Wright and Wrong

Austin Wright has had three solid outings as the Sunday starter for Ole Miss. It's a role he won during the fall and into the preseason.

Wright picked up a win against Houston in week two, going 5.1 innings and allowing three runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and three walks.

Although Trent Rothlin in relief got the win in Wright's first start against Wright State, the junior left-hander set the table early for the Rebels to sweep the series. He gave up just a run on six hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

In his third outing, his numbers were similar: three runs on four hits with five strikeouts and four walks.

The common theme? A bit of a lack of consistency, especially in the number of walks. But for a Sunday starter, he's been effective, as expected.

The problem he had in his most recent outing, a 3-1 loss to Tulane for his team and his first Division I loss personally, Wright didn't get any offensive help. When he left the game and gave way to Rothlin again, the Rebels had only four hits, all singles, and not a run on the board.

Wright, admitting he didn't have his best stuff, said it's tougher when the offense isn't at its best but understands sometimes it just isn't there.

"Definitely. We've been battling these last two games putting up runs, and pitching as well," he said of Ole Miss' 4-1 Saturday setback in addition to the two-run Sunday loss. "We've just got to go back out there (this week) and get them."

Bianco said Wright continues to improve.

"He has a terrific fastball. He's averaged I think like 92. He's hit 95. His slider's coming and getting better. But he can be better and he knows it. I thought (Sunday against Tulane) he competed well but made a couple of mistakes. Certainly he wasn't real clean against certain batters but really competed hard."

Bianco said Wright has been effective so far this season.

"The game in Houston, he pitched a lot better than what the line was," Bianco said. "We made it hard for him. We misplayed some balls in the outfield. We didn't catch a ball in the infield. Really I don't think he should have given up a run."

Wright says his focus has been good, and he looks forward to competing every time out.

"I attack with the fast ball, and I'm trying to get better locating fast balls in and out. Attack with the fast ball and try to get outs with my offspeed.

"I just go out there and try to pound the zone," said the Schaumburg, Ill., native and Chipola (Fla.) Junior College product. "I've got a good defense behind me, and every day I'm just trying to get better."

Few hits, fewer runs

The Rebels scored just two runs the last two days of the series with Tulane. The Green Wave came in with pitching as its strength. That stood up against the Rebels.

Defensively the Rebels continue to be strong
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
It didn't appear that way at first. In the very first inning of the three-game series, Ole Miss pounded the ball and took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first on Friday night on its way to a 5-1 win.

A two-out single by Matt Smith, a double by Matt Snyder, and a home run by Matt Tracy made it look as if the homestanding Rebels were going to hit the baseball all weekend. That was far from the case.

Tracy had an excellent weekend with two home runs as well as five total hits and five RBI.

Smith said the Rebels are disappointed in their showing at the plate, both from a hitting standpoint and from a scoring standpoint.

"Just couldn't get hits," he said after Sunday's disappointment. "For whatever reason, we just couldn't hit. He (Tulane Sunday starter RHP Alex Byo) did a good job throwing offspeed in hitter's counts. It's tough to hit as is, but when you get a guy who can do that, it makes it even tougher. We have to do a better job of battling and making him work. We were just swinging and we couldn't get it going."

Smith said the solutions to the Rebels' current hitting woes are basically simple.

"You've just gotta really see everything up," said Smith, who had four hits on the weekend. "Nothing they threw at us was too overpowering. I think that's one thing Coach (Bianco) was disappointed in. You kinda have to go up the middle the other way off of pitchers like that who are going to throw offspeed and hitter's counts. You've really got to stay back and you can't really pull off balls and stuff like that. You have to change your whole mindset. You can't go up there and think 90-92 with a fastball. This guy was 80-85 with a majority changeup curve balls. So you've kinda got to think up the middle the other way."

Smith admits that's tough, even when you know the type pitcher you're facing.

"He threw over 50 percent offspeed pitches. We had a good guess at what was coming, it was just seeing it up and taking it that way," he said. "When you go up there with a fastball mindset and you do swing at pitches like that, it's weak contact. Pop ups are also from weak contact like that."

Smith said Tulane's pitchers were quite a solid set of arms.

"I would say they competed the best with all their pitches," Smith said of all the teams they've faced through 13 games this season. "Every one of their guys can throw their fastball, curve ball, changeup pretty much for strikes whenever they wanted, it seemed like. We helped them out sometimes. When you look back at the games, they made pitches when they had to."

Bianco said it's back to work to get better at the plate.

"The disappointing thing for me as a coach (Sunday) was I thought we were tentative. We just didn't swing," he said. "There have been days we didn't get a lot of hits or weren't as efficient but we swung more aggressively. (Sunday) we looked real tentative. We looked like we were scared to make mistakes and we'd swing at bad pitches. (Tulane) showed why their pitching staff is so good and their ERA so low. They kept attacking the zone and mixing it up with all types of pitches.

"We got some good pitches, but we didn't do much with them," Bianco continued. "And that's the truth. We got a few good counts, not many but a few. We popped the ball up late, just tentative looking swings. You can tell when you're not swinging with confidence. Too many easy outs, and we allowed their pitchers to cruise a little bit."

Working their way back

Bianco said pitcher R.J. Hively will likely start throwing some this week but won't pitch in the midweek games. Pitcher Bobby Wahl is "still another week away from picking up a ball," according to Bianco.

Outfielder Eric Sauls is back at the doctor today and hopeful of a release to participate again with the team after his collision with a stadium gate a week ago that knocked him out.

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