Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers are ready to pitch when TCU comes to town in two weeks. For the past half a year, they’ve just been eager to get back on the mound for a practice.
That happened last weekend when the two pitched “live” for the first time since the NCAA Regional at Texas A&M last June. It was just like old times, if you ask them how things went last weekend, which we did.
“It’s been a long six or seven months,” said Wahl, a junior right-hander who is a preseason All-American in some publications and polls. “It felt good. I’ve been throwing bullpens and all leading up to that. I felt like I knew what I was doing out there, so it wasn’t too bad. Just threw two innings and did well.”
Wahl didn’t give up a run or a hit in those two innings but walked two and struck out three.
Wahl was 7-4 in 2012 with a 2.55 ERA and a team-leading 99.0 innings of work and 17 starts. He held opponents to a .211 batting average against with 104 strikeouts, walking only 32 and combined for three shutouts, including shutouts over UNC-Wilmington, Houston and No. 1 Florida to help lead the Rebels to a series sweep of the Gators.
Wahl said he’s pleased it’s time to start another season. Even practice feels good to him.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been held back that long. It was tough for me,” he said. “I’m a guy that wants to be on the mound. That day eventually came, so it was good.”
The Rebels won 37 games last season and were a win away from advancing to a Super Regional for the first time in three seasons. But it was TCU that won the final two games of the NCAA Regional in College Station, Texas, and eliminated Ole Miss.
Wahl likes this year’s team.
“Right now this is the best team I’ve been a part of,” he said. “We all have each other’s back, we work as hard as we can, and we all have a lot fun. This is a great team, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
And he knows the rest his arm got over the past few months will be good for the team this spring.
“I hadn’t thrown a hundred innings ever,” he said. “Freshman year I threw like 30 or 40 innings. So I was a little tired (last summer). I definitely needed the break.
“Honestly, it was good. It was one of those things I didn’t want to do, but in the long run it will be very beneficial. The coaches know what they’re doing. It’s worked out really well.”
Wahl was the assumed No. 1 starter heading into last season and stayed there. Mayers, also a junior right-hander, emerged early as the No. 2 starter. He, too, is pleased, looking back of course, that he was held from pitching the past few months.
“It’s been huge for me,” Mayers said. “I sat down with the coaches and trainers and figured out an arm care program. We did stuff we’d never done before. We long tossed this fall, and that’s huge. I always think long-tossing helps.”
But there’s more. More than just resting one’s arm. Mayers said his mind needed a rest as well, as the grind can take its toll.
“It’s also really helped on the mental side of the game for me,” he said, after pitching two innings last weekend, allowing no runs on three hits with a walk and a strikeout. “I took a huge step in the mental part of the game.”
Mayers also played football and basketball in high school, so he was used to focusing on other sports prior to coming to Ole Miss.
“I didn’t have a year ‘round background in baseball until the spring of my senior year (of high school),” he said.
But since then, he’s pitched a lot, and he’s rested and ready. Like Wahl, Mayers also likes this team of Rebels.
“This is my third year. It truly is a family,” he said. “Everybody enjoys coming out here every day. We all really enjoy being together. Everybody seems to have taken a step up. Everybody will have a role, and we have a lot of depth.”
Mayers, who pitched 92.2 innings last season with a 6-3 record and a 3.50 ERA, with 17 appearances and 15 starts, said the goals remain the same. Winning for Ole Miss is what it’s all about.
“Every time you go out there, you put it on the line for the University and everybody on the team,” he said. “We’ve all been in this together for quite some time. Every time you step on the field, you have something to prove.”
Baseball wants to follow in the steps of football and men’s basketball this season, which have created so much excitement in the 2012-13 school year. Mayers said baseball wants to do even better.
“We don’t want to mess it up,” he said of the good times that are rolling for the Rebels. “Hopefully we can one up what they’ve done. It’s definitely a fun time to be at the University.”