Busy Weekend

It's another Friday night of Southeastern Conference baseball, and there are only two left. Actually next week it's a Thursday night start of the regular season finale.

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Last Friday night wasn't kind for Ole Miss as the Rebels lost 4-3 to LSU in 13 innings. It was an uncharacteristically off evening for junior second baseman Alex Yarbrough at the plate. Going 0-for-6 is not indicative at all of his season.

"Friday night I was just trying to do too much," said Yarbrough, batting .407 this season as the Rebels host Tennessee beginning today at 6:30 p.m. "I wanted to be the hero so badly in those last two at-bats."

So his team could get an important victory, that is. Yarbrough, much more himself the next two days going 4-for-8, said it was just one of those games.

"My head was leaking forward. I was trying to jump at the ball," he said. "I was swinging at pitches out of the zone, especially curve balls in the dirt. And usually I'm pretty good at laying off those."

But it was one of the few bad games he's had. Yarbrough said there are several reasons he's been able to hit better this season and have a good shot at becoming the Rebels' first .400 hitter since Seth Smith hit .402 in 2002.

"I think it's the ability to be able to pick up all four pitches," Yarbrough said. "I'm swinging at a lot more offspeed pitches earlier in the counts and putting good swings on. I'm able to barrel it up too."

It's still all about the team for Yarbrough. He knows continuing to hit well will help them. And that remains what it's all about with seven regular season games and the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.

"It's awesome to be able to be hitting .400 in May," he said. "I hope I'm able to keep it up. But it's still one game at a time. I can't get too far ahead of myself."

Yarbrough said the Rebels, 31-18 overall and 11-13 in SEC play, have gotten through final exams now, and that makes it all baseball all the time the rest of the way.

"It was a good week to have no midweek games and get a couple of days off," Yarbrough said. "We had five games last week, and now we're excited and refreshed. We're really excited about Tennessee this weekend."

Alex Yarbrough
Bruce Newman

It potentially could be his last weekend of play in Oxford. He is projected to be highly drafted, and the Rebels will have to do something special the next couple of weeks to host a NCAA Regional. With that being the situation, Yarbrough looks forward to the opportunities ahead.

"We're excited about these last three regular season games at Swayze and making the most of those," Yarbrough said. "And Vanderbilt is the only place I haven't been yet, since we haven't played them the past two years. So I'm really excited to see their park."

The Volunteers are 24-24 and enter the weekend series with a midweek win at Memphis following a series loss to Vanderbilt last weekend. UT is 8-16 in SEC action.

Tennessee is hitting .255 as a team and are led at the plate by Will Maddox. Maddox, a freshman second baseman, is hitting at a .306 clip and is the only Volunteer hitting above the .300 mark this season with more than 13 at bats.

Junior designated hitter Drew Steckenrider leads the team with six home runs, while junior center fielder Chris Fitts has posted a team-best 26 RBI.

The Tennessee pitching staff has a 4.29 ERA and Friday night starter Dalton Saberhagen has a 5-1 record with one start and a 2.92 ERA through 24.2 innings of work. He has 12 strikeouts with 13 walks and opponents are hitting at a .213 clip against Saberhagen.

Tennis Anyone?

Ole Miss is hosting two NCAA Tennis Regionals this weekend. The women play today at 2 p.m. against Southern University, while the men play Saturday at noon against Binghamton.

Both teams need two wins to advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen next week in Athens, Ga. Other participants this weekend on the women's side are Illinois and Rice. On the men's side it's Michigan and Middle Tennessee State.

"We're extremely excited, especially to be hosting both the men and the women," said Ole Miss men's head coach Billy Chadwick.

Chadwick, whose Rebels are seeded 13th, said he is looking forward to his team having the opportunity to advance from its own Regional.

"This is a special group," he said. "This is a group that has really shown a lot of improvement to this point. The guys have been working really hard."

The women, seeded 16th, have been a consistent team all season. It's an opportunity for them to advance out of their own Regional as well.

"It's definitely exciting," head coach Mark Beyers said. "We're looking forward to it. This week has been different because of exams, but the fact that we didn't have to travel is good. The fan support really helps."

Beyers said the field is solid, but he believes his team is ready for the challenges.

"Obviously we know the teams are strong," he said. "Practice these past two weeks has been good. I've seen some really good intensity and some really good play. I think everybody is ready to keep score again."

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