Bittle gets start against Thoroughbreds

Keeping momentum and getting several pitchers some mound time will be the main focus when No. 18 Ole Miss (27-15) hosts Murray State Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., inside Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.

The nonconference tilt against the Thoroughbreds is a sandwich game between the Rebels big series win over then-No. 4 South Carolina and this weekend's three-game set versus rival Mississippi State. Ole Miss leads the al-time series between the Rebels and Murray State 13-3. Each team won a game during the two-game set last season in Oxford.

Head coach Mike Bianco is confident that Ole Miss will avoid a letdown on Tuesday.

"The mindset is that there shouldn't be a letdown," Bianco said. "We'll talk about that, but we have lost enough midweek games to know that we have to come back and play. They did beat us once last year."

Last weekend featured solid starting pitching on Friday and Saturday, and a lengthy relief outing on Sunday from Justin Cryer so the Rebels are looking to get multiple arms work against Murray.

Scott Bittle will be the first man out as he gets his first career start at Ole Miss. It will be a limited pitch count outing, but the sophomore will have a couple innings to get in some live throws and still be fresh for the big weekend.

"It is a chance to get him out there," Bianco said. "One of the things you worry about with Scott is that if Cody is in the game at the end, then a guy out of the pen that we have trust in has to get into the game. Like last weekend, Scott didn't get any innings, and he needs to pitch. If you start him, then you can control his innings.

"You don't want to get him out there on Sunday and realize he hasn't thrown in two weeks. Need to get him sharp and get him ready for the weekend."

Bittle will go for two innings with a third possible if his pitch count remains low. He was a full-time starter in junior college but doesn't see the role change as different when it comes to mindset.

"Not really different," Bittle said. "I just need to pitch effectively and get people out. Coach (Bianco) said he wanted to win so that is what I plan to do."

The rest of the night's innings will be eaten up by a plethora of pitchers that could also be needed during the upcoming pivotal weekend.

"We're hoping to pitch a lot of people," Bianco said. "No doubt (Brett) Bukvich and (Craig) Rodriguez, and we would like to throw Jesse (Simpson) and Phillip Irwin."

Murray State enters with a 14-23 record and is coming off a two-out-of-three weekend at Morehead State. The Thoroughbreds are 2-8 against common opponents with Ole Miss. Both wins are over Memphis. Ole Miss sports a 6-2 record against the same teams. The Rebels losses are to Evansville and Mississippi State.

The exciting week of baseball could have been dampened by the stadium expansion issues, but Bianco was adamant that that would not be the case.

"It is something that is disappointing, but I know that Pete and the administration will meet with the architects later this week, and try to figure out some different ways to go about it," Bianco said. "As far as a distraction, absolutely not. It is something that we are excited about, but we are more excited about Tuesday and this weekend."

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