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Three-headed Monster Leads Ole Miss Rotation

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Mississippi baseball is actually a lot like a deck of cards—except one card is glaringly missing.

Instead of four aces, there are three. It might not always be enough to win in poker, but in baseball, a trio of aces can get you far.

That’s what the Rebels have—three of a kind. Because outside of their jersey numbers and facial hair, Ryan Rolison, Brady Feigl and James McArthur have been practically indiscernible from each other through the first three weeks of the season. 

Rolison is 2-1, 2.16 with 24 strikeouts and six walks in 16.2 innings. Feigl boasts a 1.40 ERA and 9-to-1 strikeout ratio. McArthur has been the stingiest of all, delivering a 0.59 ERA through three starts. 

The three have led No. 12 Ole Miss to the third-best ERA in the Southeastern Conference, behind only No. 1 Florida and No. 6 Arkansas.

It makes for a brutal challenge for opponents. Even on the slightest of chances an opposing offense manages to crack one of the three Rebel aces, the other two are waiting in the wings.

“I think we have four or five guys that can all be aces of this staff,” Rolison said. “That’s good to be on a staff like this, to keep pushing each other and building off of each other every day.”

Long Beach State saw that firsthand last weekend. When the Dirtbags tagged Friday night starter Rolison for three earned runs in a 4-3 win, Feigl (7.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 K) and McArthur (5 IP, 6 K, 2 H) rallied to win the series for the Rebels.

Head coach Mike Bianco views it as a total flip-flop from last season. While Rolison pitched well as a freshman (3.06 ERA), the rotation was missing the mix of depth and talent it now has.

“The thing that we lacked last year was we didn’t have the star power, we didn’t have the Friday night ace,” Bianco said. “Although a lot of guys had great years, in our league, you can get lost in a hurry. There’s so much talent.”

“They’re all a year better, a year more experienced.”

For Rolison and McArthur, experience did the trick. Both thrived in the Cape Cod League this past summer. Rolison went 4-0, 1.92 pitching for the Orleans Firebirds. He spun his summer, along with his standout freshman season, into a spot on the Golden Spikes Award watch list.

“This summer, I was just excited to get to that part of the country, meet some new guys and the best college baseball players around the world,” Rolison said. “Just talk to them about what they do in between starts, just add to my routine between starts. It was huge for me, coming off of a summer like that to try to keep the momentum going towards the spring.”

Rolison even sees similarities between his current college rotation and the pitching staff he worked with in Orleans. Stetson’s Logan Gilbert has first-round potential, and he, along with Rolison, gave the Firebirds just as deadly a starting core as the Rebels run out on the weekends now.

McArthur, pitching for the Falmouth Commodores, posted a 3.10 ERA in seven starts. While he’s just three starts into his junior season, the lefty is on pace to significantly outperform his 4.73 ERA from last season.

Feigl didn’t play summer ball but carefully added to his pitching repertoire. In the fall he sat down with Bianco and concluded when he’s pitching his best, his slider is his most dominant weapon.

The results have paid off for the redshirt junior. His improved backdoor slider has helped generate enough swings and misses (18 strikeouts) to keep opponents off balance.

“That was the biggest thing—throwing the same one and being able to put it where I wanted,” Feigl said. “Through the fall, he worked with me and really helped me develop that. I feel like I’ve been able to show that.”

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The trio hasn't shied away from the competition. If anything, they’ve used it to motivate each other. In Feigl's eyes, it’s even helped put their minds at ease heading into each weekend series.

“If one guy doesn’t do as well, the next guy will be there to pick him up,” he said. “That’s what we lean on. We’re able to lean on each other, and that’s what makes us stronger together.”

Even after his first loss of the season against Long Beach State, Rolison’s morale was high knowing with Feigl on the mound in the following game, his teammate had the ability to stop a losing streak before it even began.

“It’s humbling to have a staff like this,” Rolison said. “You don’t win the first game, then you’ve got a lot of confidence in the back end.”

Feigl echoed his teammate. In fact, the level of talent across the board has even brought him back to a simpler time, before series' against the country’s top college programs were even on his radar.

“The depth that we have with us, it just gives you all the confidence in the world,” he said. “It lets you go out and play like you’re 12. It’s great.”

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