OLE MISS

June 2013 Archives

Summer Update On The Courts

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The collegiate tennis season ended about a month ago with the Ole Miss men's tennis All-American duo of Jonas Lutjen and Nik Scholtz reaching the NCAA Final Four in doubles. After a few days in Oxford, the two headed to opposite parts of the world, Lutjen to begin his pro career, and Scholtz to play in some Futures tournaments, as collegiate players often do in the summer months. The results so far indicate why they became one of the top doubles tandems in the nation.

Vorster_Scholtz_Turkey.jpgScholtz, who will be a junior next season, traveled to Turkey for Futures events, and teamed up with Rebel alum Tucker Vorster, also an outstanding doubles player, to capture two titles in three weeks.  Their most recent title came Friday in Instanbul, where the South African duo defeated the No. 2 seeded team of Alexander Krasnorutskiy and Anton Manegin from Russia 7-6(1), 6-4.   Scholtz and Vorster also won the doubles in Konya, Turkey.

One of just nine players to earn All-America honors in both singles and doubles, Scholtz also reached the final of the singles in Instanbul, where he lost a close match Saturday to the No. 2 seed.

After joining Scholtz asLutjen_Hanfmann_Mexico.jpg two of only six players to finish the 2013 season top 20 in singles and top 10 in doubles, Lutjen got his pro career off to a good start in Mexico, teaming up with fellow countryman and Southern Cal sophomore Yannick Hanfmann to capture the doubles title a week ago in Quintana Roo.  They beat the No. 1 seed in the semifinals and the No. 2 seed in the final.  The win marked Lutjen's first pro doubles title. 

Following their wins, Lutjen is back in Germany to continue his pro career, while Scholtz heads back to the Motherland for a well-deserved break, before returning to Oxford in the fall.








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LAS VEGAS -- Former Ole Miss Rebel and current Colorado Springs Sky Sox left-hander Drew Pomeranz made his major league debut with the Colorado Rockies on September 11, 2011. 

Less than two years after being selected by the Cleveland Indians with the fifth overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, he had made it, and he described being called up that fast as a very fortunate situation.

"The way my career went, getting up there so quick, I was fortunate to get a taste of that and learn the things I need to refine for when I go back up there to be ready," Pomeranz said.

"I'm trying to knock out a lot of the stuff I need to work on here (at Colorado Springs) while I have the opportunity because it's hard to work on things up there (in the major leagues). It's hard to work on things and concentrate on getting those guys out."

The Rockies acquired Pomeranz in a trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians, and less than two months later, he made his debut, starting four games in September, then moved into the rotation last year. 

He made 22 starts in the majors, posting a 2-9 record with a 4.93 ERA and 83 strikeouts against 46 walks in 96.2 innings. He also made 10 starts with Colorado Springs, which is where Pomeranz has pitched so far this year. 

"I needed to work on being with three pitches and being more efficient," Pomeranz said of what he needed to work on this year.

Those three pitches -- fastball, curveball and change-up -- Pomeranz said he felt he has had pretty much every outing this year for Colorado Springs, compared to last year in which he said a lot of times he had a fastball, maybe a curveball, just depending on the day. 

So far, so good for Pomeranz.

The Memphis, Tenn., native is tied for second in the Pacific Coast League (AAA) in wins with a 7-1 record to go along with a 4.35 ERA in 78.2 innings over 14 starts. He also leads the league in both strikeouts (93) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.64) against 32 walks.

"I'm trying to work on a lot of things down here. I've been feeling great. I'm not so much worried about the stats or how well I'm doing. It's more about how I feel, and I've felt probably the best I have felt in a while out there this year, so I'm pretty excited about that."

Despite the high strikeout numbers, Pomeranz said he is still working to be more efficient.

"I still struggle some with that, especially because I have been striking a lot of guys out this year, and tend to have a higher pitch count," he said of his efficiency. As of late, I have been trying to be more efficient and pitch deeper into games."

The former Rebel said he watched some Ole Miss baseball this past season, adding that "maybe this year they were going to do it." 

Recounting some of his memories in the red and blue, he was quick to mention his complete game with a school-record 16 strikeouts on two days' rest against Western Kentucky in the 2009 NCAA Regional, but also the 2009 NCAA Super Regional, "those Virginia games," "not winning that Virginia game." More than that, however, he said he took away from his three years in Oxford.

"I learned a lot of things about myself," he said. "I made the decision to go to college, instead of signing out of high school. Like I tell a lot of people, it was the best decision I ever made. I improved so much. Growing up and being surrounded by that kind of program, you learn a lot about yourself."

When asked about a possible return to the majors, his answer was simple.

"It's going to be great," he said. "I can't wait."







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You've seen the photo. Now here's the story behind the picture from the man himself.



The photo above, courtesy of Josh McCoy, came on his winning pole vault at a height of 18-8.25 feet.

"The funny thing about that moment -- that picture -- is that I went through about five different emotions as I came dwon," Kendricks said. "Josh McCoy snapped that one picture where I was like this, but I was only like that for an instant. And so I was celebrating, and then I was relieved, and then I hit the mat, and it was over."

"With all my friends there and all the coaches, I really still don't know how to feel. I'm excited. I feel proud to be a Rebel. I feel accomplished that I have done this. But at the same time, who can be fully satisfied with something like this. I went there and did what I knew I could do. I just happened to come out victorious in the competition. And right now, I'm looking toward the future."

Kendricks said he never envisioned when he first started vaulting that all this was even a possibility, even to come to Ole Miss, even to jump higher than 14 feet. His grandfather, also Sam, has a flag pole in his front yard, and he moved it up from height to height while Sam jumped in high school, eventually to his highest jump, 17 feet.  Sam said the flag pole didn't go any higher, and his grandfather didn't want to buy a new one. When he arrived home yesterday, he said he saw something that reminded him of the flag pole.

"I see a big banner that says, 'Congratulations, Sam,' and I see all my family standing in the front yard, but I also see something along the column next to the front door, and it's a tape measure," Kendricks said.

"And it goes up and up and up and up, over the balcony, over the second story, and onto our roof, and I realized my mom had climbed on the outside of the balcony and taped it at 18-8.25 feet, way above the second story of our roof."

The immediate future Kendricks talked about is the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which will be held June 20-23 in Des Moines, Iowa, where the top qualifiers will advance to the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia, Aug. 10-18. There's also the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which Kendricks said he also thinks about. He is currently ranked second among Americans and seventh in the world this year with a mark of of 19-0.75 feet. 

"I've never done anything on that scale before," he said of representing his country. "Coming to college has been new experience after new experience. And just the possibility that I might be able to put USA on my chest is fulfilling."

"I think every guy need to allow himself those dreams," he said of Rio 2016. "And I hope that in the future I can still be a competitive vaulter, be healthy and be able to represent my country the best I can. The Olympic dream is always out there for a lot of guys, and for me, and I would be really happy if that came to fruition."








Between The Lines

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A couple weeks ago, we gave you some early predictions and honors from the summer's preseason football publications, and since then, a few more of the previews have hit newsstands. Among those is the Birmingham News' 67th annual SEC Football Preview, which polls the league's 14 sports information directors for predicted finish and top players. Obviously I'm looking through Red and Blue glasses, but I had a couple more Rebels on my ballot than on the final honoree lists. Nonetheless, quite a few made Bham's All-SEC teams and even more graced Phil Steele's teams, including both Nkemdiches. Steele also named Denzel to his preseason All-America squads. Check it out below, and look for a complete recap of all the preseason magazines on the official site later this summer.

Phil Steele
National Rank: #28
All-America 4th team: Denzel Nkemdiche
All-SEC 1st team: Denzel Nkemdiche
All-SEC 2nd team: Donte Moncrief
All-SEC 3rd team: Aaron Morris, Robert Nkemdiche
All-SEC 4th team: Jeff Scott, Ja-Mes Logan, CJ Johnson, Mike Marry, Charles Sawyer, Jaylen Walton (KR)

Birmingham News
SEC Rank: West #4
SEC Best Linebacker #2: Denzel Nkemdiche
SEC Best Punter #2: Tyler Campbell
All-SEC 1st team: Denzel Nkemdiche
All-SEC 2nd team: Donte Moncrief, CJ Johnson, Charles Sawyer, Tyler Campbell



Follow me on twitter @CampbellKyle.

Ole Miss NCAA Champions - Track & Field

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The NCAA Outdoor Championships are just one day away, and two Ole Miss athletes are among the favorites to claim national titles in their events.

Isiah Young arrives in Eugene, Ore., as the top seed in the men's 100 meters and No. 2 seed in the 200. He is the back-to-back SEC 200 meter champ and is the only collegian to run sub-10 in the 100 this season (9.99 at the NCAA East prelims in Greensboro, N.C.).

Sam Kendricks is the top seed in the men's pole vault at 19-0.75. He is the only collegian to clear 19 feet this year and is fifth-best in NCAA history with that clearance.

With such good title hopes, I wanted to trek down memory lane and look at the Rebels' past NCAA champs, most recently in 2008 when Brittney Reese won the women's indoor and outdoor long jumps en route to being named USTFCCCA National Women's Field Athlete of the Year. She has since enjoyed a pretty decent pro career.

Here's the full list of Ole Miss' all-time NCAA champions:

Men:
1983 - Ralph Spry, outdoor long jump
1991 - George Kersh, indoor 800 meters
1991 - George Kersh, outdoor 800 meters
1994 - Greg Saddler, indoor 55 meters
2000 - Savante' Stringfellow, outdoor long jump
2001 - Savante' Stringfellow, indoor long jump
2001 - Savante' Stringfellow, outdoor long jump
2004 - Antwon Hicks, indoor 60-meter hurdles
2005 - Antwon Hicks, indoor 60-meter hurdles
2007 - Barnabas Kirui, outdoor 3000-meter steeplechase

Women:
2008 - Brittney Reese, indoor long jump
2008 - Brittney Reese, outdoor long jump

And just like that, it's over.


A face of the program for the better part of four years, Tanner Mathis was one of four seniors to play their last game in an Ole Miss uniform. But he certainly leaves behind a legacy.


"It's always disappointing when it ends," head coach Mike Bianco said after Sunday's loss to William & Mary. "We've had four great seniors. One is sitting right next to me in Tanner Mathis, who had a tough beginning of the year. He played so well down the stretch in his final year."


The Lake Charles, La., native started all but one game over the the past three years and finished his career with a .326 batting average. He also ranks among the top 10 players in program history with 790 at-bats (7th), 103 walks (9th) and 164 runs scored (ninth).


"I had a great career," Mathis said. "Four great years here. I hit leadoff probably 85 percent of my career. And this is what I thought it would be. Coming to Ole Miss as a freshman not sure what to expect and ending it as a senior, it was everything I wanted my college baseball experience to be."


Mathis was drafted in the 27th round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros but turned down the offer in order to return for his senior season. He swung the bat well down the stretch as he reached base in each of the last 24 games and raised his average 59 points to finish the year with a .280 batting average.


In the Raleigh Regional, he was 6-for-12 with four runs scored. He led the team with 34 walks and 46 runs scored on the year, and ranked second with a .409 on-base percentage, while striking out just 18 times in 225 at-bats.


"He's held his head high," Bianco said of Mathis after Saturday's win against Binghamton. "A kid that comes back his senior year, it doesn't quite turn out the way he thought it was going to be, or how any of us thought it was going to be. 


"But certainly you tell how much better the offense when he's swinging and doing what he does best, and that's getting base hits and getting on base."


The other three graduating seniors on this year's team were impressive in their own right.

 

Pitcher Tanner Bailey was a regular out of the bullpen and finished with a 4-2 record, 2.74 ERA and .261 opponents' batting average in 42.2 innings. 


Third baseman Andrew Mistone was second on the team with a .317 batting average, a team-leading .330 in SEC play, and third on the team with 35 RBI.


Pitcher Brett Huber leaves as the school's all-time saves leader with 38. This year, he led all pitchers with a 1.54 ERA, to along with a 3-2 record, 12 saves and .181 opponents' batting average in 23.1 innings.


"They became some of my best friends," Mathis said of his senior teammates. "I have only known Mistone for two years, and Bailey for three. Me and Bailey actually lived together this year in a house, and me and Mistone roomed together almost every weekend. And knowing Brett for the four years I have been here, we've been through everything together."


Mathis also left with some words for the underclassmen who will return for the Rebels next year.


"And for the younger guys on the team, I just want them to soak it all in next year and remember this feeling next year whenever they're playing in a regional and super regional in Oxford," Mathis said.

He didn't have his best stuff. It didn't matter. He hadn't pitched in two weeks. It didn't matter. In the words of his coach, Bobby Wahl gutted it out on Saturday to win his 10th game of the season and kept Ole Miss alive in NCAA Tournament play.


"Fortunately for us, we had a big leaguer on the mound," head coach Mike Bianco said. "And I don't know if we had another guy that could win that game. Bobby, although he certainly didn't have his best stuff with a long layoff, again dealt with a blister on his finger, but just really gutted it out."


Wahl said he wanted to give the team a chance to win, and he did just that. The junior right-hander from Springfield, Va., allowed two runs, scattering eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts in seven innings.


"I feel that in any big game, I love to take the ball and give the team a chance to win," Wahl said. "And like coach (Bianco) said, I didn't have my best stuff today, but the only thing you can do in that situation is just give your team a chance to win."


With the win, Wahl, now 10-0, became the first 10-win pitcher for the Rebels in a season since Cody Satterwhite in 2006, just the third under Bianco and ninth in program history. 


He has started 16 games, leaving the game without a lead just once. He also holds a 2.06 ERA and has limited opposing hitters to a .197 average on the year.


"The year that Bobby's had and as inconsistent as maybe we have played throughout the year, he's been about the most consistent thing on this team," Bianco said. "And so, just a terrific, terrific year for him."


Bianco said he didn't consider anything but giving Wahl the ball on Saturday.


"After not pitching last week and the way we played yesterday, and I knew the pressure would be on today," Bianco said. "I knew that the kids would feel it today. And you have got to win today to move on. 


"We gambled a little bit, it didn't turn out the way we liked. It wasn't the way it was supposed to be, but I guess when it's all said and done, I'm not sure if we had another guy that could have won today, so I'm glad we had him."

Austin Anderson missed out on a career 5-for-5 day, but finished 4-for-5 on the day, which tied his career high for hits. He also delivered a two-out, RBI single in the seventh to give Ole Miss a 4-2 lead, as the Rebels went on to win 8-4.


"He's been terrific," head coach Mike Bianco said. "And he's been as consistent as anybody the entire season. There have been games like this where he has been really hot, and he can carry us. But we need him. We need all of the bats."


The junior from Sorrento, Fla., is hitting .455 since the start of the LSU series, including 5-for-9 in the Raleigh Regional this weekend. In all, he is 15-for-33 in his last at-bats and now hitting at a .322 clip. He has also struck out just 13 times in 209 at-bats on the season.


"Coach B(ianco) just tells me to be aggressive," Anderson said. "I've seen the ball a little better as of late. It's just being aggressive and hitting the fastball early in the count. It's probably the best pitch you're going to see. Being aggressive and swinging early in the count."


He missed practice on Thursday with the stomach bug, but it didn't show on Saturday. He singled, then scored on an RBI single in the first. He doubled in the third, singled and stole a base in the fifth, then drove in a run with a single in the seventh. 


In his last plate appearance, in the eighth, he hit a ball hard at the Binghamton first baseman, which was ruled an error, but it scored two more runs to take the lead out to 8-2.


"You can't find the hole all the time," Anderson said. "I was just excited two runs got in on the error."


Anderson was one of five Rebels with multi-hit games to lead the 13-hit barrage, as Tanner Mathis went 2-for-4, Andrew Mistone was 2-for-5, Preston Overbey was 2-for-5 and Will Allen was 2-for-3.

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