When Will Ethridge toed the rubber in his first career college start on Tuesday, he wanted to leave the mound on his own terms. Aside from a rising pitch count that spiked to 81 in the fifth inning, he did just that while striking out 10 and chalking up his first win in a 16-4 rout of Arkansas State.
“Coach B told me yesterday to go out there and pitch how we pitched during the fall and the spring and that we had worked hard for it,” Ethridge said. “I just wanted to come out on my own terms there.”
Ethridge commanded his fastball well and kept hitters off balance with a hard slider and a changeup he’s been developing over the last year. He repeatedly missed Red Wolves bats, five how his strikeouts were the swinging variety. He also froze them with that changeup and slider, as five were seated after looking at strike three.
“Coach B was calling some really good pitches. I just focused on hitting my spots and getting guys to foul balls off, and the slider, which is the wipeout pitch,” Ethridge said. “I was feeling really good. I felt like I was locating my pitches really well. I had guys down in the bullpen telling me that if I kept hitting my spots, I would pitch well today. I just focused on that.”
He had one stretch in the second and third innings in which he had whiffed five Arkansas State hitters in a row. Of the four runs he allowed, only two were earned. He ran into a little bit of a pinch in the fifth inning, a frame in which the Red Wolves scored half of their runs. But he bore down and finished the inning.
“He’s got really good stuff. His stuff is what it is, and he is going to be a really good pitcher for us,” assistant coach Mike Clement said. “It was good for him to get his feet wet, throw and get a win and face some adversity in the fifth inning and was able to bear down and get out of it. I was really proud of him.”
Since Ethridge has been on campus, the coaching staff has been impressed with his maturity. It was evident he was ready to contribute immediately. But how he has handled himself has spoken loudly, as well.
“All the way through the recruiting process, and you can tell on the mound that nothing looks sped up like it does with some freshmen,” Clement said. “He’s been that way since day one, since we started intrasquads. Just his presence on the mound, and he is a strike thrower and has really good stuff. That’s an obviously really good combination, and he is going to win a lot of games.”
The offense backed up Ethridge’s outing. Ole Miss scored 16 runs on 16 hits. Thomas Dillard was 3-4 and is now 7-12 in his young career.
“This weekend, he saw a lot of really tough pitches and didn’t chase. If you watch his BP, you can almost think that it is home run derby and then he gets in the game and has a really mature approach,” Clement said. “He takes what they give him.”
Perhaps no one has gotten off to a hotter start than the often forgotten Will Golsan, who went 4-5 with three doubles and a pair of RBI on the night.
“He’s the guy that gets lost in the shuffle. Bortles and Blackman are the captains, and then you have this young recruiting class that everybody is talking about. No one really talks about Golsan,” Clement said. “He is on his third year and probably has the most career at-bats outside of Bortles of anyone on our offense and hits close to .300 every year.”
Golsan’s been steady and consistent throughout a career that has seen him play four different positions. The junior right-fielder is seeing the ball well early on in this season.
“I am just trying to get the barrel on the ball and put up quality at bats out there,” Golsan said.
Nine different Rebels had hits, and four had multiple hits, with Nick Fortes and Kyle Watson joining Golsan and Dillard in that club. The win moved Ole Miss to 4-0 on the year. It will welcome UNC-Wilmington to town this weekend. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. Friday.