For the Mississippi Rebels to take a step forward as a team next season, they’ll lean heavily on a group of talented players who took their lumps a little bit as freshmen last season. It’s something we discussed at length earlier in the countdown.
But it seems wise to bank on another big catalyst for success in 2018 being Dallas Woolfolk returning to the bullpen and putting together a season similar to the one he enjoyed last season, when he was nothing short of dominant.
In 37.2 innings over 26 appearances, he had a 2.15 ERA, 12 saves, 41 strikeouts compared to just five walks, and a .200 opponent batting average. His saves total was good for a tie for third in the conference, with Kentucky’s Logan Salow and behind Florida’s Michael Byrne (19) and Mississippi State’s Spencer Price (14). He also finished 22 games, which was third in the league, behind Byrne and Salow.
That was a step up from his freshman season, which isn’t to say that he wasn’t effective as a freshman, because he most certainly was. He threw 17.2 innings over 18 appearances, putting up a 2.55 ERA. But he did have eight walks to go with eight strikeouts and allowed opponents to hit .282 against him, so clearly he was able to clean some things up, even as his workload sharply increased in 2017.
In a media scrum after the Shiners Hospitals for Children College Classic at Minute Maid Park, where Mississippi went 0-3, head coach Mike Bianco singled Woolfolk out as an early bright spot, describing him simply as “a dude.”
There might not be a team in the country who feels both very settled and unsettled at the same time in the way that the Rebels do. They feel settled in that you have a very clear picture of the players they will have leading the way. Most of them played big roles last season. But at the same time, they still feel a bit unsettled, because those same players are going to be asked to be more productive than they were last year.
When it comes to Woolfolk, though, they know what they’re going to get, and that’s one of the most dominant pitchers in the SEC.