By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The move of R.J. Hively to the bullpen doesn’t put more focus on the offense when the third game of an SEC series comes around, Ole Miss players say.
Hively threw 22/3 hitless, scoreless innings against Arkansas in the Rebels’ 1-0 series-clinching win on Saturday.
That change also removed him from the starting rotation, and freshman Sam Smith, making his first SEC start, was hit hard by what Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco described as a very aggressive Arkansas lineup Sunday afternoon.
The Razorbacks amassed 18 hits against five Ole Miss pitchers in an 11-3 win. They led 7-0 after two innings, those runs coming against Smith and the first man out of the pen, Chris Ellis, also a freshman.
“We try to keep our expectations the same no matter who’s pitching,” senior first baseman Matt Snyder said. “Obviously we wanted to come out and give Sam a lead. They got that in the first and made it tough on him. We should have given him a little more cushion.”
The series win helped the Rebels go 3-1 on the week. Ole Miss jumped four spots to No. 18 in this week’s release of the Baseball America Top 25.
The Rebels (27-13, 9-9 SEC) are on the road today against Memphis at AutoZone Park with a 6:30 p.m. start time.
Offense has shown improvement for Ole Miss this season. A year ago the Rebels hit .282 overall, .278 in SEC play.
In conference games this season, the Rebels lead the SEC with a .301 average, well ahead of the next team in the category, Auburn at .291.
The Rebels share the lead in on-base percentage with South Carolina at .362.
But in runs scored, the Rebels rank sixth, tied with Mississippi State. Both have scored 84 SEC runs, while Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina have each scored at least 100.
Snyder has been hot, his .377 batting average fifth in the SEC. That would lead most teams but not his own, where Alex Yarbrough’s .433 average is second in the league behind Raph Rhymes, a junior college transfer at LSU, who is hitting .500 against the league.
Left fielder Tanner Mathis says the pitching shake-up has no bearing on the hitting approach.
“Not at all. We go about it as another opportunity to face another good pitcher. That (Arkansas) staff was one of the best staffs we’ve seen,” Mathis said. “We still go about it the same way, get as many quality at-bats and win as many pitches as we can.”