On The Road Again

Fresh off their second consecutive Southeastern Conference sweep, the Ole Miss baseball team will try tonight to do what it hasn't done since March – win a non-conference game.

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Rebel freshman Christian Helsel

Ironically it was the same team they face tonight that was the last non-conference victim for the Rebels. On March 27, Ole Miss beat Arkansas State in Oxford 10-4. Since then, the Rebels have lost three out-of-league contests.

They'll try to end that skid in Jonesboro, Ark., beginning at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco is pleased with how the team has responded the past two weekends. Now he wants that to carry over into tonight's non-conference game.

"I thought we were much more aggressive (offensively) at Tennessee," he said, as opposed to the two recent midweek losses against Memphis and USM. "We looked more like we did last weekend against Alabama. We tried to push the action a little bit with some bunts and hit and runs. At the end of the day, just a little more aggressive at the plate, trying to be offensive versus trying not to strike out or not make an out. I thought the attitude and the energy of the offense was terrific all weekend long."

Sophomore right-hander Josh Laxer (2-0) will be making his seventh start for the Rebels in 2013. He has taken no decision in his last three starts, working 4.2 innings in each outing. He has taken four no decisions and posted two wins in his six starts this season.

In Laxer's start against Arkansas State in late March, he allowed two runs on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts through 4.2 innings of work.

Arkansas State (22-18) enters the game coming off a series win at Louisiana-Monroe over the weekend, taking the first two games before losing the finale.

Right-hander David Owen is scheduled to start for the Red Wolves. The freshman has five appearances this year and will be making his first start of the season. Owen is 1-0 with a 9.00 ERA.

The Rebels, 29-12 overall, have a sparkling 19-4 non-conference mark. It's just that the four losses have been to teams Ole Miss fans pay the most attention to when the Rebels play them. Twice Memphis has defeated Ole Miss this season. Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State (in the non-conference Governor's Cup game) have also gotten the best of Ole Miss.

More Bianco comments:

* On freshman Christian Helsel's play: "He's been terrific. From a kid that wasn't projected to play shortstop, to get a start on a Friday night and a Saturday in the SEC...he made a couple of errors on Friday but got three hits. And a huge bunt (Sunday). I'm really proud of him."

* On junior Preston Overbey's shin splints: "He's got them and some people get them. We're trying to get through it. But it hasn't gotten better. It's tough. We're trying to rest him as much as possible. He won't play (at ASU). Got to get him ready for Thursday (vs. Kentucky)."

* On junior Austin Anderson's recovery from a hamstring pull: "He did OK (at UT). He's still really hampered by it, and he can't really run well on the bases. But he can get from base to base. And it's worth it with his glove and bat in the lineup."

* On sophomore Chris Ellis' progress from an abdominal pull earlier: "Thought he pitched well down at Pearl. This weekend they got some good swings off him. Sometimes it's them. We looked at the video, his velocity (was good). He may have missed a spot or two. He looked good. He's healthy. And that's all good news. Sometimes (the opponent) is just going to hit."

* On senior Brett Huber's back situation: "I was obviously a little nervous about that. He laid on the floor of the bus all the way there. They said it was better than him sitting. Lot of treatment during the weekend, and he said he felt better on Sunday, moving around better than he had in a while."

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