OXFORD – Auston Bousfield and Brantley Bell have been so consistent for Ole Miss baseball that the one thing they should expect as awareness of their numbers increases is change.
Bousfield saw it after his grand slam lifted the Rebels to a 6-4 win at No. 1 South Carolina last Friday. Bell, who grabbed hold of his opportunity with both hands and has yet to let go, saw it too.
No longer will opponents approach their at-bats with anything less than complete attention.
The Rebels dropped a tightly contested series against the No. 1-ranked Gamecocks two games to one. The final margin for the weekend was only 12-11 South Carolina’s way.
No. 20 Ole Miss (18-4) begins its first home SEC series tonight at 6:30 as Missouri (11-9) visits.
Bousfield’s big hit was the winning margin in the opener against South Carolina, and it drastically changed how the Gamecocks pitched him.
“Friday night they, not pitched him easy, but on Saturday and Sunday said, ‘We’re not throwing anything across the plate to this guy. We’re not going to let him beat us. We’re going to make somebody else hit us,’” Ole Miss hitting coach Cliff Godwin said.
It’s a different role for Bousfield, who slumped to .253 at the end of his sophomore season. He hit .281 as a freshman and began 2013 with high expectations.
Bell gets his chance
Bell, a true freshman, also expected success, but his chance to prove himself didn’t come as early as some other newcomers.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco told Bell – the son of Jay Bell, an 18-year major leaguer play who is now an MLB assistant – to remain patient.
Bell finally got his chance in a mid-week series against Louisiana-Monroe. He’s gone on to hit .422 over 45 at-bats.
“Defensively, we didn’t really know where he should play. He was a high school shortstop. He played third and second in the fall, but he still needed to work on some things,” Godwin said.
Bell has been in the lineup at second base and DH.
He’ll have to make adjustments at the plate to continue his success.
“At South Carolina on Saturday I only saw two fastballs. I think of myself as a fastball hitter, so it’s going to take a little bit of getting more of those breaking balls and change-ups,” Bell said.
Bousfield is hitting .387 and leads the team in total bases with 54.
Last season he tried to hit for power too often, he said. That slump continued into summer ball in the Cape Cod League before things began to turn around.
“As bad as it sounds, I’m kind of happy it happened to me. I learned a lot about my swing and myself as a baseball player,” Bousfield said.
Now he just wants to stay consistent while other teams work to deceive him at the plate.
“It’s just part of the game. You have to make adjustments day in and day out, at-bat to at-bat. The better guys are at doing that.”
Tonight: Ole Miss RHP Chris Ellis (3-0, 0.82) vs. Missouri RHP Brett Gaves (3-1,1.30)
Saturday: Ole Miss LHP Christian Trent (2-0,3.48), vs. Missouri RHP John Miles (2-1,5.76)
Sunday: Ole Miss RHP Sam Smith (3-1, 1.84) vs. Missouri RHP Eric Anderson (0-2,2.77)