Chad Smith and Ole Miss pitchers are ready for SEC opener at Tennessee
Heading into Southeastern Conference play on Friday at Tennessee, Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco should feel comfortable with whomever steps onto the mound for the Rebels.
Each pitcher, including the newcomers, for eighth-ranked Ole Miss (17-1) has done a stellar job keeping opposing teams from running up the scoreboard.
Freshman RHP Andy Pagnozzi earned his third win of the season in just his second career start in the 8-1 win over UAB on Tuesday, pitching for a career-long 6.1 innings, allowing just one run and two hits. He also struck out four and did not issue a walk during a solid performance.
In the 5-1 win against the Blazers on Wednesday, freshman James McArthur (2-0) allowed only one run on five hits to pick up his second victory. The 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher struck out five and did not surrender a walk.
With steady pitching to go along with its solid offense, Ole Miss has won 12 games in a row—the fifth time in program history and the third time under Bianco (2002, 2013).
Chad Smith talks Ole Miss pitching
Junior RHP Chad Smith thinks having a bullpen full of talented, relaxed pitchers is a plus heading into conference play:
Everyone in the fall got a lot of innings. We had a lot of newcomers come in and the freshmen will have a big role in our success this season—and so far they have. They have been well-prepared and they’ve gone out there and performed really well for us. And it has helped us get off to a good start to the season.
Chad Smith, Ole Miss pitcher
Though Smith is a newcomer when it comes to his first year of playing Division I collegiate baseball, he has two years of junior college under his belt and it’s hard to tell he hasn’t been at this level before.
Though Smith is still learning and adjusting to the speed of baseball in the SEC, the difference between Smith and the younger pitchers is the fact he has the experience to step up to the mound with the confidence and comfort needed to be successful.
And the 6-4, 198-pound McCalla, Alabama native has impressed his coaches and teammates thus far.
In his first season with the Rebels, Smith holds a 2-1 record, allowing only 24 hits and 11 runs with a 4.35 ERA. In his last start last Sunday against Grambling State, Smith gave up only seven hits and three runs in five innings of work.
“I felt I have been strong, but I can get better,” the former Wallace State Community College standout said. “I just have to continue to work with the staff as a team and just keep progressing every single day, every single week, leading up to SEC play and it should be exciting.”
Smith, Rebels’ pitchers focused and ready
Smith isn’t nervous about playing against the Vols (11-5), who are coming off a 7-3 win at UNC Asheville on Tuesday. Tennessee’s offense improved to .320 after a 2-1 finish in its first home weekend series against UC Irvine last weekend. The Vols’ offense is currently the fourth-best in the SEC.
But Smith and the rest of the Ole Miss pitchers have prepared themselves for a strong outing against a Vols team that is 3-2 at home.
“The mindset is to get out there and give the team a chance to win if you’re on the mound or if you’re at the plate, get on base and drive in some runs,” Smith said.
It just comes down to being focused and being ready for the game. It’s an SEC game and everyone is pretty excited to get conference play under way. So, it should be a fun weekend.
First game: Friday, March 18 at 6:00 p.m. CST in Knoxville. Game will be televised on SEC Network+.
(Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.