Rounding The Bases

Ole Miss hosted its Ernie Labarge Bullpen Club Red-Blue Fall Classic on Saturday. Blue beat Red 4-1, but this was more "event" than just one game.

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The baseball team intrasquads normally three times each weekend for nearly two months in the fall. There were scrimmages also last weekend on Friday and Sunday.

But it was Saturday's event that highlighted fall ball. And while there are still more intrasquads to come in the next few days, Saturday was as much like a regular-season game as possible this time of year.

"Saturday was a great day," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, now in his 12th season with the Rebels. "Beautiful weather. Great crowd. Looked like over a thousand fans, but coming in and out (of the ballpark), we might have had more than that. And I thought it was a well-played game."

Bobby Wahl, the sophomore right-hander, and R.J. Hively, the senior right-hander, drew starting nods from Bianco and staff. Both pitched well, Hively for the Blue team and Wahl for the Red team.

"Putting the better pitchers on one day, or at least the guys that have pitched the best so far this fall, we pitched really well," Bianco said.

Wahl went three innings, allowing no runs on two hits, with three strikeouts and no walks.

Hively went three innings, allowing no runs on one hit with three strikeouts and no walks.

"Hively, Wahl, (junior RHP Brett) Huber, and (junior RHP Tanner) Bailey all pitched great," Bianco said of the first four pitchers – two for each team – used in the contest. "Between them they only gave up one earned run. They looked dominant at times."

Bobby Wahl
Bruce Newman

Other pitchers in the Saturday affair were sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers and freshman right-hander Josh Laxer.

Bianco was pleased with the Rebels' improving defense, and rightfully so.

"Defensively I thought we were really clean," he said. "We made one error which resulted in a run, a throwing error by a catcher (junior Kody Sepulveda). Besides that I thought we played solid defense, made some outstanding plays, and made all the routine plays. And we threw some guys out stealing."

Bianco liked the fact that offensively the Rebels did some things to push some runs across, given the top-flight pitching and stellar defense.

"Coach (Cliff) Godwin was trying to make some stuff happen with the offense, and we were pushing the envelope a little bit with bunts and steals just to get some action since those guys were pitching so well," Bianco said. "The defense handled it, and it was nice to watch them field the bunts and make the plays, and we had a few diving plays out there."

Indeed, it was an all-out effort in front of a crowd of family, friends, and fans in town for the Ole Miss-Alabama football game.

Alex Yarbrough, playing second base, was a highlight offensively and defensively for the winning Blue team. The junior was 2-for-4 with a single, a double, a walk, and a run scored.

"Yarbrough continues to just look terrific at the plate," Bianco said. "Great at-bat after great at-bat. There are games he might not get as many hits. But his quality at-bats are just tremendous."

Freshman Sikes Orvis, playing first base for the Blue team, had a single, a walk and two runs scored.

Junior third baseman Andrew Mistone had a RBI single for the Blue, as did freshman catcher Austin Knight, who was actually in the DH spot for the Blue Saturday.

For the Red team, versatile junior John Gatlin, in the DH role Saturday, had a single, as did Sepulveda. Senior catcher Taylor Hightower, who replaced Sepulveda to start the seventh inning, had a single and the lone run scored for the Red team.

Freshman outfielder Auston Bousfield, in left field Saturday, had a late-inning double, while freshman middle infielder Jake Overbey's RBI groundout to shortstop in the seventh got Hightower home for the Red's run.

Here are some highlight stats from the other intrasquads:

Friday highlights: Teams combined for 22 runs on 23 hits. Sophomore RF/3B Preston Overbey had a double and a single. Junior 3B/LF John Gatlin had a double and a single. Senior LF/CF Zach Kirksey had a single and a grand slam home run. Freshman RHP Hawtin Buchanan drew a start and pitched three innings, allowing one run on two hits with three strikeouts and two walks.

Will Allen
Bruce Newman

Sunday highlights: Teams combined for 19 runs on 27 hits. Sophomore catcher Will Allen had a double and a 3-run home run. Junior 2B/SS Alex Yarbrough had a single, a walk, and a solo home run. Freshman SS/2B Jake Overbey had a triple and a single. Junior 1B Matt Snyder had a grand slam home run and a single. Junior 3B Andrew Mistone had a double and a single. Sophomore SS Austin Anderson had a triple and a single. Freshman right fielder Chase Reeves had three singles. Freshman RHP Sam Smith and redshirt freshman RHP Scott Weathersby each allowed just one run in three innings.

Some Bianco comments on the fall so far:

On Preston Overbey, who made a lot of outstanding plays Saturday, including a bare-handed stop and throw from third to first to get a runner out: "He's been solid, and that's good to see. The last couple of weeks, we've been pressing him to play a little better defense."

On the team's solid defensive play: "When you scrimmage as much as we do, that's maybe something that gets lost and that's the defense. You've got to bring your gloves to the field every day. There are days you don't hit. But you've got to pitch and play defense every day."

On an improving offense: "Lately we've put a lot of runs on the board and had a lot of quality at-bats. That makes you feel good, and it was nice to see that."

On the undecided catcher position: "It's not that anybody's played really bad. It's that nobody's really separated themselves."

On catcher Will Allen: "Will's getting better back there. He hit a home run (Sunday, a three-run shot) and a double off the wall. Obviously we know offensively he's going to be in the mix. He's throwing the ball better, and he receives and blocks. He's just got to keep improving."

On the play of freshman outfielder Auston Bousfield: "Auston Bousfield threw a runner out from the outfield to home plate. That's the fifth time he has done that in a scrimmage this fall. Five. I don't know if I've ever seen that in somebody's (college) career. He's a guy that looks like a difference maker in the outfield. He's played all three outfield positions at different times this fall."

On senior Matt Snyder: "Snyder hit another home run (Sunday), a grand slam, and continues to swing a good bat."

On junior Tanner Mathis: "Mathis continues to get on base and do a good job. Offensively we have come to expect that from him."

On freshman Casey Mulholland's fall session after Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2010, rehabbing for more than a year, and now returning to the game: "He's struggled some on the mound. He got a couple of hits on Friday, but offensively he's struggled. It's tough sometimes for a freshman. Sometimes it takes a while for them to get it going, and especially for a kid that's been out of baseball for a year, trying to get your mechanics back, trying to get your swing back."

(Fall intrasquads continue later this week.)

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