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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Graves, Ellis highlight SEC showdown

Kendall Rogers        

More coverage: Weekly national column | Mid-major spotlight | Q & A with OU's Pete Hughes

There's a certain level of maturity needed to be a Friday night starting pitcher in the Southeastern Conference.


It's not for the weak or timid, it's only for the mature and strong. For two years with the University of Mississippi, talented righthanded pitcher Chris Ellis was one of those golden arms who couldn't quite put all the pieces together. After tallying an impressive 2.84 ERA in 31 2/3 innings in his first season, Ellis struggled in 2013, both to stay healthy and be consistent, tallying a 5.57 ERA in 22 innings, along with 13 strikeouts and six walks.


Determined to take the next step forward, knowing the type of arm he possessed, Ellis went off to the Cape Cod League for the summer, where he showed elite upside more often than not. That confidence and maturity propelled him into fall workouts, and it has guided him to quite a fast start this spring, as he has an 0.82 ERA in 33 innings, along with 21 strikeouts and 33 walks.


Perhaps no moment this season typified the new Chris Ellis more than a couple of innings last weekend, early, against South Carolina. Though Ellis didn't have his greatest performance against the Gamecocks, he worked into a couple of bases-loaded jams early in the contest, but found a way to come out of the frames unscathed, pounding the inside parts of the plate with his fastball.


Ellis might be known for his impressive 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame, and power arm with a fastball that got into the mid-90s at the Cape last summer, but he's more than just a thrower now.


Then there's Missouri righthander Brett Graves.



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