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Picked to finish sixth in the SEC Western Division, junior right-hander Chris Ellis knew it was possible to advance to the College World Series and be in position to play for a national championship during intersaquad scrimmages early in the year.

Ellis said they didn't know if they were struggling to pitch, or they could hit really well, and it turned out they could hit really well, so they figured out pretty early in the season they were going to be a special team.

It turned out they could pitch it pretty well too.

The pitching staff holds a 2.72 ERA, which is fourth-best among College World Series teams and 16th best nationally, led by the one-two punch of junior right-hander Chris Ellis (10-2, 2.45) and sophomore left-hander Christian Trent (9-0, 2.21).

"It's definitely surprising," senior third baseman Austin Anderson said. "We knew they were good. Up until this season, Ellis was a great pitcher and he had a great stuff, but he never defined himself, and this spring, he was a third-round draft pick and he's been dominant all year. 

"We knew Trent was good and at LSU previously, but he was new, and we didn't know how good he would really be. They have made key contributions and they are one of the main reasons we're here."

Ellis and Trent are the latest in a long line of ace starting pitchers, having stepped into weekend rotation spots vacated by Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers, who were selected in last year's MLB First-Year Player Draft. 

"At first, it was intimidating. I didn't know what to expect," said Ellis, a third-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels. "After I got the first SEC win out of the way at South Carolina and figured out that my offense could help me and I didn't have to do it by myself. It was exciting from then out because I knew I could trust people behind me to make plays and score runs."

"It was exciting," said Trent, a 20th-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers. "You know coming you have spots to fill. When I got recruited, Coach (Carl) Lafferty said we needed weekend guys, and we want you to be a weekend guy. It's fun coming in and stepping in and be given such a role. It's an honor."

Pitching and command, more than velocity, head coach Mike Bianco said, separates this year's pitching staff from previous teams. Ellis has a power arm, Bianco continued, but he has success because he pitches with command and throws three different pitches in the strike zone, while Trent has had success with his fastball, change-up and slider, depending on the start. 

More than anything, confidence has gotten them to this point.

"The confidence in my defense, our hitting and coach's pitch-calling," said Trent, who admitted he has never shaken Bianco off. "He told me before I went out there in the Supers that we were going to throw straight fast balls. I didn't disagree with it. That's what I did, and it worked. I have complete trust in Coach B calling pitches and Will (Allen) behind the plate. It's great to have that kind of confidence in your team."

More on Bianco's pitch-calling system: Trust, track record important in pitch selection, writes Chase Parham from Rebel Grove/Rivals.com

UL Lafayette took full advantage of its opportunities.

The Ragin' Cajuns, which led the nation in runs scored (515) and ranked second in batting average (.319), did so by way of small ball and the long ball in a 9-5 win over Ole Miss in Saturday's Super Regional opener.

"They got 11 hits, but I felt like we gave them too many opportunities, and that's what we talked about all week," head coach Mike Bianco said. "If you limit their opportunities, you have a much better shot."

Ole Miss had the momentum. The Rebels had scored three runs in the second to take a 3-0 lead. Chris Ellis had retired five of the first six batters he faced. The game then appeared to turn on a two-out fielding error, which UL Lafayette turned into its first run of the game.

"I went up," said Auston Bousfield of the play. "I was under it. It hit my glove and bounced out. I just didn't catch. I have do a better job."

"It didn't really affect me at all," Ellis said. "Some things happen. That will probably never happen again in his career. They scored one run there, and it was a two-run lead at that point. I struck the next guy out. It seemed like it was fine. It didn't affect me in any way."

UL Lafayette starting pitcher Austin Robichaux carried that momentum into the next half-inning, retiring the Ole Miss side in order, as he appeared to settle in from that point forward.

In the bottom of the inning, the Ragin' Cajuns exploded for four runs on just one hit, the one hit being a three-run home run from Tyler Giroaurd to take a 6-3 lead. 

"We drop a fly ball, they score a run," Bianco said. "We walk a guy, we hit a guy, we walk a guy to start the next inning, those guys scored. Then we walked a guy in; that was the next run. Then we don't field a bunt and give them an extra base runner; so not only does that give them a base runner, but it's one less out when that home run was hit. 

"You can't do that against most teams, but certainly not against that offense."

That home run also ended the game for Ellis, who allowed five runs -- four earned -- on one hit with three walks, one hit by pitch and two strikeouts in 2.1 innings, his second-shortest outing of the season.

"He lost command there," Bianco said. "He lost a little bit of his composure. It happens, but it hasn't happened to him all year. You see it a lot from guys that sometimes all of a sudden lose their rhythm, but fortunately one of the reason we're at where we're at is our three guys don't do that. 

"The last time that happened to him was at Alabama, and that seemed forever ago. He lost his rhythm and he couldn't get the ball back into the strike zone."

UL Lafayette stretched the lead to 9-4 with three runs in the fifth, including its second home run of the game. Ole Miss threatened again in the seventh, cutting the lead to 9-5 on an RBI single from Will Allen, but Sikes Orvis was later robbed of extra bases with a leaping catch at the left-field wall.

Looking to stay alive and even the series with a win, sophomore left-hander Christian Trent gets the ball in game two for Ole Miss.

"I would be surprised if we weren't ready tomorrow," Bianco said. "We have done that all year. It's baseball, and sometimes you get kicked in the mouth, and you have to get back and ready to play. We have to do that tomorrow."

"We've bounced back all year, and I don't expect anything less from us," Bousfield said. "We'll be ready to go tomorrow."

Ellis: 'We Have A Special Team'

The sixth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels practiced at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field Friday afternoon as they prepare to open Super Regional play Saturday night against top-ranked and national No. 6 seed Louisiana-Lafayette.

It marks the fifth time Ole Miss has played in a Super Regional since 2005, with previous appearances in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009. 

The goal of advancing to Omaha and the College World Series remains the same as with those previous teams, but like during the preparation for the start of regional play, the coaches and players notice a different mindset with this year's team.

"We have been pretty consistent," head coach Mike Bianco said. "That's why we're at where we're at. There haven't been a lot of peaks and valleys, hot streaks and slumps. This team has been able to handle the bad stuff that this game and the conference deals you week in and week out. You hope that by doing that the entire season it pays off when you get to this point."

"All I hear about is some kind of curse that we can't get to Omaha, or whatever," junior right-hander Chris Ellis said. "We have a special team. We have a great offense and we have a great pitching staff and we have great coaching. We'll get it done this year."

Rebels Prep For Synthetic Turf

The most obvious difference at "The Tigue" is the synthetic turf that was installed in January 2010. The only dirt is on the pitcher's mound. With the different surface, the Rebels took extra infield and also had sliding practice Friday.

"The ground balls are a little slower, and they certainly bounce true," Bianco said. "One of the things that you saw at the end of practice is you slide a little further. You certainly don't want to hit a double and slide past the base, or steal a base and slide past it. I wanted to make sure that the guys who have never played on it were conscious of it."

"We don't usually do sliding practice, but because this is the first time we have been on a turf field all year, it seems like whenever you slide on turf you go further and it's easier to slide past the bag," senior third baseman Austin Anderson said. "You have to start your slide earlier, but it shouldn't be that big of a factor this weekend."

"The Tigue" has similar dimensions to Swayze Field, with 330 feet down the lines, 375 feet to the power alleys and 400 feet to center field, but Anderson said the ball carried pretty well there in battle practice, a little better than at home.

Freshman shortstop Errol Robinson made a great play moving to his right to start a 6-4-3 double play to help junior right-hander Chris Ellis get out of the first, limiting the damage to one run. 

Ole Miss answered with five runs in the bottom of the inning and that's all Ellis needed, as he tossed his second career complete game and the Rebels defeated Jacksonville State by a score of 12-2 in the second game of the NCAA Oxford Regional.

"I'm really proud of the way we came out," head coach Mike Bianco said. "One of the goals was to be locked into this moment and play this game. Chris was terrific. The complete game was something we needed with the shortened regional to save the bullpen. He gave us that today."

The Rebels plated all five runs in the first inning with two outs, as they went on score nine of their 12 runs with two outs. The two-out rally started with a 2-RBI double down the right-field line from junior first baseman Sikes Orvis. The first team All-SEC selection had a career day, going 3-for-4 with two runs, five RBI, a double and a home run.

"After the first inning, I was kind of disappointed that I gave up a run," Ellis said. "There's nothing bigger than when you go out there and give up a run in the early innings, and the offense puts up five runs right after that. There's really no better feeling than having guys like Sikes (Orvis) ripping an RBI double down the line."

After the first, Ellis faced three batters over the minimum through the seventh, while the offense extended the lead to 12-2 with two runs in the fourth, two in the sixth and three in the seventh. He gave up a run in the eighth but came back and worked a scoreless ninth to close out the win.

Ellis was efficient, throwing just 112 pitches, as he scattered eight hits with three walks and a career-high eight strikeouts.

"When you see 10,000 people out there and beer showers going everywhere, it's a little bit different than regular SEC weekends," Ellis said. "I was fired up. The defense helped me out like usual. The offense every time I have given up a run this season, they have gone and put up four or five runs right after that."

"It was his best fast ball-curve ball combination he's had in quite some time," Bianco said. "He showed good command with the fast ball. I'm proud of him. Once we started to roll there and got a lead, you knew that you would like your guy to finish if he can, that way you save the bullpen."

With the win, Ole Miss advances to the winners' bracket game against Washington, which is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday. The Huskies defeated Georgia Tech by a score of 8-0 in game one of the NCAA Oxford Regional. 

After the game, Bianco announced that sophomore left-hander Christian Trent (8-0, 2.44 ERA) would get the start for Ole Miss, while Washington is expected to counter with junior right-hander Jeff Brigham (7-3, 2.93 ERA).

"They're very good," said Bianco of Washington. "From all the information that we gathered and the stuff that we looked at all week, it's probably what we expected. It's a team that's certainly very well-coached and puts a lot of pressure on you. We will do some different things offensively. Their guy today, (Tyler) Davis, was tremendous and made it look really easy out there. You can see why they came in second in one of the best baseball conferences in the country."

More on Washington: Davis Is Divine: UW's 1st NCAA Tourney Shutout, writes Gregg Bell, UW Athletic Director of Writing


Picked to finish sixth in the SEC Western Division prior to the start of the season, Ole Miss has played with a chip on its shoulder, and it has paid off with a division title and selection as a regional host for the first time since 2009.

"Everybody coming into this year, we knew we weren't projected as high as people said we could be," senior catcher Will Allen said. "We played with a chip on our shoulder the whole season, and that's had some success. It's a good group of guys and the way we mesh and play together. We have been pretty consistent all year."

Compared to previous years, the players notice a better approach and energy with this year's team.

"Last year, it was pretty tight," said junior right-hander Chris Ellis, who will get the start Friday. "A couple of days before the regional, you knew how it was. This year, it's been a lot better and it's a lot nicer and easier on us to play at home."

Ellis credited the leadership of senior co-captains Will Allen and Austin Anderson for the change, as the Rebels look to advance out of a regional for the first time since 2009. Allen said it's simply letting everybody do their own thing.

"The group of older guys that came back, the juniors and seniors that have been here, wanted to make sure everyone had their own thing," Allen said. "If you're relaxed, go out there and play relaxed. If you're one of those guys who gets pumped and intense, do that. We didn't want to force anything on anybody. Everybody has their own personality and own methods to doing everything. We're letting them do that.

"We wanted everyone to feel comfortable playing with everybody, and they have done a great job. You see Chris Ellis go out there, and he's a very relaxed, chill kind of person, but when he's out there, he's going about his business and he gets the job done."

With no classes and no midweek games, it's been a balancing act for coaches and players to prepare for the regional, from the bracket reveal on Monday, through the week of practice, to the regional opener on Friday.

"During the season, we get off-days and we're playing every other day, so we're not used to coming out here and practicing every day," Allen said. "Our coaching staff has done a great job helping us get the method behind everything. We're not out here for two-three hours every day. Sometimes, we just hit in the cage to stay sharp.

"Everybody's fired up and ready to go. In years past, we have been a little worn down and tired. Everybody is ready to go and excited for the opportunity."


Chris Ellis, one of 21 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award honoring the nation's top player, will get the start for Friday's NCAA regional opener against Jacksonville State, head coach Mike Bianco said Tuesday.

Despite suffering his first loss of the season against Arkansas at the SEC Tournament, Ellis has turned in a quality start in each of his last seven outings. Ellis has formed a strong 1-2 punch on the mound with Christian Trent, as they have combined for a 17-1 record through the regular season and SEC Tournament. 

Ellis ranks eighth in the SEC in ERA (2.17), while Trent ranks 13th (2.44). Trent also ranks 10th in strikeouts (67) and third in fewest walks allowed (16).

Trent was scratched from an SEC Tournament start against Vanderbilt last Thursday due to arm stiffness but is healthy and scheduled to pitch in the regional this weekend.

"He was fine," head coach Mike Bianco said. "We didn't want to make a big deal of it. On short rest, we didn't want to push him and get him to a point where maybe he wasn't at his best this week. We wanted him to throw, but we weren't willing to push it at that point. When we got to Friday before the Arkansas game, he did his throwing and felt great. He would have started that Saturday and I would have put him on normal rest for this week. He threw a bullpen, felt great and is ready to go."

"I'm good," Trent said. "It was a little bit of fatigue but I threw a pen on Saturday and everything is great. There are no worries there. I'm ready to throw. There was no arm pain, just fatigue and after talking to coach (Bianco), obviously regional play is most important."

In Trent's place, Jeremy Massie got the spot start against Vanderbilt, his eighth start of the season, and worked 4.1 innings with one run on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts, as the Rebels went on to defeat the Commodores by a score of 7-2. Massie holds a 2.34 ERA over 53.1 innings this season, having split time as a starter and in the bullpen.

"It gives you flexibility, but you don't know how you're going to use him," Bianco said. "He's certainly one of our main guys out of the bullpen. Can he start? Sure. A lot of it will depend on the weekend and where you go to how you use him."

Before the SEC Tournament, Bianco talked about the team's pitching depth, particularly in the bullpen. That depth played itself out over the three games in Hoover, Alabama with five different relievers seeing action, including two appearances by Josh Laxer. Including Massie, seven different relievers have appeared in at least 15 games, and they hold a combined 2.32 ERA over 209.1 innings.

"The good thing about the SEC Tournament was we got just about everybody in, just short of a couple of guys that we were saving for the next day in (Evan) Anderson and (Matt) Denny, but all the other relievers got in, and everyone pitched well," Bianco said. "Over the past few weeks with no midweek games, it's been tough with guys like (Josh) Laxer and (Wyatt) Short, who have seemed to not pitch as much. Laxer got in twice, and although it was a little tougher for Short in his outing, at least he got out there.

"You want to win the tournament, but one of the biggest things is how it prepares you for this tournament. I was happy with how we used the pitching and how much everyone got in."

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Amid regional host and national seed discussion, 10th-ranked and second-seeded Ole Miss opens Southeastern Conference Tournament play Wednesday against seventh-seeded Arkansas. The Rebels are squarely on the national seed bubble after finishing the regular season 40-16 overall and 19-11 in SEC play.

Ole Miss will start junior right-hander Chris Ellis Wednesday against Arkansas, followed by sophomore left-hander Christian Trent on Thursday against third-seeded LSU or sixth-seeded Vanderbilt. 

Ellis enters Wednesday with a 9-0 record and 2.12 earned run average with 52 strikeouts and 28 walks in 89.0 innings. He has also posted six consecutive quality starts, including a win over Arkansas on May 2.

"It definitely wouldn't hurt to win a couple of games," senior catcher Will Allen said. "Obviously, we're not going to go down there and not try to win. As long as we're playing baseball, we're going to do the best we can. If we play well and do what we can and make a run in the tournament that would definitely help. It's up in the air, and we'll see."

With a series win at Texas A&M, Ole Miss moved up two spots to No. 13 in this week's official RPI rankings. Fellow SEC national seed contenders Vanderbilt, which Ole Miss might face in an SEC Tournament matchup Thursday, and South Carolina are ranked Nos. 6 and 8, respectively.

"You can't control what they do or how they're playing, but as long as keep playing well, we'll make a run at a national seed," senior third baseman Austin Anderson said. "All we can do is play well and win. If you start looking at that, you get distracted from what we're trying to do. Although it would be great to be a national seed and host a Super Regional, as long we keep winning, it doesn't matter where we play, we'll make it to Omaha."

For Allen and Anderson, they have achieved two team goals for the first time in their four-year careers: win 40 games and claim an SEC Western Division Championship. Other goals, however, remain ahead of them, as they want to finish strong and leave their legacy, individually and as a team.

"It's something we have been focused on the whole year," said Allen of the national seed talk. "One of our goals is to host a Regional and host a Super Regional. You have to take it game-by-game and really focus on the task at hand. Right now, we have the SEC Tournament. It would be really cool win an SEC Championship. None of us here now have done that, so we would love to do that."


Rebels Rolling Entering Hoover

Ole Miss left Tuscaloosa with a 4-5 record in SEC play, having just been swept at Alabama and having lost two of three at South Carolina two weekends previously.

From there, the Rebels have gone 15-6 in SEC play, including four straight series wins to end the regular season. The 21-game stretch also included weekend sweeps of Auburn and Kentucky and just one series loss, at home against LSU.

"Last year, we had a pretty good year, but we seemed to be dying out at the end and lost two of three at LSU," Anderson said. "At Hoover, we won our first game and then lost the next two. It seems like the team is playing well and we have a lot of confidence going into the postseason."

The Rebels have also shown an ability to bounce back this season. Ole Miss is 10-5 after losses, including a 7-1 mark since the 4-5 start in SEC play. They look to continue the trend coming off a 9-6 loss at Texas A&M in the regular season finale.

"Throughout the year, we have lost some close games," Allen said. "It seems like the next game we bounce back. I don't know the record off the top of my head, but it seems like after the games we have lost and the next game we play, we get right back on track. That's huge. To not really go through too many peaks and valleys but just consistently play, we have been able to do that this year."


Allen Wins Regular-Season Batting Title

Will Allen won the SEC regular-season batting title, with a .359 average, edging Kentucky's A.J. Reed by percentage points. He surged to the league lead, going 6-for-12 for the weekend series at Texas A&M. He also ended the regular season ranked second in RBI (55), second in hits (80) and seventh in home runs.

Allen has started all 56 games, including 50 at catcher, after serving primarily as the DH as a junior. He credits two years of maturity and strength and conditioning to coach Ben Fleming, for his ability to maintain his weight and remain consistent throughout the season.

"We lift two times a week and try to maintain my weight," Allen said. "A couple of years ago, I lost quite a bit of weight. I am making sure I stay between 225-230 pounds. I do a lot of stretching on my own before practice. I'm more mature with taking care of myself and making it a priority."

Robinson, Woodman Lift Rebels Late

Freshmen Errol Robinson and J.B. Woodman have been on a tear since the start of the Kentucky series. Robinson has raised his average from .285 to .310, hitting at a .375 clip, while Woodman has raised his average from .280 to .336, hitting at a .435 clip.

Woodman earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his role in helping Ole Miss clinch the SEC West. He drove in the game-tying run in Thursday night's win at Texas A&M and then drove in the game-tying run and scored the game-winning run in Friday's win at Texas A&M.

"The freshmen have had a big impact," Anderson said. "Errol, JB and Colby (Bortles), and Wyatt Short out of the bullpen, have had great years. Even as an older guy, when you see a freshman player with that confidence, it makes it a lot easier for us to feed off of that. Our whole team feeds off one another."


Ole Miss defeated Georgia by a score of 12-2 in Friday's series opener. All nine starters had at least one hit, as the Rebels pounded out 12 hits. It was their eighth game where they scored 10 or more runs this season. With the win, Ole Miss improves to 36-14 overall and 16-9 SEC play and extends his lead in the SEC Western Division standings to two games over Mississippi State (31-19, 14-11 SEC).

 
Chris Ellis improved to 8-0, as he allowed two runs -- both earned -- on 10 hits with two walks and two strikeouts. It was his sixth straight start where he allowed two or fewer earned runs.

Auston Bousfield extended his hit streak to 21 games with a 2-for-4 game. It is tied for the fifth-longest hit streak in Ole Miss history, and he is hitting at a .413 clip (38-for-92) over the hit streak.

In the preseason, Mike Bianco said Aaron Greenwood could be their best guy out of the bullpen, the guy who can come in at any point and finish the game, similar to Jake Morgan and Scott Bittle from past Ole Miss teams. 

Greenwood did just that, as he earned his second save of the season with three perfect innings of relief to close out to a 3-2 win in the series opener Friday night against Arkansas.

"If you remember back before the season started, when we talked about who the closer was, we said we didn't really have one right now, but Greenwood can be that guy who can come into this type of game and get you nine outs," Bianco said. "He can come in and not be just the ninth-inning guy. We laughed, Aaron and I, that we didn't know it was going to take until May 2 for that to happen."

Greenwood had posted a scoreless innings streak of 19-plus innings, capped by a career-long 4.2 scoreless innings in an 8-5 win over Auburn before he suffered an abdominal injury. In his first outing back, this past Sunday, he allowed two runs -- one earned -- on three hits in 2.1 innings of relief in a 9-6 win over Kentucky.

After Friday's dominant performance, he said he's feeling back to his old self.

"I'm really close (to 100 percent)," Greenwood said. "Last weekend was a little shaky. I performed well thankfully. This weekend, it felt great to be back out there. I keep getting better every single day."

Ole Miss took a 3-0 lead with a run in the third and two in the fourth before Arkansas had its first of two rallies, in the fifth. The Razorbacks cut the lead to 3-2 with a two-out, 2-RBI triple from Tyler Spoon. After a hit by pitch and walk to load the bases for Arkansas, Chris Ellis got out of it with a groundout to third.

Arkansas threatened again with an error and walk to lead off the sixth. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, Ellis got a strikeout and shallow fly out to right to strand two more runners.

Ellis, who recorded his fourth straight quality start, allowed two runs -- both earned -- on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts, as he stranded seven Arkansas runners on base. It was fifth straight start to allow two earned runs or fewer.

"My command was not exactly there, but I worked out of it and made pitches when I needed to," Ellis said. "We got hits when we needed to, and certainly Greenwood came in and dominated in the last three innings."

From there, it was all Greenwood. He worked a perfect seventh, eight and ninth, retiring all nine Arkansas batters in order, including four strikeouts. Josh Laxer and Wyatt Short warmed up in the bullpen, but Bianco stayed with Greenwood for the ninth, and he delivered.

"We had those guys ready," Bianco said. "We got them warmed up. When (Greenwood) went in for the seventh, we weren't sure if he could get to the ninth. When he threw at Kentucky, he hadn't pitched, and he got really tired. We weren't sure. We had those guys up and ready to go, but with the way he pitched in seventh and eighth and it looked the ball had a lot of zip on it and it looked like he had all four pitches, he had to do it."

"After the eighth, Coach B came up to me and said, 'You feel good enough to finish?' I said, 'For sure. Yes sir,'" Greenwood said. "(Out there the ninth), it's great because you're out there in front of all these fans -- 9,000 tonight -- and your adrenaline starts pumping. You can tell I was a little wild for a little bit, but I calmed myself back down and made some pitches."


 

For eight innings, Chris Ellis dueled Aaron Nola, the Southeastern Conference's leader in strikeouts (84) and earned run average (0.70) to a draw, as he left with the game with the score tied at 2-2.

It was the eighth time in 10 starts that Ellis allowed one earned run or less for the eighth time in 10 starts, as he lowered his earned run average from 1.81 to 1.72. He allowed two runs -- one earned -- on eight hits with two walks and six strikeouts, stranding nine runners on the base paths.

In the other dugout, Nola allowed two runs -- all earned -- on eight hits with two walks and seven strikeouts, as he threw a season-high 121 pitches in 7.2 innings of work. He has yet to allow more than two runs in any of his 10 starts this season.

"Both guys pitched terrific," head coach Mike Bianco said. "For Chris, it might have been his best outing of the year. Certainly, he pitched deep and did a great job with pressure-packed pitches. One of the ways that you beat Nola is you don't let them score. You keep the score low, so if you do scratch across a run or two, that will put you ahead or tie it up and get him out of the game. Certainly, Chris was terrific tonight."

The bullpens traded zeroes with the exception of the 11th, where each team scratched across a run and then the 13th, where LSU strung together a one-out double, followed by a walk, and then a fielding error to score what would be the game-winning run, the second unearned run allowed by Ole Miss during the game. 

"We had opportunities," head coach Mike Bianco said. "We have been on the right side of it several times. Today, it just didn't happen. We didn't get the big hit, we didn't make the big pitch, and we didn't make the play in the field."

"It's baseball," said Sikes Orvis, who went 2-for-5 with a solo home run. "We came out and played tough. We did everything we needed to do. I take that ground ball hit to Errol (Robinson) 9 times out of 10 that you roll it up. Baseball is a funny game. You get kicked in the teeth a lot playing it, but we'll bounce back tomorrow and be alright."

Pitching, Defense Key Rebels To Win

Ole Miss struck early with five runs over the first four innings, which Chris Ellis and Wyatt Short made hold up in a 6-1 win over Mississippi State Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.

The leadoff man for Mississippi State reached base safely in five of the seven innings that Ellis started, but he limited the damage to one run in 6.2 innings, as he scattered eight hits with a walk, two hit batsmen and two strikeouts. It marked the seventh time in nine starts that he allowed no earned runs or one earned run this season.

"He was terrific," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He made pitches when he had to. He looked like he was so in command of the game. I was proud of the way he pitched, better than he's been in a while."

"It felt like every inning they got a leadoff guy on, whether it was beating out an infield single, or I walk a guy, or hit a guy, but it was good to have defense behind me that turned doubles plays and made the big play to get me out of the inning," Ellis said.

A trio of defensive plays in the middle innings highlighted the effort in the field that included just one error and saved at least one run and possibly more. 

"Chris had a great game today, throwing strikes and making it easy on the defense, getting ground balls and double-play balls to get out of innings," Errol Robinson said. "He kept us in the game throwing strikes and not too many walks today."

In the fourth, Preston Overbey knocked a ball down hit to a hole on the right side and then caught the lead runner in a run-down between third base and home for the last out of the inning. 

In the fifth, Robinson and Overbey combined on a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning, and then in the eighth, Braxton Lee started the inning defensively with an outfield assist, as he cut the ball off and threw out the runner at second.

"It was a big double play, not just by Errol but also a tough turn," said Bianco of the double play. "They run well. We're not holding the guy at first, so he gets a great jump, and then it's a tough turn for Preston because they're all over him. He makes a great turn and gets out of it." 

Mississippi State threatened again later in the eighth with runners at first and second and two outs. Short, who entered the game the seventh, was behind 3-0 to Wes Rea, and then he battled back to a 3-2 count before getting a lineout to Overbey to end the inning.

"We need that," said Bianco of the defense. "We defended really well up until a few weeks ago, so we need to get back to that."



In game one of last Saturday's doubleheader at No. 1 South Carolina, junior right-hander Josh Laxer allowed three runs in the ninth, as the Gamecocks rallied to win 5-4 in 10 innings.

On Wednesday, Laxer bounced back and earned the save in a 4-3 win for Ole Miss over Arkansas State. He followed that outing with a five-out save, his third save of the season, to close out a 4-3 win over Missouri in the Rebels' SEC home opener Friday night.

"Coach B sat me down after that game, and he said I went in there and did what he wanted me to do, which was throw strikes," said Laxer, referring to the 5-4 loss at South Carolina. "He told me if I wanted to be the closer for this team that I to have to have a short memory, and that's what I tried to do."

"He was terrific," head coach Mike Bianco said. "I'm really proud of him. He's done that basically the whole year."

Missouri had cut the Ole Miss lead from 4-0 to 4-3 on three-straight base hits in the eighth when Bianco called for Laxer out of the bullpen, the Rebels' fourth different pitcher of the inning. He inherited the would-be game-tying run at first with one out.

Laxer struck out the first batter, and senior catcher Will Allen erased the runner at first throwing him out at second on an attempted steal. He came back out for the ninth and worked a scoreless inning, punctuated by his strikeout of the game.

"I was kind of expecting to go in in the ninth, but I'm learning slowly but surely," Laxer said. "I'm not used to coming out of the pen, but you have to get ready fast. That's what I had to do and I did. I was just happy to come in and get outs for my team."

Ole Miss staked a 4-0 lead after three runs in the first and another in the third. Senior third baseman Austin Anderson hit a two-run home run into the right-field bullpen, and junior first baseman Sikes Orvis followed with a solo shot to nearly the same area two batters later in the first.

Down 4-0, Missouri threatened in the fifth with runners at second and third and no outs, but Ellis limited the damage to one run. For the game, Ellis allowed one run -- unearned -- on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts, as he lowered his earned run average from 0.82 to 0.67. 

"It was his best outing in three or four weeks," Bianco said. "He had good command with all three pitches. He got ahead on a lot of hitters."

"Mental toughness is a lot of it," said Ellis of his ability to strand runners this season, including five against Missouri. "(Strength and conditioning coach) Ben Fleming kicking our butts in the weight room helps a lot with it, and not just trying to throw it by people like last year but being able to make pitches."




With John Gatlin's walk-off infield single in the 13th to lift Ole Miss past UCF, 4-3, the Rebels have won three straight games, all in come-from-behind, walk-off fashion, which also included two midweek wins over Louisiana-Monroe.

"During the whole fall, new strength coach Ben Fleming preached toughness and put us through everything that you could imagine to prepare us for these situations," Gatlin said. "Coach Bianco preaches it a lot. Honestly, at this time and in these games, we feel like there's no chance that we're going to lose because we're so prepared for it."

Gatlin was the hero at the plate, but pitching staff also played its part in the win, limiting UCF to three runs on eight hits with seven walks and 12 strikeouts in 13.0 innings of work, highlighted Chris Ellis who got the start and then Preston Tarkington and Josh Laxer out of the bullpen.

"I don't know if we have ever had three walk-off wins a week, and they are games where we are behind and then come back," head coach Mike Bianco said. "The neat thing is it's come from different guy, and I don't mean just offensive heroes. To have those, you got to have some pitching and defensive heroes. There are guys who have difference-makers, and it seems like it's a different guy every night. 

"And there's not a bigger one than Gatlin tonight. He's a fifth-year senior, very selfless, and he's a guy who has battled back from injury and hadn't played baseball in over a year. He comes off the bench and has a great at-bat at the end to win it for you."

On the mound, Ellis extended his earned-run scoreless streak to 22.0 innings to begin the 2014 season, as he allowed just one unearned run on one hit with four walks and five strikeouts in seven innings of work. Through three starts, the Birmingham, Ala., native has allowed just 10 hits with nine walks and 14 strikeouts, which included a complete-game shutout last Saturday against Georgia State.

"He didn't have his best stuff and a few too many walks, but we extended some of those innings with some errors," Bianco said. "That's unfortunate. We made him work a little harder than maybe he should have."

Ellis left with the game tied at 1-1 after seven innings. In the eighth, UCF took a 3-1 lead, but Ole Miss answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning to send the game to the ninth tied at 3-3. UCF threatened again in the ninth and 10th, but the Ole Miss bullpen got big outs to extend the game and eventually give Gatlin and the Ole Miss bats a chance in the 13th.

In the ninth, Tarkington inherited the bases loaded with one out and got an infield fly and a strikeout to end the inning. In the 10th, Laxer entered the game with runners at first and second with one out and got a foul out to third and a strikeout to get out of the inning.

"From there, there was no way that my teammates were going to let there be any other result," said Tarkington of his inning-ending strikeout in the ninth. "We were definitely going to come out and win the game after that happened, and especially when Josh Laxer came in and did the job that he did. That was incredible."

"We had a couple of big spots for the bullpen, one by Tark there in the 9th, and certainly Laxer in the 10th," Bianco said. "That gave us a chance to get some momentum back. It looked like with runners on base, we just couldn't find the hit. We made a little harder than we had to, but I'm proud of the way we competed."

After a scoreless inning from Cheyne Bickel in the top of the 13th, Will Allen led off the bottom of the inning with a hit by pitch on a 2-2 count. Preston Overbey advanced the runner to second on a sacrifice bunt. After another out and a walk to Colby Bortles, Gatlin stepped to the plate with runners at first and third, and he delivered with an infield single to third.

"We had so many guys set that up for us," Gatlin said. "It couldn't have been done without everybody getting on base like that. I saw it hop, and I saw him bobble him once, and I figured he must have bobbled it more than once for me to beat it out. I was running as fast as I could. It had been a while, but it felt good."

Ellis Shines Under Friday Night Lights

After six shutout innings against Stetson in his first Friday start, Chris Ellis followed it up with his first career complete-game shutout, as Ole Miss blanked Georgia State 3-0 Friday at Swayze Field. 

The junior from Birmingham, Ala., allowed just five hits with no walks and four strikeouts in nine scoreless innings. Ellis did allow a runner to reach third base and allowed just two runners in scoring position for the game. He was also efficient on the mound, throwing 67 of his 101 pitches for strikes. He also stayed around 90 mph with his fast ball and touched 91 mph in the ninth inning.

"I like having the beer showers after the game and pitching at night and having all these fans out there," Ellis said. "It's a great atmosphere. It makes it a lot easier to pitch."

"The difference today was a great three-pitch mix," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He was able to throw his change-up into the strike zone early on and was able to throw his fastball in, which was a difference-maker in a lot of at-bats. He was terrific. Even the few times that they threatened, he was able to control the running game and make pitches, and he had terrific defense behind him."

Ole Miss staked a 2-0 lead in the second after Will Jamison singled to right to score Sikes Orvis, and then Preston Overbey came around to score on the throw to second. The Rebels added an insurance run in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk to Braxton Lee, but the first two runs were all Ellis needed.

"In the second inning, Jamison got the big hit," Ellis said. "Once you get a lead, it's a little bit easier to pitch. They start pressing for runs. You let the defense work behind you, and we turned a couple of double plays. We were really sound defensively."

"He was lights out today," Overbey said. "It's fun to play defense behind a guy like that."

Georgia State threatened in the eighth after a leadoff single. A ground ball back to the pitcher advanced the runner, but Ellis got a line out and his fourth strikeout to strand the runner at second. 

With Aaron Greenwood warming up in the bullpen, Bianco stayed with Ellis for the ninth, and he answered with a 1-2-3 inning to close things out.

"The biggest decision was (Ellis) at 88 pitches and having watched the last at-bat against Prain that you knew he could finish instead of struggle through that eighth," Bianco said. "He gives up a first-pitch base hit, and it looked like he cruised after that, so it looked like he was in pretty good control."

"After I finished the eighth, Coach Bianco came up to me and wanted to know if I wanted to finish," Ellis said. "Of course, the competitor in you wants to finish."


Left-handed pitcher Matt Denny and right-handed pitcher Scott Weathersby both represented Ole Miss in collegiate summer baseball league all-star games Wednesday night. They are among several members of the Rebel baseball team participating in summer league ball during the offseason before returning to Ole Miss in the fall.

Weathersby plays for the Southern California Catch of the California Collegiate League. He was named to the South Division All-Star team and picked up the win, as the South All-Stars defeated the North All-Stars, 3-2. Weathersby worked a perfect fifth inning with a strikeout.

The junior right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA. He also has 23 strikeouts against six walks in 24.1 innings over seven games as both a starter and reliever. His best outing came against the Academy Barons on July 8 when he allowed just one hit with no walks and six strikeouts in five scoreless innings.

Denny plays for the Baltimore Redbirds of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. He was named to the North Division All-Star team but did not appear in the game.

The sophomore left-hander is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA, which included a 16-inning scoreless streak. He also has 21 strikeouts against eight walks in 23.2 innings over five starts. His best outing came against the Herndon Braves on June 29 when he worked six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

Another Ole Miss player who has impressed this summer has been junior right-hander Chris Ellis, who plays for the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League. He ranks ninth in the league in opponents' batting average and 10th in earned run average.

Ellis is 2-2 with a 2.05 ERA. He also has 20 strikeouts against nine walks in 30.2 innings over six starts, while limiting opposing hitters to a .212 batting average. Among the six starts, he tossed six shutout innings on three separate occasions.

In his best outing, the junior right-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Harwich Mariners on June 21, allowing just one unearned run on one hit with two walks and three strikeouts.


Throughout the summer here on the Ole Miss Sports Blog, we'll take a look at current Rebels and update Rebel fans on how the individual players are performing in their respective summer leagues, headlined by four players in the Cape Cod League.


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C/1B Will Allen -- Baltimore Redbirds -- Cal Ripken Senior League


Allen is listed on the roster for Baltimore, but he has not played in any games.


LHP Scott Ashford -- Richmond RiverRats -- Prospect League


Ashford has appeared in relief in seven games for Richmond. He holds a 7.14 ERA and has allowed nine runs on 10 hits with 12 walks and 11 strikeouts in 11.1 innings of work.


LHP Austin Blunt -- High Point-Thomasville HiToms -- Coastal Plain League


Blunt has made eight appearances, including two starts for Thomasville. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA and has allowed 11 runs -- 6 earned -- on 14 hits with eight walks and 17 strikeouts. Since his two starts, he has moved into the bullpen and has allowed just three runs -- all unearned -- on seven hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts. Thomasville plays the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team on June 29 and 30.


OF Auston Bousfield -- Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox -- Cape Cod League


Bousfield has a hit in five of his nine games, including four of his last six. He is hitting .188 (6-for-32), including a home run on June 16 against Chatham. He also has four runs scored, four RBI, four walks and a stolen base. He also has a 1.000 fielding percentage and an outfield assist.


RHP Hawtin Buchanan -- Bourne Braves -- Cape Cod League


Buchanan has made three appearances, all in relief, for Bourne. He has allowed just one hit in his eight batters faced. In a combined 2.1 innings, he holds a 0.00 ERA with a walk and strikeout. It is his second summer for Bourne, where he posted a 1-2 record and recorded three saves with a 3.78 ERA in 16.2 innings over 14 appearances last year.


LHP Matt Denny -- Baltimore Redbirds -- Cal Ripken Senior League


Denny, who worked out of the bullpen for the Rebels this past season, has made two starts for Baltimore. In his most recent start, he worked four scoreless innings, giving up just four hits with a walk and three strikeouts. In a combined 7.0 innings, he holds a 2.57 ERA with three walks and six strikeouts. He has allowed just seven hits in his 31 batters faced.


OF Cameron Dishon -- High Point-Thomasville HiToms -- Coastal Plain League


In six games for Thomasville, including three starts, Dishon is hitless in 11 at-bats with a walk and four strikeouts. He also has a 1.000 fielding percentage and an outfield assist. Thomasville plays the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team on June 29 and 30.


RHP Chris Ellis -- Cotuit Kettleers -- Cape Cod League


Ellis, both a starter and reliever for the Rebels this past season, has made two starts for Cotuit. He took a no-hitter into the seventh in his most recent start, June 21 against Harwich, giving up just one unearned run on hit with two walks and three strikeouts. In a combined 10.0 innings of work, he has faced 40 batters and allowed just two runs -- one earned -- on four hits with three walks and nine strikeouts. His nine strikeouts is tied for third in the Cape Cod League.


2B Christian Helsel -- St. Cloud Rox -- Northwoods League


Helsel, who transitioned into a starting role at second base for the Rebels this past season, played left field, third base and right field in his first three games for St. Cloud, but has settled in at first base in recent games. He has four hits in 22 at-bats with a double, two runs scored, two RBI and two walks. He has not played since June 18.


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RHP Josh Laxer -- Bourne Braves -- Cape Cod League


Laxer, a midweek starter for the Rebels this past season, has made two appearances, both in relief, for Bourne. In his most recent appearance, June 22 against Cotuit, he combined with two other pitches for a no-hitter. He recorded a walk and strikeout in three no-hit innings. In a combined 5.2 innings of work, he has faced 22 batters and allowed just one unearned run on one hit with three walks and three strikeouts.


1B Sikes Orvis -- Waynesboro Generals -- Valley League


In 10 games for Waynesboro, including seven starts at first base and designated hitter, Orvis has two hits in 22 at-bats with a double, three walks, a run scored and an RBI.


C Holt Perdzock -- Wilson Tobs -- Coastal Plain League


Including his first appearance on June 12 against Gastonia, Perdzok has played in six of the last nine games for Wilson, including five starts. He started a game each at left field and right field and three behind the plate. In all, he has six hits in 20 at-bats with a double, two walks, two runs scored and an RBI. Behind the plate, he threw out one of four base runners. Wilson plays the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team on June 25.


RHP Scott Weathersby -- So Cal Catch -- California Collegiate League


Weatherby, a reliever for the Rebels this past season, has both started and worked out of the bullpen for So Cal. In his two starts, he has allowed just two runs -- one earned -- on 11 hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. His most impressive performance came in his last start, June 22 against Santa Paula, in which he allowed just one unearned run on six hits with five strikeouts. In a combined 10.0 innings of work, he holds a 2-0 record and 0.83 ERA with two walks and 10 strikeouts. 

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