The redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher from Oak Grove High School is in his third year at Ole Miss. But Sunday against TCU was his first time to see the mound in a game.
Last Sunday Weathersby watched, waited and listened as his home area of Mississippi was in the bullseye of a massive tornado. His old high school and its baseball field sustained major damage.
So Sunday when he was called on by Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco to relieve fellow sophomore righty Josh Laxer, piece of cake, right?
In all honesty, it was a difficult situation to be put in, but Weathersby accepted it. Seemed to relish it, actually, or any opportunity he might have to pitch for Ole Miss.
Let’s go to the back end of the postgame interview to find out just where Weathersby is coming from through two years of not pitching while inside the Rebel baseball program.
“It’s been a long wait, but it’s been so worth it,” said Weathersby, who only faced three batters Sunday, but the first one was the one that mattered most. “For all my life, I’ve wanted to play at this University, and as it’s evolved, these guys are so special to me. There’s not any other place I’d want to be.”
Where he was in the early afternoon had all eyes on Weathersby. Ole Miss led TCU 5-2 and the bases were loaded in the top of the seventh inning. The Rebels, ranked among the nation’s top 15 teams, were trying to sweep a Horned Frog team also ranked among the top 15 teams nationally.
Welcome to a college baseball game, Scott.
Weathersby then fought a battle with tough out Jantzen Witte, who already had a home run in the game along with a single and a double.
And Weathersby won. For Ole Miss and his teammates and coaches. And for himself.
The long wait was over, and as he said, so worth it.
“I didn’t care what the situation was,” said Weathersby, who got Witte to ground out to shortstop Austin Anderson and hold things right where they were at stretch time. “It was one heck of a start and a lot of fun.”
The Rebels didn’t add to the lead in the bottom of the seventh. Weathersby came back out in the top of the eighth, but after Kevin Cron doubled and Derek Odell struck out, he was relieved for Tanner Bailey.
“You don’t draw it up that way,” Bianco said of the situation Weathersby was called into. “You don’t want the first college appearance to be with the bases loaded. But if you’re going to do that, you want somebody who can throw the ball in the strike zone. Somebody that can throw several pitches into the strike zone. So he’s one of those guys you’d pick. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. But I'm proud of him.”
Not to be lost in the big picture was the early going of starter Chris Ellis, a sophomore righty who has for months been projected as the Sunday starter.
“He strained an ab muscle over two weeks ago,” Bianco said. “His last intrasquad game it bothered him. We didn’t bullpen him the next week and it rained last weekend. So he didn’t throw again until Thursday. He went a couple of weeks without throwing off the mound. But we knew he was ready. The question was pitch count. Proud of him. Great stuff.”
Ellis went four innings with one run on two hits, three strikeouts and three walks before giving way to Laxer.
Left-hander Jeremy Massie also pitched for the Rebels in this one, the third of five used.
Ellis got the win and Bailey the save. TCU starter Stefan Crichton got the loss.
After Ellis gave up the first inning solo home run to Witte, it was Stuart Turner who returned the favor four fold with a grand slam in the bottom of the first.
“Once again I thought we played well defensively and pitched it well,” Bianco said. “The big knock by Turner in the first, it’s nice to see a guy who’s had such a good fall and early spring do that. TCU’s pitching staff is so tremendous, it’s been tough on all the hitters.”
Ole Miss pitching was equally up to the task. The Horned Frogs scored just four runs in three games and only had 18 hits. The Rebel pitching staff, impressive as it was, did walk 14 Horned Frogs, so if there was a negative, it was that.
As good as he was, Weathersby said he believes Sunday will only help him the next time he pitches. And maybe even in what might be considered an easier situation than the one he got thrown into today.
“It’s a great growing experience,” he said. “To actually experience it is something else. Today is going to help me a lot as I move forward.”
Bianco said it was indeed that, but it was much more in the grand scheme.
“One of the things that I think is great about coaching college kids is what a great teammate. When he came into the game, actually when I told Stephen Head to get him up (in the bullpen), you could see another level of energy in the dugout," Bianco said. "His teammates wanted him in the game. They were so fired up. When your teammates are pulling for you so much, it’s so neat. When you see guys who have worked so hard and deserve to come out and do well, it’s very neat.”