Looking Ahead

Josh Laxer, who had only pitched 16.1 innings this season, pitched seven innings of shutout baseball in a 3-0 win against Southern Miss. Ole Miss needed to see that.

Follow SpiritJeff on Twitter

Will he be considered for a Sunday start now? That was a lot of innings pitched on a Tuesday if that's the case. So we'll see.

Comparing situations isn't necessarily fair to anyone, but we all do that. Tanner Bailey, who had only pitched 14.1 innings prior to last week's four perfect innings to start the Memphis game, followed that performance up with the one at MSU when he didn't record an out in the top of the first and was done for the day in a 4-2 UM loss.

Again, situations are different. Bailey will likely not be that ineffective again. Laxer might not be as effective if he moves to the mound to begin the Sunday game against LSU or a future weekend game.

But it was a positive sign to start the month of May that Laxer, a freshman right-hander from Madison Central High who was projected to certainly help this pitching staff this season, has now done so. Ole Miss needed that win.

He reportedly was still low to mid 90s on the radar gun in his later innings pitched Tuesday night. His record is actually now 4-0 as he moves ahead from his successful showing in Pearl with a 3.86 ERA. If his time is now, then the Rebels just got better.

The Rebels do have some Sunday options, if R.J. Hively continues to close one of the first two games, which appears likely. Mike Bianco mentioned comparisons of Hively to guys like Scott Bittle, Jake Morgan, and Stephen Head who would come in and close things down for the Rebels in the past.

Brett Huber being available again also helps, and we'll see how his role continues in the games ahead. Hawtin Buchanan has made a move to contribute more. Aaron Greenwood has become an early option out of the bullpen. Dylan Chavez put out the early fire at MSU after picking up the pieces in the first.

So this weekend against LSU will again be on the starting shoulders of Bobby Wahl, Mike Mayers, and TBA, at least for now. But the options are becoming more interesting as the potential list grows and as guys show if they can or can't do it that particular day.

Ole Miss won both games in Pearl this season - 6-3 against Mississippi State and 3-0 against Southern Mississippi.

Tonight vs. Murray State, Sam Smith is the starter. The freshman right-hander was the Sunday starter in a loss against Arkansas the first weekend that Hively was sent to the bullpen as a late-innings pitcher.

Bottom line: Stay tuned.

Double Tennis Take

Both the men's and women's tennis teams are hosting NCAA Regionals, it was announced Tuesday. That's a first since 1999 when both hosted together.

Billy Chadwick
Bruce Newman

It's obviously been a good year for both teams, and the coaches said they are pleased for the teams to be able to have the chance to advance to the round of Sweet Sixteen from their home courts.

"It's a fantastic feeling," said veteran men's head coach Billy Chadwick. "The guys and the girls have worked really, really hard this year, and we felt like they deserved to host. So it's a great feeling when it turns out like you hope it will."

The Rebels are the 13th seed, and the women's team is 16th. The top 16 host first and second round Regionals. But sometimes that isn't the case. The NCAA has a policy that allows travel to be considered a factor. Ole Miss painfully found that out three years ago when the men didn't host, were ranked No. 2 nationally, and were sent to LSU who was ranked much lower.

That year the Rebels were SEC West and overall regular season champions and SEC Tournament champs, yet still had to travel. It made no sense, certainly not in fairness.

The Rebels actually advanced through that Regional and on to the Sweet Sixteen, won a match there but lost in the Elite Eight. And Devin Britton won the NCAA Singles individual title.

Chadwick's team should have hosted in 2009. Now it's the first time since 2008 that they do actually host, and he is excited.

"The team is working hard, and I feel like we're at the top of our game," Chadwick said. "They really want to make that final 16 in Athens, so you will see a team that is ready to play. We need to host for a number of reasons."

Mark Beyers, who moved to the women's team as head coach after serving as men's assistant, has rebuilt the program. It was the fall of 2001 when successful veteran head coach Jerry Montgomery stepped down to pursue opportunities in the family business. Beyers moved in and began to build back the championship program Montgomery had built for nearly two decades.

"We've been so close before," Beyers said. "We were afraid the same thing might happen again. But to get in the top 16, it's tough. But these girls have done a great job this year and are very deserving."

In the last decade, Beyers' team had been the first squad left out of the field a couple of times – the 65th team in a 64-team field. That actually happened twice. Then as they continued to build, they were the 17th team in the field, and the top 16 host.

The past four years have been successful as they've made the NCAA Tournament each time, and made it to the Sweet Sixteen once.

Now for the first time since 1999, the women are hosting. The program is back after a decade of building.

"There were times we were worried about just getting in," Beyers said. "Now we worry about hosting. There are 320-something schools in Division I. Only 64 get in."

Only 16 of them host.

"I'm thrilled for these girls to be able to play at home," Beyers said. "We've had some ups and downs, it's taken a lot of hard work, and we've had some really good kids. I'm so excited for them and to achieve that."

Now it's about taking care of business at home. For both teams, Athens, Ga., and the NCAA Championships - the final 16 field - is the immediate goal.

The Oxford Regional for the women is May 11-12, while the men host May 12-13.

OM Spirit Top Stories