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July 30, 2012

Rebs finding success in Cape Cod League


Hawtin Buchanan talks about his summer in Massachusetts.

MORE: OLE MISS SUMMER ASSIGNMENTS

BOURNE, Mass. - Tanner Mathis, a 29th-round selection of the Houston Astros in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, decided to return for his senior season and planned to stay in Oxford this summer before the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League came calling.

"I was going to take a class and work out for the summer, Mathis said. "[Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox] Coach [Scott] Pickler gave me call and said, 'We need a center fielder and someone to hit leadoff.' And I said, 'Alright, I'll be there.'"

Mathis, who hit .359 with a team-high .460 on-base percentage this past season, has continued his great play in summer ball with a .327 batting average, which ranks 11th in the league, and a .375 on-base percentage, which also ranks in the top 20 in the league. On July 20, he was named to the Cape Cod League All-Star Game and started in center field for the Eastern Division.

It's an awesome honor," Mathis said. "It's the best league to play in. It's the best college guys that come here. I'm really humbled to be selected to play in the All-Star game and represent my family and my school. I'm glad I get the chance to play against the best of the best."

Mathis said the biggest thing he's worked on and improved this summer is his baserunning, both running the bases and stealing bases, and he ranks ninth in the league with nine stolen bases in 13 attempts.

"I talked to Coach [Mike] Bianco before I left, and the one thing he wanted me to work was get faster, so I can steal more bases," Mathis said.

"I can't work with [assistant strength and conditioning] coach [Rich] Levy, but I'm working out here with my roommates and some of the guys on the team, and the coaches here have really helped me with my baserunning skills."

With the departures of two of the Rebels' three leading hitters from last year's team, Alex Yarbrough and Matt Snyder, Mathis talked about a move from his usual leadoff spot to the 3-hole next season.

"Coach [Cliff] Godwin has told me he wants me to hit three-hole," Mathis said. "I don't care where I hit as long as I get to hit. As long as I'm playing, it doesn't really matter, leadoff, nine-hole, eight-hole, three-hole, wherever.

"If I hit three-hole, I'll accept the role and be the guy that gets things going."

MAYERS SEES SUMER IMPROVEMENT: Mike Mayers took a tremendous step from his freshman year to his sophomore season, and he's confident a summer in the Cape Cod League will contribute to more improvements prior to his junior year at Ole Miss.

Last season, Mayers posted a 3.50 ERA with a .222 batting average against and 71 strikeouts compared 30 walks in 92.2 innings over 17 games, including 15 starts.

It's been an adjustment this summer for Mayers, who holds a 4.82 ERA and .252 batting average against in 28 innings over six starts this summer. He is also fourth in the league with 42 strikeouts compared to seven walks. In his last start on Wednesday, Mayers gave up one run on four hits with six strikeouts and zero walks in four innings pitched.

"In the SEC with Bobby pitching on Friday night, I get to see all the hitters before," Mayers said. "Coming up here, it's a lot different, I see some of the best hitters in the country that I have never seen before. You learn how to analyze swings and different things and manage the game a lot better."

Mayers also ranks among the league's leaders in strikeouts-per-nine innings (13.5) and first-pitch strike percentage (75.0). As far as his selection of pitches for his success, he said the biggest thing he's worked on this summer is continuing to develop the feel for his changeup.

After the Cape Cod League season, Mayers said he will probably take a few weeks off from throwing and get in the weight room to get bigger and stronger before fall practice starts.

"Bobby [Wahl] took a huge step, and a lot of that was he went back to school and worked hard in the fall," Mayers said. "I hope to do the same thing. And once I get back Oxford, go back to work."

BUCHANAN HAVING SUCCESSFUL SUMMER: Brett Huber, the Rebels' all-time saves leader, will return as a fifth-year senior next season to assume the closer role, and rising sophomore Hawtin Buchanan looks to bolster the back end of the Rebels' bullpen after a summer in a late-inning role with Bourne of the Cape Cod League.

"The way I look at is like pitching is pitching, so no matter when you come in, you're looking to come in and get outs," Buchanan said.

"In the eighth and ninth innings, when you come in to that situation, there's a little more on the line because it's toward the end of the game. You just want to come in and bear down, get outs and concentrate on making pitches the best you can."

Last season, Buchanan posted a 3.98 ERA with a 2.50 opponents' BA and 31 strikeouts compared to 8 walks in 20.1 innings over 15 relief appearances.

This summer, Buchanan is a perfect 3-for-3 in save situations and holds a 2.63 ERA with a .098 batting average against, which would lead the league if he had enough innings to qualify. He has 20 strikeouts and 12 walks in 13.2 innings over 12 relief appearances, including eight scoreless outings.

In his last six appearances, including a perfect ninth inning with three strikeouts for the save on Tuesday, Buchanan has given up just two runs - both unearned - on zero hits with 11 strikeouts and seven walks, as he's lowered his ERA from 4.70 to 2.63.

Buchanan credits Mayers for helping him with things mechanically and smoothing out his delivery. He said he's been able to spin his breaking ball a lot better to make it tighter and sharper to go along with his fastball, which has been clocked as fast as 97 mph this summer.

"The things you take from Bobby and Mike is not just what they do on the field, but also how they work and the kind of guys they are off the field," Buchanan said.

"They don't talk about it; they go out there and work as hard as anyone. You want to follow in their footsteps and make sure you work hard for what you want."


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