Ole Miss will hit the ground running on Friday as it opens its season against 10th-ranked East Carolina, a veteran group that was on the cusp of reaching the College World Series a season ago.
Mike Bianco announced his rotation at media days on Monday, and the trio will certainly be tested against a Pirates team that returns the majority of its offense, especially in the heart of the order.
Ole Miss will go with junior lefty David Parkinson. He filled the second slot in the rotation last season and was very good for a team that was struggling to find starting pitching at the time. He went 5-3 in nine starts and posted a 2.78 ERA in the those starts, in addition to 13 relief appearances. Parkinson has added some velocity to his fastball and will be anywhere from 88 to 93. He’s got good command of a slider, change up and breaking ball, as well, and he takes his four-pitch arsenal right at hitters. This will be Parkinson’s first full season as a starter, and he says he feels more comfortable knowing exactly what he needs to do each time out.
“It’s more focusing on this pitch and focusing on what I can control and working on that,” Parkinson said. “The opponent doesn’t really make a difference. The process I go [through] out there on the mound will be the same for every single team.”
Filling what used to be Parkinson’s role will be sophomore right-hander James McArthur, a guy whom Bianco threw a lot as starter in the midweek games last year. He struggled early on and was rushed back from a nagging injury but found his groove later in the season and posted a 6-1 record with a 4.26 ERA. He has the ability to make hitters swing and miss, fanning 61 batters in 61.1 innings last year. He will sit in the low 90s with his fastball and complements it with a hard slider and a changeup in the low 80s.
McArthur flirted with the weekend rotation last year and has enough innings under his belt to be comfortable on the Saturdays this season.
Bianco elected to go with experienced Brady Feigl, who was a centerpiece of the Ole Miss bullpen as a freshman. The sophomore right-hander will attempt to fill a void that troubled the Rebels most of last season as they struggled to find a third starter. Bianco said on Sunday that Feigl “may have the best stuff on the team.”
Nothing he throws is straight, according to Tate Blackman. Feigl’s got a fast ball in the low- to mid-90s that has some cut on it, as well as a hooking slider and good change up.
“He throws his fastball in the low- to mid-90s, and he has a sweeping slider, which is just a wipeout-type of pitch, and he’s really picked up a great changeup. He’s a smart kid and a great competitor, and he’s really as good as anybody we’ve got,” Bianco said. “He’s got good command, and he was in the bullpen last year not because of stamina or any other reason except for he was just new. He was a freshman coming off surgery, and he was a guy that we thought so much of that he was the first guy out of the bullpen in a regional, a guy that logged important innings. Even though he wasn’t a starter for us, he certainly was a guy that we counted on a lot.”
Feigl is a crafty guy who could be a tough matchup for teams on Sunday because of the movement on all his pitches. If he ends up being strong on the back end of the rotation, it could propel Ole Miss to another level.
These three will attempt to go deep into the games before turning it over to a deep and versatile bullpen that returns most all of the arms from a year ago, outside of Wyatt Short. It also added a host of talented freshmen like Greer Holston, Ryan Rolison and Will Ethridge. With veteran closer Will Stokes on the back end of the pen, the starters should feel pretty comfortable when they exit the game.
Overall, East Carolina’s got an offense with a good bit of pop and a veteran presence. Catcher Travis Watkins and first baseman Bryce Harman anchor the middle of its order, and freshman rightfielder Spencer Brickhouse adds even more pop to it. It will be a tough test for the Ole Miss pitching staff on opening weekend, as well as a good measuring stick.