Sweep of the Seahawks

Chris Ellis arrived at Ole Miss last summer as part of a highly-ranked recruiting class. On Sunday, in an important third-game of a series, the tall, rangy righty was thrown into the fire in a tie game. He ultimately came through, getting his first collegiate win in a 10-5 Rebel victory against North Carolina-Wilmington.

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Oh, there was a brief moment of angst before he ever threw a pitch to the plate. Mike Mayers, the starter Ellis replaced, had given up a single to Thomas Pope to lead off the sixth inning. The score was 5-5, and the call to the bullpen was to Ellis.

After his warm-ups, Ellis threw to first base, and the ball bounced toward Matt Snyder and away from him as Pope scooted down to second base. But that was that. Ellis, from that point on, was extremely effective, and UNC-W had no answer.

The Birmingham, Ala., product from Spain Park High School pitched three innings facing nine Seahawks, while the Rebel offense went back to work to rebuild its lead.

Ellis admitted some nerves as he warmed up, headed to the mound, and took the ball.

"Definitely," he laughed and said. "I come out and try not to look at anything. Just jog out there and get kind of in a zone. You don't really notice a whole lot. It's nice in between innings to kind of take it all in and see what's out there."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said it was good to see Ellis pitch so effectively in an important situation.

"Proud of him," he said. "Chris comes in and it's a tie score with a runner at first base. He doesn't give up a hit. They led off the sixth (with Mayers still in) and didn't get a hit after that. He was strong. He pounded the strike zone, he's got a good fast ball and a terrific breaking ball. He's very composed and did great.

"He throws the ball away before he even threw a pitch. They move the guy over (to second base), and do a good job. (Ellis) pitches out of a jam, and he kind of rolls from there."

Ellis said college instruction has helped him improve.

"Locating pitches. It's been nice to come in here and have Coach (Carl) Lafferty and Coach (Mike) Bianco coach me up where I can just locate my pitches," he said. "In high school I couldn't really do it as much. Now that I'm here, it's much easier to locate and it's much more effective."

The weight room has also been a positive for Ellis, and his strength and conditioning has improved substantially.

"Coach (Rich) Levy's worked us out, especially during the offseason," he said. "We had workouts just about every day, and it was tough. But he's got me so much stronger, and it's showing on the field."

Blair Wright closed the game out for the Rebels in the ninth inning, facing only three batters and striking out one Seahawk.

Ellis said he and catcher Will Allen worked well together out there for those three innings, and they, along with the defense, were able to effectively shut down the UNC-W batters through a difficult stretch.

Matt Snyder
Bruce Newman

"Everything was good," he said. "Will (Allen) blocked everything up I threw. I feel I had a good showing out there."

The final box score, with Ellis as the winner, proved that was exactly the case.

Mayers' First 2012 Start

Mayers, the sophomore right-hander, started for the first time this season, mainly due to the rainout at TCU last weekend. He was the scheduled third-game starter for that one.

He relieved starter R.J. Hively against the Horned Frogs in game two in Ft. Worth and pitched well – until he had a brief bad stretch that proved costly.

Against the Seahawks, almost the same thing happened as Mayers was cruising through four innings, pitching a shutout. But UNC-W got five runs on four singles and a double in the fifth before Mayers was able to record the final two outs on two ground outs.

"I thought Mike was terrific," Bianco said after Mayers pitched five complete innings and one batter into the sixth, allowing five runs on six hits with four strikeouts and two walks. "It happens. It's baseball. It's a crazy game. You can have a no-hitter and the next thing you know you blink and they have five runs.

"Credit them. Some balls fell in and they got some breaks. Not taking anything away from (UNC-W), but they could have, after the four runs, packed it up. But they didn't. They competed, and that's why they're here. We knew they're a good program, and Coach (Mark) Scalf does such a great job. We got tested a little bit, and certainly answered today."

Bianco, whose Rebels had 16 hits on the day, was pleased with his team at the plate. Snyder, Allen, and Zach Kirksey led the way with three hits each. Tanner Mathis, Andrew Mistone, and Alex Yarbrough had two hits each, and Yarbrough a home run to lead off the Rebel eighth.

"I thought we played much better today. Offensively for sure," Bianco said. "A lot more quality at-bats. Even though we scored four runs early and there were some zeroes after that, I thought the difference in today and yesterday was much better at-bats with runners in scoring position."

Bianco liked the fact that his team battled back from a deficit, albeit only one run at 5-4, to take the game back over.

"I was proud of the way we answered back with a run, then two, then another run, then two, those last four at-bats."

Ole Miss hosts Memphis Tuesday at 3 p.m. and Jackson State Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

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