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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."


After giving up a run in the first, Sam Smith and Jeremy Massie kept Georgia off the scoreboard for the rest of the game and Auston Bousfield delivered the big hit, as Ole Miss clinched the weekend series with a 2-1 win in 10 innings. It was the Rebels' seventh walk-off win and their first since April 4.

Smith posted his ninth quality start, his first since a stretch of eight quality starts from March 2 to April 19, as he gave up just one run on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts in seven innings, which is tied for his second-longest outing of his career. Over his last three innings, he allowed just one base runner.

"He was great," head coach Mike Bianco said. "Even in the first inning, where they scored a run, they were good pitches. They were balls that happened to find holes, and they happened to be running on one of them, which a guy goes from first to third, and he ends up giving up a run. The first couple of innings, he gave up some hits, but they were not necessarily bad pitches. He had better stuff and command today. 

"His last two or three innings were better than his first two or three innings. That's saying a lot. Usually that doesn't happen as much for him. Usually he gets a little tired. He caught his second wind somewhere around the fifth inning and really made some pitches."

From there, it was all Jeremy Massie, who worked three innings of scoreless relief. He allowed just one hit with no walks and four strikeouts, retiring the last seven batters he faced. It was his third-straight relief appearance, which also included four scoreless innings against Kentucky on April 27.

"He's very mature," said Bianco of the move to the bullpen. "He pitches with a lot of confidence. He does what he does well. Some people complicate it. Some people think that you have to do something if you're a starter or a reliever. It's a great lesson for our young guys to watch. Most of them usually start out as a deliver. He's been both. He's been terrific since we have moved him back to the bullpen."

"He's very important to us," Errol Robinson said. "Every time he gets in the game, he's doing something to get productive out, gets ground balls and a strikeout here and there. He's been so important to us.

With the win, Ole Miss improves to 37-15 overall and 17-10 in SEC play and finishes the regular season with a 25-7 record at home. The Rebels can clinch the SEC West with two wins at Texas A&M next weekend.


 

WHAT HAPPENED VS. ALABAMA: For the third time in the SEC Tournament, Ole Miss scored first with three runs in the second, then battled back to tie the 5-5 in the seventh, but fell to Alabama 7-5 in 10 innings. With the loss, the Rebels were eliminated from the SEC Tournament.


After a leadoff double by senior third baseman Andrew Mistone in the second, junior first baseman Preston Overbey and sophomore right fielder Will Jamison each followed with 2-out RBI to give Ole Miss a 3-0 lead.


Alabama scored two runs in the fourth, then three in the fifth to take a 5-3 lead. Ole Miss tied the game at 5-5 in the seventh, as junior catcher Stuart Turner delivered a 2-out, 2-RBI single to left after the Rebels loaded the bases on three straight 2-out walks.


Senior right-hander Brett Huber entered the game with runners at second and third and one out, then got two swinging strikes against Alabama shortstop Mikey White, who then delivered the big hit, a 2-RBI single up the middle through the drawn-in infield to give Alabama a 7-5 lead.


OLE MISS AWAITS NCAA TOURNAMENT ANNOUNCEMENT: The Field of 64 will be announced on May 27 at 11 a.m. CT on ESPNU. Ole Miss finished the season 37-22 with a No. 18 RPI and No. 8 strength of schedule, which includes series wins against Arkansas and Mississippi State.


WAGUESPACK IN HIS SECOND CAREER START: Freshman right-hander Jacob Waguespack got the start on the mound, his second of the season, and retired the first nine Alabama batters in order, including three strikeouts. 


He gave up two runs on two hits with two walks and a career-high three strikeouts in a career-long 3.2 innings of work, as he left with a 3-2 lead.


"I'm proud of his effort," head coach Mike Bianco said. "We challenged him. We knew that he would throw the ball in the strike zone without fear, and that's why we went with him. He deserved it. He's pitched well every time out. And as he mentioned, he's getting stronger and stronger. He's going to be a good."


Waguespack, who dealt with an elbow injury for much of the season, had made five appearances and allowed four runs -- three earned -- on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts in 9.1 innings prior to Thursday's start.


"Like every guy on the staff, whenever you're called upon, you try to do your job, whether it's out of the bullpen, or whenever coach wants to start me," Waguespack said. "I'm just looking to contribute and get better every day."


BIANCO CONFIDENT IN BULLPEN: In the first two games of the SEC Tournament, the Ole Miss bullpen allowed one run on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts in 6.1 innings. Against Alabama, it allowed five runs -- four earned -- on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 6.1 innings.


"Besides today for a couple of innings, a couple of pitches, I thought we pitched really well," Bianco said. "We gave ourselves an opportunity the first two games. We gave up two earned runs in 19 innings, and then today another 10-inning game. We hurt ourselves win an error one inning. 


"Scott (Weathersby) fell behind a little bit in his stint, but I thought besides him, we pitched pretty well today. So that's good going forward. That's been the Achilles' heel the last three or four weeks. Hopefully, we shored that up this week and got back to where we were with the bullpen a month ago."


Bianco noted it was good to see junior right-hander Aaron Greenwood and junior left-hander Jeremy Massie pitch well. 


Massie allowed just one hit with a walk and two strikeouts in 3.2 scoreless innings against Kentucky and Alabama. Greenwood took the loss against Arkansas, but allowed just one run on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts.


GETTING WAHL BACK ON SCHEDULE: Junior right-hander Bobby Wahl did not pitch for Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament this week. In his last start, May 18 against LSU, he gave up six runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 2.2 innings.


"Bobby would have pitched tomorrow, would have started tomorrow," Bianco said. "We talked about it prior to the game. Now, we'll just have to figure out what we want to do, as far as maybe a simulated bullpen, simulated game to let him throw a little bit. 


"He needed the rest as well. Unfortunately, we didn't stay here long enough for him him to pitch. For him personally, I don't think it's going to be a bad thing next week. Not pitching for him, I don't think is going to be a bad thing at all."

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