By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss players say putting too much emphasis on the first two games in an SEC series isn’t the way to work through what has become a Sunday letdown the last three weeks.
The move of former starting pitcher R.J. Hively to a relief role has strengthened the bullpen and has led to wins in two of his last three SEC appearances.
Those games have been followed by a lack of offense, pitching or both and has led to series defeats the last two weeks.
The Rebels have been outscored 27-8 in the last three Sunday games. They go into this weekend’s final home series against Tennessee (23-24, 8-16 SEC) having won just three of eight conference series.
Junior second baseman Alex Yarbrough, second in the SEC in hitting at .407, says the Rebels (31-18, 11-13) aren’t pressing to try and do more in the Friday and Saturday games.
The Rebels dropped the series opener to No. 4 LSU 4-3 in 13 innings last Friday before winning 7-4 on Saturday and losing 12-3 on Sunday.
“More than anything, it’s that we have to focus harder on what we have to do to get wins on Sundays than to put pressure on ourselves for the first two,” Yarbrough said. “We fell behind their hitters too much on Sunday, and they took advantage of almost every pitch that was in the strike zone.”
Sunday’s starting pitcher will again be listed as TBA. It’s been a different player for the last three weeks, the most recent start going to season-long reliever Dylan Chavez.
Two weeks ago the bullpen pitched seven shutout innings at MSU, but the offense couldn’t overcome a four-run first inning deficit.
Ole Miss is hitting .290 for the last three Sunday games (31-for-107) but is averaging just 2.6 runs.
The Rebels’ Friday night starter, Bobby Wahl (5-1, 2.14) says the back-end struggles don’t change anything for him on the front end.
“I have to go out there and do my job. That’s to battle for my teammates, pitch my best game and give us a chance to win. That’s what I try to do every time, and that’s all you can do as a pitcher,” he said.
Wahl is confident the Rebels will work through their season finale problems.
“I think everything’s going to work out fine for us. I think we haven’t played our best baseball yet. That’s ahead of us.”