By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Offense for Ole Miss on Wednesday fell somewhat short of an explosion, but it fell in the right spot in the most important category.
The enough category.
A reshuffled lineup produced two runs on eight hits, and the Rebels defeated Arkansas 2-0 in an SEC tournament elimination game at Regions Park.
Ole Miss (35-23) will take on the LSU this morning at 9:30 in another elimination game.
Zach Kirksey made his first outfield start since February, and freshman Sikes Orvis entered the lineup at designated hitter. Both were productive, and so was sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers, who went seven innings with five hits, a walk and eight strikeouts on 109 pitches.
It was the second time this season Mayers has taken the lead role in a combined shutout of the Razorbacks (39-19). He went 61/3 innings on April 21, and R.J. Hively cleaned up the back end in a 1-0 win to secure an Ole Miss series victory.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn called Mayers a “strike-thrower” and said he wanted his players aggressive to avoid falling behind in counts.
“We had some guys that maybe it took them a time or two to figure it out. If it’s a four-pitch inning, it’s a four-pitch inning. We just didn’t get it done. He just whipped us,” he said.
Mayers worked ahead in counts most of the day with efficient mixing of his fastball and slider.
“I just wanted to make sure I was able to fill up the zone and attack their hitters,” Mayers said.
Brett Huber worked the last two innings for his 10th save of the season, the 26th of his career, tying Stephen Head for the most in school history.
Kirksey started in left field. He narrowly missed a home run to lead off the fourth, settling for a triple when it bounced off the wall in right-center.
He scored on a one-out ground ball to second by Orvis, who was 0 for 4 but made solid contact three times, once with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first. However, Arkansas first baseman Dominic Ficociello made the play on the well-struck ball, and the Rebels stranded three.
For a team shut out in two of its last four games, even coming close felt good.
“Five feet left or right, and we’d have scored two runs, maybe three,” said Alex Yarbrough, recalling the Orvis near-miss. “It felt really good that we were able to put pressure on them in the first inning.”
The Rebels left the bases loaded in the first and fifth innings. They added a run in the seventh when Kirksey drove home Tanner Mathis with a sacrifice fly.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco called Mayers the difference in the game.
“There aren’t many guys that every time they run out there they get deep into the game, the scores in tact, and they give you a chance to win. That’s what Mike’s done,” Bianco said.