By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – While the college baseball season is very young, the Ole Miss pitching staff, on the backs of three relative unknowns, has gotten off to a strong start.
The Rebels, who finished second among SEC pitching staffs last year with a 4.04 earned run average, went into Tuesday’s home game with Memphis atop the league with a 3.14 ERA.
Drew Pomeranz, a preseason All-American, leads the league with 22 strikeouts. Most SEC baseball fans wouldn’t be surprised by that but might be surprised to know the ERA work comes on the backs of Aaron Barrett, Trent Rothlin and Matt Tracy. The three have given up three earned runs – one apiece – in a combined 321⁄3 innings.
That figure has the trio ranked in the SEC’s top 10, led by Barrett (0.75), followed by Rothlin (0.82) and then Tracy (0.96).
Tracy was scheduled to start against Memphis and has pitched from the bullpen on the weekends.
Barrett, who struggled in his bid to become the Friday starter last season, his first in the program, has been the Saturday starter. Rothlin, who pitched at Clemson two years ago and at a junior college last year, has been the Sunday starter.
They’ll keep those roles when the schedule gets tougher this week at Tulane.
“They are two guys that a lot of people, fan-wise, were not sure about, but we knew both of them could pitch and pitch well,” Bianco said.
Barrett started four games last year but in had an 8.70 ERA in 30 innings with 44 hits and 13 walks.
In 12 innings this season Barrett has allowed one run, earned, with four hits, three walks and 14 strikeouts.
His start has been encouraging, and Bianco believes he’ll keep pace with the schedule, which includes No. 10 Louis-ville in Oxford next weekend.
“Oh certainly. He’s not gotten through the first two weeks because of competition. It’s been because of who he is and the kind of pitcher he is. If he pitches the way he has the first two weekends, he’ll have similar success against better teams.”
Rothlin has been good, but there’s room for improvement. While he’s allowed only one run in 11 innings, he’s also walked eight batters, four in each start.
“Trent has pitched well results-wise, but he’s not been super sharp. We think he’ll get better. His command has to get better,” Bianco said.
Closer David Goforth, who pitched well last season as the set-up man, has started fast as well. In 31⁄3 innings of work, Goforth has one save with no runs, no walks, four hits and four strikeouts.
Bianco believes his hitting will get better too. The Rebels were hitting a collective .301 going into the Memphis game.
“We’re still trying to different things with certain guys. We have a lot of options to figure out,” Bianco said.