Double Whammy

R.J. Hively had been used to starting. Aaron Greenwood had not. Neither actually did Saturday, but both had huge hands in Ole Miss claiming two wins against Arkansas, and the series as well.

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R.J. Hively from Jeff Roberson on Vimeo.

The Rebels, who won game one 8-2 and game two 1-0, play the Razorbacks at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Ole Miss is scheduled to start freshman right-hander Sam Smith (2-2, 4.01 ERA). Arkansas will go with arguably its best pitcher – junior RHP D.J. Baxendale (6-2, 3.88 ERA).

It was Greenwood, the sophomore transfer, who had entered game one almost like a starter. He had to pick up right where things left off when rain suspended play Friday night. Ole Miss led 6-1, but it was only the top of the fourth inning, and Arkansas had a runner on first and a 3-1 count on the hitter.

Greenwood went 2.2 innings Saturday when play resumed, allowing one run on three hits with four strikeouts as Ole Miss actually expanded its lead. He turned it over to three more Rebel pitchers before this one was over, but it was Greenwood who had to make sure the tone remained in the Rebels' favor after an overnight wait.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, his team now 27-12 overall and 9-8 in SEC play, surprised him with the news first thing Saturday.

"Early this morning right after breakfast, (Bianco) came in and said ‘Aaron, I just hope you know you're starting.' I just gave him a big smile and he patted me on the back and told me good luck."

Greenwood said his breakfast settled well even after that announcement. That's because he relished the idea of helping Ole Miss complete a Southeastern Conference win.

"It's always fun to come out and play and get a chance to pitch," he said.

And to make the most of his opportunity.

"Just pound the zone and let the defense work," Greenwood said. "Great defense behind me, too."

"That's not an easy situation for a young guy," Bianco said. "To come in with a guy at first, a 3-1 count, throw the first pitch for a strike, and you knew they'd be taking. Then end up striking the guy out and really bridge the gap there (from Friday night to Saturday after starter Bobby Wahl was done)."

Hively To The Rescue

Hively, who came in for starter Mike Mayers in game two, had started a game every weekend this season. In SEC play the Rebels were 0-5 in games he started, although they led or were tied in three of those.

So earlier this week, Bianco and staff sent Hively to the bullpen. It worked like a charm in game two Saturday.

"He comes in in a tough situation and gets a double play ball with his first pitch," Bianco said as Hively entered the 1-0 contest with one out in the seventh inning after Mayers had runners on first and second. "You can see how dominant he is. He's been there before in junior college and understands, and really before the best college baseball atmosphere in the country (at Ole Miss). He rode that the last couple of innings with the fans today. It couldn't have worked out any better."

Hively said the decision was made to help the team, and he wanted to be able to do that.

"I told (Coach) I was all for it," the senior right-hander said. "I love to start, but there's something inside me that loves coming out of the pen."

And Hively said the situation he was thrust into in this one was perfect – as difficult as it may have appeared.

"I loved it," he said. "There's nothing better than coming in with the game on the line, and it's you against the other nine's stuff.

Alex Yarbrough
Bruce Newman

"Mike Mayers did a great job starting the game, and I just didn't want to ruin it for him, honestly."

Hively, who signed out of high school with Cal State-Fullerton, then went to Santa Ana (junior) College after a redshirt year with the Titans, is in his second season at Ole Miss. And at long last, it appears he's found his role and the fans have found him.

As he finished things up in the ninth, hundreds were yelling, in unison, "R.J., R.J., R.J." Hively heard them - he thinks.

"I try to tune that stuff out as much as possible," said Hively, who went 2.2 innings with no hits, a walk, and three strikeouts all in the top of the ninth as he struck out the side, all the Hogs swinging madly at his pitches. "I think a 2-2 pitch I threw in the dirt, I let my concentration go, and I refocused and think I heard it."

After that final out, he certainly heard the roar, as a stadium record crowd of 10,603 let him hear it collectively.

Mayers Scary Good Again

Mike Mayers, the sophomore righty, went 6.1 innings, allowing two hits with two walks and four strikeouts, facing 23 Hogs. It was a most impressive starting performance on a most important stage.

"Days like this are days you never forget," Mayers said, now 4-2 on the season with the win. "This is why you came to Ole Miss. This is why you wanted to play in this stadium and play in an atmosphere like this."

Mayers said things worked well for him today.

"I just attacked the strike zone," he said. "The biggest thing today was keeping them off balance with the changeup. I threw it for strikes, and normally I don't throw it. But today it was working."

Mayers said Hively was at his best as well.

"It was awesome. He was tremendous," he said of Hively's performance. "I'm just glad he's on our side. It's tough to hit that slider (of his) when you're only seeing it once a game."

Mayers said the handoff from him to Hively in the seventh was certainly out of the ordinary, since both had been starters all season.

"That was a little different," Mayers laughed and said. "But he got it done, and right now there's nobody else I'd rather hand it to."

More Than Just Pitching

The Rebels continue to play good defense. An error in game two was only their third in the last 11 games.

Matt Snyder had two home runs in game one. But offensively the Rebels had some opportunities to get some runners home and failed. And they did leave the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh also in game two.

But Alex Yarbrough, who now has an 18-game hitting streak, said the fans definitely helped in the close contest.

"We fed off their energy the whole game," said Yarbrough, batting .425 on the year and 5-for-9 in two games this weekend.

Yarbrough said the Rebels aren't satisfied with two wins. They want the sweep.

"We talked about that in our (postgame) meeting," he said. "It's been a good weekend so far, but we want to make it a great weekend. Arkansas is a great team, and we know they'll be upset, dropping their first two. They'll come out fighting, and we will too. Hopefully we'll come out on top."

Arkansas is now 27-12 overall and 8-9 in league play.

Mike Bianco from Jeff Roberson on Vimeo.

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