Picking Up The Pace

Things start moving pretty fast for Ole Miss baseball now. Through seven games over a 10-day stretch, the Rebels have held serve in the friendly confines of home. This week, that changes.

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Last week there was only one midweek game. There are two midweek home games this week, with Memphis Tuesday at 4 p.m. and Arkansas-Pine Bluff Wednesday at 4 p.m. Then the Rebels, 7-0 this season, leave Thursday for Miami and a three-game series at Florida International.

With things moving more swiftly now and major travel just ahead, the veteran Rebels have to make sure they are ready themselves, while also making sure the young players on the team know the demands.

"We talk about all this as a team," said junior Will Allen, a veteran of these type weeks, and early-season non-conference trips his first two seasons - to Houston in 2011 and to TCU in 2012. "We're an experienced team, and we've got older guys, guys who've been here, guys who've played. That's just one thing we focus on, telling the young guys and the new guys, you're going to look up and the season's going to be halfway done. You'll be like ‘Where'd it go?'

"Our main goal is to stay focused and stay in the moment," Allen continued. "You can't get caught up in what we've done or what we're going to do. It's just game by game, and if we do that, we should be very successful."

Allen said through seven games the Rebels know there is improvement needed. But they also feel good about where they are and where they can move from here.

"We're confident. We're winning ballgames," he said. "We've shown we can put up some runs and win games. And then we've also shown we can win those 1-0 ballgames that are tight. That's always great just to know your teammates can handle the pressure. Obviously it's a long season and we have things to work on. We're going to continue to get better in every aspect of the game. I'm real happy and real proud of everybody."

As for himself, Allen feels like his hitting is coming around. With junior Stuart Turner the starting catcher, Allen has been mostly in the designated hitter role but played Sunday at first base, as Sikes Orvis sat and Holt Perdzock DH'ed.

"It's just a process. It's how baseball is. Sometimes you'll do well. Sometimes you won't," said Allen, with his first home run of the season Sunday in the Rebels' 5-3 win against Rhode Island and now batting .308 on the year. "You've just got to stay confident in your team, your abilities, everything. Mechanically the main thing is just watch the ball. Just see the ball. Sometimes I have the tendency to pull up and take my head off the ball. I'm really focused on that. I got in the cage with Coach (Cliff) Godwin and really worked on that."

Allen had multiple hit games in three-of-four outings last week. He also scored in three-of-four games with a RBI in three-of-four games on the week. In the one game he did not record a hit, the 1-0 Saturday victory against the Rams, Allen still proved valuable with a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Will Allen
Bruce Newman

That Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco announced sophomore right-hander Josh Laxer will start against Memphis. Laxer has two appearances so far this season with a 1.80 ERA and has allowed just one run. He also has allowed two hits with two walks and a strikeout in five innings pitched.

They'll continue to monitor Chris Ellis' progress from a muscle strain of the past few weeks. The sophomore righty, who had emerged as the third-game starter months ago and maintained it, did start against TCU on Sunday.

"It bothered him at the end of last Sunday," Bianco said of Ellis' abdominal muscle pull. "As we went on this week, we just didn't feel comfortable running him back out there. It's getting better. If we pushed him this weekend and it got worse, where would we go from there? He's doing some rest and rehab and getting better."

The Memphis Tigers arrive in Oxford with a record of 4-3 but are coming off a strong weekend of performances. They swept Missouri of the Southeastern Conference 6-0, 5-3, and 8-2 after starting the weekend with a 1-3 record.

Memphis lost to Illinois State two out of three games and also lost one game to Arkansas State. The game at Ole Miss is the Tigers' first road contest of the 2013 season.

Here are some notes from the weekend from Bill Bunting of Ole Miss athletics media relations:

Ole Miss improved to 7-0 on the season and remained one of two undefeated teams in the Southeaster Conference with a four-win week this past week ... The Rebels picked up a midweek win over UT-Martin (15-2) before sweeping the weekend series with Rhode Island (8-1, 1-0, 5-3) ... The sweep of Rhode Island marked the first time the Rebels have swept back-to-back weekends to open the season since 2008 with sweeps of Minnesota and Indiana State ... The 7-0 start is also the best start to the season since a 9-0 start in the 2008 season ... Junior RHP Bobby Wahl improved to 2-0 on the season with the series-opening win against Rhode Island this weekend ... Junior RHP Aaron Greenwood picked up his second relief win of the season in Sunday's series finale to also improve to 2-0 ... Senior RHP Brett Huber picked up a win and a save on the week, taking the relief win against Rhode Island on Saturday and grabbing the save in Sunday's series-clinching win ... Huber now has 29 saves for his career, extending his career-record mark ... Sophomore RHP Sam Smith picked up the win in his first outing of the season against UT-Martin and took no decision in the start against Rhode Island on Sunday afternoon ... Junior IF Auston Bousfield and junior C/IF/DH Will Allen led the Rebels at the plate, both hitting at a .429 clip on the week ... Allen also hit his first home run of the season in Sunday's game against Rhode Island ... Allen and Anderson led three Rebels who hit over .400 for the week and six Rebels who hit over .330 for the week ... Junior C Stuart Turner continued to play outstanding defense behind the plate, throwing out 5-of-6 base runners on steal attempts on the week ... Turner threw out all five base runners in which he got to attempt a throw ... Conversely, the Rebels were successful on the base path and successfully stole on 7-of-8 attempts ... Rebel relief pitching has also continued its solid start to the season with 10 relievers allowing only four runs through 30.2 innings of work this season ... Ole Miss will return to action with five games in the third week of play, including two home games and the first road trip of the series ... The Rebels will host Memphis and Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a pair of midweek games before hitting the road to face Florida International in a three-game series over the coming weekend.

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