By Parrish Alford
STARKVILLE – Hearing from Mississippi State fans before the game rather than during was fine for Chris Ellis.
The Ole Miss right-hander had given up 11 runs, seven earned, over his previous two starts but pitched into the seventh to handcuff the Bulldogs as the Rebels won 6-1 in the series opener Friday.
MSU scored its only run on a ground ball from Alex Detz in a third inning that began with a basehit from Derrick Armstrong, then an infield chopper from Matthew Britton that allowed Armstrong to advance when it got past shortstop Errol Robinson who had cut in front of second near the edge of the infield grass.
“In the bullpen people were giving me crap so you’re kind of amped up a little bit. I was feeling good, so it was just a matter of throwing strikes,” Ellis said.
Detz was at the plate with a runner at second and two outs – and Ole Miss ahead 5-1 – when Rebels coach Mike Bianco pulled Ellis.
“He was disappointed I took him out, but we had (Wyatt) Short warmed up and ready to go and all the left-handers coming up. It was the right time.”
Bianco said Ellis looked as good as he’s seen him in three or four weeks and that the eight hits he absorbed, several on the infield, belied how controlling he was in the game. He struck out two and walked one.
The Rebels helped him with double plays, a 3-6-3 to end the first then a 6-4-3 to end the fifth. On the latter, shortstop Errol Robinson made a nice play to his right to boost Ellis after he’d given up a single that rocketed off his foot and later hit a batter with two outs.
Ellis did not allow an earned run in pre-conference play but gave up six at Alabama two weeks ago and allowed five more runs – though only one was earned – last week against Auburn.
A deep start from Ellis was also a lift for bullpen missing one of its top arms, Aaron Greenwood.
“It stinks not having Aaron. He’s been great out of the bullpen, but every time I go out there I try to give it as many pitches as I can, as many innings as I can. You only start once a week so try to make the best of it,” Ellis said.