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Thursday, October 30, 2014

UPDATED: Rebels waiting to announce starter

 BLOG: Ole Miss has yet to announce who will take the mound in the Southeastern Conference Tournament opener against Kentucky on Tuesday.

During this morning’s press conference, Rebel head coach Mike Bianco said during the league’s teleconference that the team would practice today and a decision would likely be made later in this evening.

“We haven’t decided yet. We took (Sunday) off. We’ll practice here in a couple of hours and check everybody,” he said. “Something we’ll wait to decide until tonight at some time.”

Asked what Bobby Wahl‘s status will be, Bianco said even if the Rebels advance past the “breakfast game,” Wahl likely won’t start.

“There’s no way he’ll start Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, but there’s a possibility we could use him out of the bullpen at some point,” Bianco said. “We’ll check with him today when we get out on the field and see how he feels. He’s day-to-day in his work load. We want to pitch him and obviously need to pitch him but we need to be careful that he’s really feeling good by the time the regional rolls around.”

Kentucky has announced senior left-hander Jerad Grundy will get the nod despite giving up nine runs against the Rebels on April 26.

“Grundy is a great kid and a very good competitor but he ran into a rough four-game stretch so we took him off the Saturday games and put him on the Tuesday games and he was able to relax and get back to his old self that he’d been for a year and a half,” UK coach Gary Henderson said. “What we’ve seen from him is the ability to throw strikes at the knees, command his two secondary pitches, work ahead in the count, the absolute basics in order to be successful.

“He has pitched much, much better his last two or three times out than he did the previous four so we’re obviously hoping he can go out tomorrow and do the basics, get ahead in the count, throw strikes and mix his pitches.”

SLIPPING IN THE POLLS: After going 1-3 on the week Ole Miss finds itself out of Baseball America’s Top 25, which was released this morning. The Rebs entered last week ranked 23rd in the country, but lost at Southern Miss before dropping two of three at No. 2 LSU.

UPDATED (4:45 p.m. CT): HOOVER, Ala. — As to be expected, the Rebels slid in all of today’s national polls. The Rebs slipped from No. 20 to 24 in Collegiate Baseball, from 18 to 21 in NCBWA, from 14 to 21 in ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and from 20 to 25 in Perfect Game.

BLISTER ISSUES: Regular Sunday starter Sam Smith apparently experienced issues with a blister at LSU, but Bianco brushed it off as not a big deal moving forward but added he hasn’t talked to the sophomore right-hander recently.

“I haven’t seen him since Saturday. It’s the first time he has come up with a blister that was an issue this year,” He said. “Hopefully that’ll be healed up. We didn’t think it was that big of a deal, just one of those things that happens with the raised-seam ball in college baseball more often than professional baseball.”

ROUGHED UP: Wahl had his worst outing of the season against LSU on Saturday, surrendering six runs in just 2.2 innings. Wahl has, like the rest of his fellow Rebel starters, been bounced around due to rain against MSU and then the Thursday-Friday-Saturday series in Baton Rouge, La. Bianco believes his shuffle had something to do with his poor outing.

“To be honest he was just tired. I think his routine has been busted so many times in the last few weeks that pitching on short rest, and it was the hottest day in Louisiana in the year from what I understand; it was boiling down there and I just think the combination of not being in his routine and the heat and three or four perfectly executed hit-and-runs in a row,” Bianco said. “He looked in the first couple of innings like he was going to have another Bobby Wahl day, then he kind of struggled in the third inning to get his slider into the strike zone and they certainly took advantage with some hit-and-runs and some balls found some holes. It was just one of those innings that kind of blew up on him and he couldn’t get out of it.”

NEEDING A RUN: From taking a quick glance at various national NCAA Tournament projections (pick your favorite, mine are HERE, HERE and HERE), it appears the Wildcats (30-24 overall, 11-19 SEC) need to make a big-time run to extend their season beyond Hoover, Ala.

Henderson said his team is well aware of where they’re projected.

“When you show up and you’re 11-19, I think it’s pretty clear to everybody whether or not you have to win it or you have to win four or whatever it may be. It’s pretty clear so I’m not sure I have to manage a lot of that. I’m think it’s pretty clear to our guys,” he said. “We’ll go about it the same way we always do. We  need to win tomorrow morning and then we can worry about what we’re doing on Wednesday. … If it comes down to biting off four wins or five wins or whatever it is, I won’t do that. We need to play well, we need to pitch well; all the coaching cliches are absolutely true. We need to do those tomorrow morning or else we won’t worry about it. I’d say we need to have a significant run.”

RENFROE NAMED MISSISSIPPI’S TOP COLLEGIATE PLAYER:  Mississippi State slugger Hunter Renfroe won the C Spire Ferriss Trophy earlier today. Among a list of five finalists were Ole Miss catcher Stuart Turner and Wahl.

Below is the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame’s press release:

Hunter Renfroe, Mississippi State’s slugging junior outfielder from Crystal Springs, Monday was named the 10th winner of the C Spire Ferriss Trophy, which goes to the most outstanding college baseball player in Mississippi.

“It’s the greatest honor of my baseball career,” said Renfroe afterwards. “It was an honor to be on the platform with these other talented players and such a thrill to win an award named after Coach Ferriss.”

Renfroe was chosen by a panel of Major League scouts and college coaches as the winner over the other four finalists: pitcher Josh Branstetter of  Delta State, pitcher Andrew Pierce of Southern Miss, catcher Stuart Turner of Ole Miss and pitcher Bobby Wahl of Ole Miss. All five of the Ferriss finalists are among candidates for still-to-be-named National Player of the Year awards.

“I have been covering these C Spire awards series in football, basketball and baseball for years, and I cannot remember a single instance when we had this many deserving finalists,” said Rick Cleveland, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. “In any other given year, any of these five finalists would have been a deserving winner.”

Renfroe led the Southeastern Conference in home runs with 15 and in slugging percentage with .696. He batted .362 and is expected to be a first round draft pick in the upcoming Major League draft.

John Cohen, in introducing Renfroe, noted that Renfroe almost didn’t receive a Division I scholarship out of Copiah Academy three years ago.

“Hunter had signed with Meridian Community College, but my coaches kept telling me we really needed to sign him,” Cohen said. “My response was that if he’s so good, why is he still available this late in the game? How come nobody else is recruiting him?”

State assistants finally convinced Renfroe to take a look, and one game was all it took.

“Hunter is a guy who can do it all,” Cohen said.

All five finalists brought gaudy statistics to the podium Monday, including:

• Branstetter, who had 9-3 record as the ace of the Delta State staff, striking out 82 and walking just 19.

• Pierce, USM’s ace from Stringer, who was 9-2, striking out 92 and walking just 18.

• Turner, the Ole Miss catcher, who was excellent defensively and hit .377 for the Rebels.

• Wahl, the Rebels’ right-handed ace, who finished 9-0 with an earned run average of 1.99.

By far the largest crowd in Ferriss Trophy history, right at 250,  attended the luncheon, at which the undefeated state champion Magnolia Heights Academy baseball team also was recognized for its achievement.

There were three standing ovations: one for Boo Ferriss, one for the Magnolia Heights 37-0 team and, finally, for Renfroe.

(My two cents: Couldn’t go wrong with Renfroe or Wahl. Both, in addition to Turner, are amongst the best in the country at what they do, whether that be a power-hitting outfielder, a power right-handed pitcher or a two-way catcher. Wahl and Turner definitely had cases, as did Pierce and Branstetter. Wahl is also projected as a top 40 draft pick, Turner in the top 150, but Renfroe has been projected to go in the first 15 picks. Scouts seem to have a lot to say with in who wins the award, so when that’s taken into consideration it’s no surprise the Crystal Springs native won the award. Like I said, couldn’t have gone wrong with any of the SEC’s three representatives. Had I been asked to vote — I wasn’t — I probably would have voted for Renfroe as well.)

GETTING STARTED: Just a reminder that first pitch between 11th-seed Kentucky and 6th-seed Ole Miss (36-20, 15-15) is set for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The winner advances to face fourth-seed Arkansas (35-19, 18-11) at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday while the loser goes home to await their NCAA Tournament fate. Ole Miss-UK will be televised on FSN.

Be sure to check back at OxfordEAGLE.com for live game blogs as long as the Rebels are in the SEC Tournament. (May 20, 2013)

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