“It was a really good weekend. We pitched really well,” he said. “It was probably our best weekend of pitching thus far this fall.”
We know two things about Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers and have since fall ball started. One, they probably won’t pitch this fall as they rest and recover from a lot of innings last spring and summer. Two, they are most likely the first and second game starters on the weekends just like last season.
So who’s the third starter? Of course, it’s a long time until February. But right now a name keeps popping up that could ultimately be the guy who starts game three.
“Chris Ellis was dominant again and has looked great every outing,” Bianco said following Sunday’s scrimmage. “He’s kind of separating himself from some of the other guys.”
So what’s made the sophomore right-hander so special this fall?
“He’s always had great stuff,” Bianco said of Ellis. “He’s always had a big fastball, a bigtime curveball. And he’s had a good changeup that we’ve never used that much. He’s pitching with a lot of confidence. He’s really attacking the strike zone early. He’s getting in good counts. When you have great stuff and you put yourself in position with good counts, your innings start to roll a little bit. Been a lot of three ups, three downs, and he gets through the innings very easily.”
Other pitchers? Here are some general comments from Bianco on a few of them.
“Hawtin Buchanan bounced back from a tough outing last week. He pitched well (Saturday). Tanner Bailey and Aaron Greenwood continue to pitch really well in the intrasquad games and dominate their three or four innings. Brady Bramlett pitched well again. It’s been neat to watch some of the new guys have some success, like Bramlett. Jacob Waguespack pitched in an intrasquad that meant a lot. It was 1-0 and he had to finish the last three innings. Matt Denny and Jeremy Massie pitched (Sunday) and did well.”
Buchanan, of course, is a sophomore right-hander who pitched last season. Bailey is a senior right-hander, and Bramlett is a freshman right-hander. Waguespack is a freshman right-hander, and Denny is a freshman left-hander. Massie is a junior left-hander who transferred from Northwest Mississippi Community College.
“Collectively this is the best all of them have pitched for a weekend, and that’s good,” Bianco said of this past weekend’s three intrasquads. “That’s good now that we’re three or four weeks into it.”
Auston Bousfield is congratulated after a home run against LSU last season
Another positive from the fall has been the emergence of Stuart Turner, a junior college catcher from LSU-Eunice, who was coached last season by former Ole Miss catcher Brett Basham, an assistant at the juco.
“Defensively he’s done really well,” Bianco said. “Offensively statistically in the games he’s been a little up and down. But as far as will he hit, we don’t have a doubt he will hit. Defensively he’s brought another dimension. He can really throw. He can control the running game behind the plate. And it’s made the other guys – Will Allen and Austin Knight – better with another guy back there.”
Second base is a position that the Rebels look to fill this season with the departure of Alex Yarbrough.
“We’ve continued to rotate guys from (junior college transfer) Lance Wilson to (sophomore) Jake Overbey to (freshman) Christian Helsel. Also (freshman) Luke Gibbs, and (freshman) Tyler Jackson, who also catches. We’ve just rotated a bunch of guys.
“Austin Anderson has really played well at shortstop defensively and offensively. He looks like the frontrunner there. We’ll continue to rotate guys (at second base) until we find the right mix.”
Offensively, again from a general standpoint, there are some who have shown they’re ready to step in and be productive.
“Austin Bousfield continues to look like a superstar,” Bianco said. “We knew last year as a freshman he could do that defensively. He had a solid freshman campaign last year. But you watch him this year and he can do so much more. He’s stronger, more confident running the bases. He stole three bases (Saturday). He will bring a lot to our lineup offensively.
“Will Jamison got the big hit (Sunday) to win the game for his team. He’s having one of the best falls. Jon Gatlin’s really swung the bat well. Will Allen has swung it as well as anybody. Preston Overbey is having a good fall offensively.”
Bianco said he has seen overall improvement daily, and it's been a good fall so far.
“In the practices we have left, we’ll continue to watch and evaluate in the intrasquad games,” he said. “It’s nice to see them play so hard and with so much confidence. You can tell we’re getting better each day.”
Tanner Mathis retweaked the oblique (Saturday) from an injury in late summer in Cape Cod and probably will miss the rest of the fall. He’ll be ready for the preseason practices in January.
Junior college transfer LHP Austin Blunt had some elbow pain in late summer and was diagnosed with a fractured bone in his elbow. He has recovered and started throwing last week and will be 100 percent for the preseason in January.
Senior RHP Brett Huber had some pain last season from some loose bone chips in his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery as a senior in high school, and sometimes you see that become a factor years later. He had that cleaned up this summer and they actually moved a nerve, which is done with some of those type situations. He threw a bullpen last Friday and will be ready for the preseason in January.