanted to start too, but coming into clutch situations, it gets the blood running and makes you feel good,” he said.