Weekend Work

R.J. Hively is scheduled to draw his fourth weekend start of the season Saturday against the Houston Cougars. The last three weekends he's gone about solidifying his spot in the rotation.

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Hively credits the Rebels' defenders behind him as being one of the main reasons for his success.

"The biggest thing for your confidence is defense," said Hively, the senior right-hander. "When your defense plays like that, it allows you to throw the ball in the zone with a lot more confidence and conviction. When you can do that, you get a lot more outs."

Hively, with starts at TCU and at home against UNC-Wilmington and Miami (OH), leads the team in strikeouts with 20 entering this weekend and has walked only four batters. His ERA is 2.87 with only five earned runs allowed on 15 hits.

"One thing that Coach (Mike) Bianco says is just fill up the zone, especially early," Hively said of what's also helped his confidence this season. "I get in trouble when I fall behind in counts and they can sit on the fastball. Or you start walking people. The last two weekends, I haven't really fallen behind, especially last weekend and they were a pretty free-swinging team. I got a lot of outs early and kept my pitch count low and kept the energy in our dugout."

Hively actually signed out of high school with Cal State-Fullerton and redshirted his first season there because of injury. He transferred to Santa Ana Junior College for a year before heading to Ole Miss.

He said being a weekend starter at this level has always been a goal.

"That's one of the reasons I came here," said Hively, with a 2-0 record and a 2.87 ERA, second-best on the staff behind Bobby Wahl's 2.65 mark. "I never really got an opportunity at the first college I was at. JC ball was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. But it wasn't anything compared to Division I. Honestly, it's a dream come true, and I'm extremely honored to have the chance to be on the weekend this year."

This weekend Houston; next weekend SEC

Ole Miss, 10-2, gets one last non-conference tune up weekend before hosting Auburn next weekend. But don't let Houston's 6-6 record fool you.

The Cougars, under second-year head coach Todd Whitting, have already beaten two Southeastern Conference teams among their six wins. In last weekend's Houston College Classic played at Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros, Houston defeated Tennessee 7-4 and Arkansas 4-1.

Houston is coming off its first road game of the year, a 3-1 loss to UL-Lafayette on Tuesday evening.

Offensively, Houston is hitting .276 as a team and has outscored its opponents 54 to 46, despite its 6-6 overall record. The Cougars hold an on-base percentage of .376 with 51 walks and 14 hit-by-pitches.

Wahl scheduled to get his fourth Friday start of the season tonight
Bruce Newman

Leading the offensive attack is senior shortstop Jake Runte with a team-best .341 average, 15 hits, 10 walks and four doubles. Following Runte is junior second baseman Chase Jensen with a .333 average and a team-high nine RBI.

Houston's three starting pitchers this weekend are seniors Jared Ray and Jordan Lewis, along with freshman Aaron Garza.

Ray will get the call on Friday and is coming off his best career outing, striking out 10 Volunteers in the win over Tennessee last weekend. Ray was named Conference-USA Pitcher of the Week and a College Baseball 360 Primetime Performer. Ray leads the team with a 1.42 ERA in 19.0 innings pitched. He holds a 1-0 record in three starts and has struck out 20.

Lewis is also coming off a solid start in last weekend's win against Arkansas. The left-hander is 2-1 and has a 2.16 ERA in 16.2 innings pitched.

Garza, a right-hander, is 1-1 this year with a 3.77 ERA in 14.1 innings.

Whitting, who was a three-year letterman for the Cougars, was an assistant at Houston from 1996-2003. He returned to his alma mater prior to last year after serving as an assistant to TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle for seven seasons.

Ole Miss, which won two of three games at Houston last season, enters the game ranked 14th nationally by Baseball America and is coming off a 20-4 romp of Tennessee-Martin Tuesday night.

The Rebels will keep their weekend rotation the same. Sophomore right-hander Bobby Wahl is set to make his fourth start of the season tonight. Wahl currently leads the team in innings pitched, having worked 17.0 innings with 18 strikeouts and six walks on the season. He has a 2.65 ERA, allowing five earned runs on 14 hits.

After Hively starts in game two, sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers will start game three. Mayers is coming off a career-long 7.0 innings in the start against Miami (OH) last weekend, allowing only four hits and not allowing a base runner to advance past first base in his time on the mound.

Mayers has struck out 17 batters in 16.0 innings of work this season and holds a 3.94 ERA while holding hitters to a .200 batting average against so far this season.

Hively says his counterparts have done well this season, and he also attributes other aspects of the team's performances for what they've been able to achieve so far.

"Both of them have been awesome, honestly," he said of Wahl and Mayers. "We fill up the strike zone as a staff. That's from the starters to the bullpen. The coaches do a great job of getting us scouting reports on how we want to face hitters. Coach Bianco does a great job calling pitches. The biggest thing for us is just to eat up innings and throw a lot of strikes and let our defense work. Our offense has been unbelievable thus far."

Game times this weekend are scheduled to be today at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 1:30 p.m., and Sunday at 12 noon.

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