By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The message is in the mechanics.
As Ole Miss relievers try to get a better handle on late-game leads, they have focused on the little things in a week of practice that has involved no non-conference games.
The Rebels (33-16, 12-12 SEC) face rival Mississippi State at Swayze Field this weekend. Following a slow start with a charge up the SEC standings, the Rebels have now dropped four of their last six.
Three times they’ve handed the bullpen a one-run lead in the seventh inning or later. It was a two-run advantage in the sixth on Saturday at Auburn.
Aaron Greenwood and Tanner Bailey often have been the first arms to whom Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco has turned and they have played key roles in those losses.
“We’ve always had good mechanics. It’s a matter of making sure that they’re right and that we’re in the right position at the right time. Instead of making an outside pitch down the middle, make it on the outside and hit low at the knees. We’ve missed up with a couple of pitches,” said Bailey, a senior right-hander who carries a 1.59 earned run average for 34 innings into the weekend.
For Bailey, focus has been on staying toward home plate with his stride. He’s had a tendency to leave himself open toward first base of late.
Greenwood has been hit harder than Bailey in the rough stretch. After stringing together 13-straight scoreless innings over five SEC appearances earlier this season. In his last three SEC outings he’s allowed five runs – all earned – over 21⁄3 innings.
Against Kentucky, the Rebels held a one-run lead in the eighth inning in the opener and in the seventh in Game 3. Both of them turned into one-run losses.
At Auburn, the Rebels led 5-3 when the game was handed off to Greenwood in the sixth inning. Greenwood faced five batters, retired only only one and gave up two runs. Chris Ellis came in behind him and gave up two more.
In Game 3, Bailey inherited a 2-1 lead in the seventh. He and Brett Huber each gave up two runs in a game the Rebels lost 5-4.
Bianco says Greenwood is working to regain his confidence.
“Confidence is a choice. You choose to feel the way you feel,” Bianco said. “Part of that is getting to work in the bullpen (session), and feeling better about your bullpen. You feel better about the bullpen, and you feel better about your stuff. You can’t just hope to have success so you feel better.”