By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Ole Miss snapped a four-game losing streak Wednesday, but there will be more celebration if there’s more success this weekend against Auburn.
The Rebels tumbled 10 spots to No. 23 in the Baseball America Top 25 after getting swept at Alabama.
An 11-1 mid-week win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was a chance for Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco to experiment and to get some playing time for guys who hadn’t seen much lately.
Center fielder Auston Bousfield, the Rebels’ hottest hitter over the first month, has cooled off considerably.
On Wednesday, Bianco moved him down to No. 2 in the batting order.
Braxton Lee, a junior college transfer and the starting left fielder, began the season as the leadoff hitter.
As Bousfield piled up hit after hit early on, Bianco moved him up one spot to leadoff. That came on March 12 at Southeastern Louisiana and lasted for a string of 12 games.
Bousfield is hitting .333 for the season.
“He played so, so well at the beginning of the season. I don’t know if he can sustain that kind of pace where he hits .450 or .500,” Bianco said. “Baseball has ebbs and flows. He’s got to continue to keep his head up and play hard. Even the games where maybe he felt he hasn’t played his best, he still defends, and he still makes great plays out there.”
Flipping Bousfield and Lee is just a return to the batting order from the start of the season. Bianco said he wanted to take a look again at Lee, whose hitting has improved of late, at the top.
Former Tupelo standout John Gatlin also got some action. He had gotten only 10 at-bats this season. He started at second base and went 0-for-4, driving home a run on a ground ball in the third inning.
The Rebels (22-8) scored four times the first and never looked back. They finished with 11 hits – one a solo home run by freshman J.B. Woodman – and UAPB committed two errors.
Hitting leadoff didn’t immediately ignite Bousfield’s bat. He went 1-for-4 with a two-run single in the fifth to stretch the Rebels’ lead to 11-1.
Before the hit Bousfield had reached base on a throwing error, a fielder’s choice and had flied out.
Since going 3-for-5 with a game-winning grand slam in the opener at South Carolina, Bousfield is 7-for-41 including a 2-for-14 weekend as the Rebels were swept at Alabama.
The key to getting back in a groove, Bousfield says, is to stay loose.
“I’m not worried about it. The same thing happened to me last year, and I think I let it affect me a little too much. I’m fine.”