Sunday Struggles

The series finale puzzle for Ole Miss remains. LSU made sure of that. Now where do the Rebel coaches turn?

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"Just not a very good day for us on the mound," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "Not taking anything away from (LSU), but we didn't pitch well, obviously. The problem is we're limited, and they took advantage of it in the sense that we either fell behind in counts, and had to keep from hitting guys or walking guys. They made us pay."

Dylan Chavez wasn't too bad. He actually gave the Rebels a chance early. But a solo home run by Ty Ross to open the LSU fourth sent Chavez to the showers and Josh Laxer to the mound.

"Laxer struggled to get his breaking ball over," Bianco said. "He had a great fast ball, but a lot of up fast balls. And it seemed like every time he came in there with a fast ball, they took advantage of it. They were just too good offensively, and we were too bad on the mound."

Before the game ended LSU had 12 runs on 13 hits and Ole Miss had gone through five pitchers - Aaron Greenwood, Hawtin Buchanan, and Casey Mulholland, in addition to Chavez and Laxer. The Rebels scored just three runs on 10 hits.

Will Bianco move R.J. Hively back to weekend starter now that Brett Huber appears to be healthy again? Hively's move to late relief/closer was not necessarily that Huber was experiencing arm soreness. First came the decision that Hively could help out in that role.

But Huber appears to be back, and Hively has certainly been effective in the new role, now three weeks in. Bianco said, however, Hively starting again is unlikely.

"I think Hively's so good at the end of the game, I think it's smart to keep him where he is," he said. "It's nice to have Huber when Hively gets extended do what he can do (like Saturday to close out a 7-4 UM win)."

But these past three weeks Ole Miss has almost not even had a chance on Sunday. Sam Smith didn't get it done against Arkansas. Tanner Bailey same thing against Mississippi State. Now Chavez went just three-plus.

But the junior left-hander might get another shot next Sunday when Tennessee comes to town. Or will we see Hively back in that three-man mix along with Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers after the coaches have had a few days to study on it? Or somebody new, like Chris Ellis?

The Rebels don't have any non-conference games this week. Next up is Tennessee as the Volunteers arrive Friday for three games. In the meantime, there are final exams for the student-athletes.

Difficult day for all Rebels, including Aaron Greenwood
Bruce Newman

Bianco has said for a few weeks he's been waiting on the Rebels to make that patented run most of his teams have been known for. You know, when they run off, at some point, five or six wins.

Now at 31-18 overall and 11-13 in Southeastern Conference play, maybe they simply are who they are.

Where they are is in desperate need of some wins the next two weekends. At Vanderbilt follows the visit by UT, and a non-conference road game at Arkansas State sandwiched between the two series is also on the schedule.

Two wins in the last six SEC games and you only match last season's 13-17 record. A 4-2 record the next two weekends and at 15-15 you have to feel certain they make the NCAA Tournament field, all things considered. At 14-16, which means they go 3-3, I'd say there has to be some concern.

With 10 of 12 SEC teams making the Hoover field for the SEC Tournament, you have to still believe they will be one of those. But they have to win more games to make sure.

You have a shot for a win with Wahl on the mound, with Mayers on the mound, and with Hively coming in either of those days. So where do they go from here as far as Sunday?

"I don't know," Bianco said. "I don't know that answer. I wish I did. After three Sundays, it's frustrating. All those guys that have pitched have had success here, some as a midweek starter. We've got to do a better job."

They'll have time, at least from a baseball standpoint, to figure out whatever they can this week as coaches. The players will be tested in the classroom. The coaches in the war room.

"It had nothing to do with being tired or too many innings," Bianco said of the past six days. "Although we played five games and one with four extra innings. But I don't think that was a factor.

"But the break may come at a good time, just the grind of 12 weeks in a row, eight conference weekends in a row," he continued. "They need a break for finals to lock in and do what they're here to do, and that's to go to school. They'll have a couple of days off on Monday and Tuesday, get some classwork done, and then we'll go back to practice on Wednesday."

Two days after that, an all-important SEC weekend against Tennessee begins in Oxford. And solving this year's puzzle, especially the Sunday one, will continue.

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