By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Pitching depth is a key to success in tournament baseball, and Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco found he had less of it after visiting with an ailing R.J. Hively on Thursday morning.
With Hively unavailable the Rebels turned to Tanner Bailey and a bullpen support group, a plan that kept the Rebels in contention until the eighth when LSU put five runs on the board in an 11-2 win to eliminate Ole Miss from the SEC tournament at Regions Park.
LSU amassed 17 hits against six Ole Miss pitchers.
Hively has been slowed with arm soreness. Though improving, Bianco considered risk and reward and opted to save Hively.
“Each day he feels a little bit better, but it’s one of those things that even if we won today and got to tomorrow, I’m not sure it would have been worth throwing him,” Bianco said. “If it was an end-of-the-year thing, I’m sure he would have wanted the ball. A lot of times in this tournament, you weigh that.”
Once the Saturday starter, Hively has worked as a reliever and starter since the Arkansas series April 20-22. Since the switch, he’s picked up three saves and a win as a reliever while also making two starts.
Bianco says he’s confident Hively will pitch in an NCAA regional.
Ole Miss (35-24) will learn its NCAA fate on Monday during the selection show.
Thursday, though, was a scene similar to May 6 in Oxford when Hively also was not available – because he’d pitched six innings of two-run ball in a 13-inning loss on Friday – and the Tigers had 13 hits against five Ole Miss pitchers in a 12-3 win.
Dylan Chavez started that game and took the loss, giving up three runs in three innings.
The Tigers hit Chavez hard again on Thursday. He was the third out of the pen and entered a 5-2 game and left it 9-2. Chavez didn’t record an out, giving up four straight hits.
The Tigers (43-15) scored twice in the first, but Ole Miss halved the lead in the second when Auston Bousfield – who went 3 for 4 with two doubles – doubled and came around to score on a Will Allen single.
The teams traded runs in the sixth, the Rebels getting theirs when Zach Kirksey walked and scored on a Bousfield double.
Ole Miss had been shutout in two of its previous four games before a 2-0 win over Arkansas on Wednesday.
The Rebels finished with just four SEC tournament runs but feel like they saw other signs of progress.
“We have a lot of guys who are swinging it pretty well, and in the week leading up to the regional we need to work on whatever it is we need to do to get more runs across the plate,” junior second baseman Alex Yarbrough said. “We put more pressure on them in the first five or six innings today.”