By Parrish Alford
LAFAYETTE, La. – After getting the last out of the Oxford Regional with a swinging strikeout, an exclamation point on 51⁄3 scoreless innings, Scott Weathersby acknowledged that he’s come a long way.
He joked about once needing water in the middle of an SEC appearance.
The Rebels’ bullpen, though, was no joke in the Oxford Regional. Weathersby and Aaron Greenwood combined for eight scoreless innings as the Rebels won two one-run games.
Just like last weekend, Ole Miss will need its best pitching effort – starting and relief – against a Louisiana-Lafayette team that ranks in the national top five in most offensive categories.
First pitch between the Rebels (44-18) and Ragin’ Cajuns (57-8) is 7 p.m. at Moore Field. The game will air on ESPN2.
Just like Weathersby, the Ole Miss bullpen has evolved.
There were key games earlier in the season when the Rebels lost late leads – at South Carolina, at Alabama and at Mississippi State.
That seemed like quite some time ago as Greenwood twice stranded the tying run at third base, and Weathersby kept the Huskies from applying much pressure.
“What’s happened over the last month or month and a half, rather than being one guy, it’s been multiple guys. It’s been really the guy that’s matched up better that day,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
As with Weathersby, who relieved Sam Smith and gave up just two hits and two walks.
If there’s a pitcher on the Ole Miss staff labeled the “closer,” it would most likely be hard-throwing right-hander Josh Laxer. He’s been put in that situation most often and leads the team with five saves.
In his regional appearance, Greenwood entered in the seventh with one out and runners first and second. He gave up just one hit and one walk, and Ole Miss won 2-1 to force Washington into an extra game and the position of having to beat the Rebels twice to win the regional.
It’s been a roller coaster of a season for Greenwood. It was thought early on that he’d be one of the primary options. He started slowly then endured an abdominal injury. In between he had a scoreless innings streak of 19-plus innings. He’s compiled four saves, perhaps none bigger than his most recent one.
“Everybody’s going to have to make the critical pitch when it’s time to make it,” ULL coach Tony Robichaux said. “We know they’re good out of the pen. We knew Mississippi State was really good out of the pen too. We were fortunate enough to score before those guys got in and then to still score one or two along the way. We saw good SEC pitching this weekend, and we think that will help us going into this regional.”
Bianco has had a deeper bullpen the last month since the completion of non-conference games. Those were usually started by Jeremy Massie, who has a 2.34 earned run average over 572⁄3 innings.
Greenwood’s ERA is 1.83, Weathersby’s 2.12.
They’ve been able to hang zeroes on the scoreboard with power mid-90 fastballs.
“Coach always talks about it’s better, not harder. A better location, not a harder pitch. For us, we just try to keep people off balance and hit our spots,” Weathersby said.