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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

Rebels Fall Into Losers' Bracket

What happened vs. William & Mary: William & Mary staked a 4-0 lead, scoring four runs on four walks and two errors in the fifth. On the mound, sophomore left-hander Jason Inghram allowed just two runs for the Tribe, scattering eight hits with a walk and three strikeouts.


"They played very clean baseball," head coach Mike Bianco said. "Inghram just filled up the zone the whole day. They played error-free, made all the plays. They made all the pitches to get out of innings. We just had the one inning that we couldn't get out of, and that was basically the ball game. It was one certainly we thought that got away."


Junior right-hander Mike Mayers got the start of the mound for Ole Miss and allowed four runs on three hits with six walks and three strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work.


"I felt fine warming up," Mayers said. "I went out there and struggled to find my fastball command, obviously. And in that one inning, it didn't matter what I did. I tried a few things, tried to fix it up. As a veteran, it's my job to fix it up and figure out, and get out of that big inning."


Ole Miss got a run back in both the sixth and seventh innings. The Rebels threatened again in the ninth, bringing the would-be game-winning runner to the plate with runners at first and second, but junior catcher Stuart Turner flied out to left to end the game. Ole Miss was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, leaving 10 runners on base.


"We didn't have a ton of runners in scoring position, but the few opportunities we did, we weren't able to keep the big hit, the big double," Bianco said. "A couple of times, a ground ball and a sac fly." 


"We just weren't able to bunch enough hits."


Greenwood out of the bullpen: Junior right-hander Aaron Greenwood came on in relief for Mayers and worked four scoreless innings, giving up four hits with a walk and two strikeouts.


He and junior left-hander Jeremy Massie, who retired the last William & Mary batter, also helped save the Ole Miss bullpen, as the Rebels look to play its way through the losers' bracket, which means four straight wins in three days.


"Aaron did a terrific job," Bianco said. "I'm proud of him. He had a little discomfort out there. He kind of stepped funny off the mound. He was having some pain in his hip. That's one of the first visits that we went out there for. He showed a lot of guts today and really competed well. Then Massie comes in and gets out of the ninth inning.


"But they're going to have pitch again if we get all the way though. Maybe, even Mike again. But that was big today. He gave us an opportunity."


Wahl to pitch tomorrow: Junior right-hander Bobby Wahl will get the start on the mound against the loser of tonight's North Carolina State-Binghamton in an elimination game at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday.


"You knew he going to pitch at some point," Bianco said of Wahl. "It wasn't by design that he was going to pitch an elimination game. But I don't think you feel comfortable now. Now, you just win pitches, win outs, win innings and starting grinding from here on out over the next three days and try to make a run."


Final word: "We play a little better defense, Mike throws a few more balls in the zone, or we bunch a few more hits together, and it's certainly a different feeling. We just didn't play very well in all three phases. I think they played than we did in all three phases of the game." -- Head coach Mike Bianco

Another Quality Start For Smith

Behind Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers, sophomore right-hander Sam Smith has quietly put together a stellar season in his own right. The regular third starter in the weekend rotation, the Lake Charles, La., native is 3-0 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.


"I have always thought I had the potential to go out there and pitch in the SEC," Smith said. "That's why I came here. I just hadn't showed it yet. I think I have done that."


Smith took a no-decision in Wednesday's 4-1 loss to Arkansas, but he continued his success on the mound, giving up just one run on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts in six innings. In the third, he retired three batters in order after back-to-back singles to start the inning, then pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.


"My defense helped me out a lot," Smith said. "Andrew Mistone made some really good plays. It helped a lot I was able to fill up the zone with all my pitches. I got my slider in the second or third inning. That was a good pitch for me. I was able to locate that well. I was able to keep them off balance, and that was big for me."


His six innings of work tied a career high, most recently against Mississippi State, in which he picked up his third win of the season. He gave up three runs -- one earned -- on eight hits with two strikeouts, as Ole Miss won 10-8.


"I was getting pretty tired, but I was still able to throw all my pitches for strikes," Smith said of pitching six innings. "I think as long as I could do that, I was fine. I felt OK."


Over his last seven starts, dating back to April 14 against Alabama, Smith has allowed just 10 runs, eight of which were earned, in 35 innings.


"Coach (Carl) Lafferty has worked a lot with me in the bullpen," Smith said. "We have been working on a lot of things. My defense has really what has given me the most confidence. I'm not scared to go after people and let them hit the ball because they have made some great plays for me."


Smith said he feels like he has been pitching about the same, just doing a better job throwing pitches for strikes and keeping the ball down. He also credited Wahl and Mayers, and their approach on the mound. 


"Those guys compete harder than anyone I have ever seen," Smith said of Wahl and Mayers. "I try to model my competitiveness after them. They're fun to watch. I think a lot of what I need to work on was runners in scoring position, two outs and making big pitches to get out of the inning. I think I have been doing a better of job of that."


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