Rebel Pitchers Looking Forward to 2018
Sept. 28, 2017
By Davis McCool, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. – With an overabundance of talent on the mound, there’s a reason that the Rebel pitching staff is awaiting the 2018 season with a hunger for dominance. The Ole Miss bullpen will feature seven newcomers, as well as an array of experienced veterans as the team looks to continue its efficiency from last year, where they topped rankings in both the SEC and on the national level.
The team will not have to fill many spots from last year, as only one weekend starter, David Parkinson, was lost to the 2017 MLB Draft. Juniors James McArthur and Brady Feigl are two veterans prepared to help fill in Parkinson’s shoes, as both arms have strong weekend starting experience. A multitude of sophomores were also able to collect innings last year and will certainly be in the running for a starting position including Greer Holston, Houston Roth, Will Ethridge, and summer standout Ryan Rolison.
To complete the Rebels’ well-rounded pitching staff, the lethal combination of Will Stokes and Dallas Woolfolk will provide one of the nation’s best one-two punches to close out ballgames, as both have experience working and succeeding as a closer for the Rebels.
“I think we definitely had a great pitching staff last year,” Stokes said. “We have great talent with the new guys coming in, and I think we’re going to be really good this year, especially with those guys having another year under their belts.”
Many younger Rebel pitchers went all across the nation to record some innings in summer ball this year. A trio of sophomores, who made immediate impacts to the club as freshmen, will return for their second year and look to continue their success. Roth, who led the team with a 1.57 ERA last year, shattered the record for most strikeouts in a Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League game with 20 en route to first team all-league honors. Ethridge impressed many in his debut season as a Rebel and continued his success into his summer league with a 1.29 ERA.
The real focus this summer, however, was Rolison, who attracted much attention after fanning 35 batters in six starts on the way to a perfect 4-0 record, Cape Cod League All-Star honors and the No. 3 rated prospect in the entire league.
“He (Rolison) was that guy in high school,” Ole Miss pitching coach Carl Lafferty said. “You look at his draft status when he came here as a freshman, and it was high. At Ole Miss, he progressed from the bullpen to a starting role last year, and I think he pitched better as the season wore on. When he got to summer ball, there were some adjustments he made, and his stuff and velocity just kept getting better. He’s as good as anybody in the country, and we’re certainly excited to see him in the spring.”
Rolison transitioned from a midweek pitcher to a consistent weekend starter about halfway through the season last year, and the sophomore will certainly be in the running for the 2018 Rebel ace as the fall wears on.
“I’m going to do whatever the coaches think best,” Rolison said. “Whether that be in the bullpen or a weekend starter, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win ballgames here. The hopes for myself are to be in that weekend rotation again, but every day we have to come out here and earn it.”
Juniors Brady Feigl and McArthur are two more names to look out for, as both veterans have experience starting in top matchups against critical SEC opponents. McArthur, the second most-utilized pitcher last year behind Parkinson with 64.2 IP, began last season as the Rebels’ Friday night guy and continued to be a strong weekend starter for the team throughout the year. Feigl, who was taken in the 2017 Draft but returned for his junior season, only managed six starts last season, but was one of the Rebels’ best arms from the bullpen with a strikeout total of 54, good for fourth on the team.
The focus for the veterans this fall is just improving their individual games in hopes of strengthening the pitching staff, and taking the Rebels to the top of the league, and perhaps, the nation.
“You start off with how does each pitcher improve individually,” Lafferty said. “How is Brady Feigl, Ryan Rolison, or James McArthur better now than they were last year? Some of them had terrific years last year, but how do they get better as they advance in their career here? It’s not only stuff on the mound, but it’s controlling the game and being a leader as well.”
To close games for the club this year, the Rebels can turn to either Stokes or Woolfolk, both of whom have shown time and time again their expertise in closing out ballgames in an Ole Miss uniform. Stokes, the lone senior in the bullpen, was utilized in many roles last year, but excelled as a setup pitcher, oftentimes opening the door for Woolfolk’s appearances. In his 24 appearances last season, he posted a 2.67 ERA with four saves, and even managed two wins as a reliever.
“Stokes, if you look at his career, has been a weekend starter, a bullpen guy, and somebody we could depend on to close games,” Lafferty said. “He was electric his sophomore year, and he was great last year. He was a guy who could have signed last year, but he wanted to come back for one more year, and I think he’ll be hugely impactful for us.”
Woolfolk, who will return for his junior campaign this year, is coming off one of the best seasons ever as a Rebel closer, in which he posted a 2.15 ERA with 12 saves, good enough for second on the school’s all-time list. Woolfolk’s velocity and control are lauded by many, and were apparently good enough to land him on the Team USA Collegiate Baseball Team, where he competed this summer.
“He (Woolfolk) has electric stuff,” Lafferty said. “He has as good stuff as anybody in the country, and showed it as a closer for Team USA. He did it last year in the SEC, and he’s a wonderful kid, but when he’s on the mound, he’s as tough as anybody to put on a college baseball uniform. Having a guy at the end of a game that can keep a lead is detrimental, and we’re excited that we have a guy like Dallas that can do that for us.”
The Rebels clearly have much to be excited about for the 2018 season, but Lafferty wants to make it clear that with seven incoming pitchers, as well as plenty of guys coming off of strong summers, this year’s starting jobs are wide open.
“The thing that I like on our club is the fact that we have a talented staff, but it’s wide open for everybody,” Lafferty said. “For the guys that perform, it’s wide open for opening weekend.”
No matter who makes the trot to the mound on opening weekend, the Rebels like their chances this year, and they are taking their bullpen over anybody’s this year.
“We walk around every day with the confidence that we’re some of the best in the SEC, if not the nation,” Stokes said. “I think we’ll be pretty good this year.”
For all Ole Miss Baseball news and information, visit the official athletics site OleMissSports.com. For more social media updates, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissBSB, on Facebook at Ole Miss Baseball and on Instagram at olemissbsb.
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