By Parrish Alford and Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco didn’t name R.J. Hively as the Rebels’ starter for today’s third game of the SEC tournament against LSU.
He hopes he can do that this morning.
Hively has been a critical part of the Rebels’ pitching success over the back half of the season but was not available in Wednesday’s 2-0 win against Arkansas because of arm soreness.
“R.J.’s got some tenderness. We’ll check him. He’s been getting better each day, but we’ve leaned on him a lot the last couple weeks of the season. It has nothing to do with gamesmanship. It has to do with how he feels in the morning,” Bianco said.
Since moving to the bullpen the weekend of the Arkansas series, Hively (5-5, 2.88) has picked up three saves and a win in relief. He’s also started two games.
The NCAA resume
The Ole Miss NCAA tournament resume has remained strong in several key components, most notably RPI, in the midst of a five-game losing streak that ended with the win over the Razorbacks.
The Rebels have remained a part of most NCAA tournament regional projections.
Bianco stopped short of saying Wednesday’s win made the Rebels a part of the field, but he did say they should be.
“Only those 10 guys know that pick it. I’ll say this, if you look at our resume, it’s pretty darn good. Probably the most unfavorable thing would be the last five games. When you look at RPI, at big wins, I think it’s pretty good. Every time you can win is another notch on that resume,” he said.
Demarcus Henderson didn’t play it the way his coach would have preferred, but all were happy with the result.
In the seventh inning Wednesday, with Mississippi State holding a 3-2 lead over LSU, a tailing line drive by Jacoby Jones was snared by Henderson, who started the game in left field.
It took a full dive for the sophomore to make the play and end the inning.
“In some respects I kind of hoped he’d just back up and let that thing bounce and let that guy go to first base, and let’s just get our next out,” MSU coach John Cohen said. “But he made an unbelievable play there, very athletic play.”
Henderson, who recently returned from a broken finger, said it helped that he is so familiar with Jones, who he called a friend. They played ball with and against each other for several years growing up in Mississippi.
“I know sometimes he has a little flare to the right side, so knowing where he was going to hit it, I just took off running full speed,” Henderson said.
Jones was also victimized by center fielder Hunter Renfroe in the third inning.
On a single by Raph Rhymes, Renfroe threw a laser to third base to get Jones as he tried to advance from first.
Graveman banged up
MSU, the No. 7 seed, will play No. 4 seed Kentucky today, just five days after finishing off a series sweep of the Wildcats (42-15) in Starkville.
Junior right-hander Kendall Graveman (4-3, 2.79 ERA) will start on the mound for State, but he’s battling a groin injury.
“It was really bothering him in his last start against Kentucky, and he’s got to go out there (today),” Cohen said. “When he really gets going in his pen, we’ll know. But the plan is, for right now, to get Kendall on the mound.”
In that outing versus UK last week, Graveman gave up two runs on five hits in 32/3 innings.
Other Scores Wednesday
Auburn 3, Georgia 2
Vanderbilt 3, South Carolina 2