Tune Up

As expected, the Rebel baseball team had little difficulty with visiting Arkansas-Pine Bluff as they put the finishing touches on preparations for their SEC showdown with Kentucky this weekend in Lexington with an easy victory. Read about it inside.

Anything less than a convincing win over visiting Arkansas-Pine Bluff would have been a shock.

No shock here.

The outgunned contingent from across the Mississippi River succumbed to the Rebels, 17-1, without much of a struggle and on the receiving end of a record-setting night by Taylor Hashman, who scored an all-time best six runs and knocked in six more.

"It was a good game," said Reb Coach Mike Bianco. "We challenged them before the game to play well for themselves and they did, even when they were supposed to.

"We swung the bat well, we played good defense and we pitched well. We couldn't have played much better."

The Golden Lions probably wished they had stayed home to watch their basketball team play Winthrop in an NCAA Tournament play-in game.

It would have been more rewarding. Their basketball brothers won.

The onslaught started early and the drama ended quickly as the Rebels put a five-spot on the board in the first frame and never looked back, broke into a sweat or took a labored breath.

The Rebels got a 2-run single from Matt Smith with the bases flushed after Tanner Mathis walked, Taylor Hashman singled and Tim Ferguson reached on an infield error.

David Phillips then knocked in a run with a single, again with the bases juiced with Rebs, and then Miles Hamblin tripled home two more runs.

Rebel starter Rory McKean put up another goose egg and the Rebs added another run in the bottom of the second on an RBI double by Matt Smith, plating Hashman who had reached on a walk.

McKean kept rolling and the Rebs kept hitting in the third, putting up four runs in the bottom of the frame.

Hashman tripled with the bases loaded - again - and Ferguson got him home with a sharp single to make the score an even 10-0.

The Golden Lions did manage a hit off McKean in the fourth, but nothing more. The Rebs, meanwhile, jammed the bases yet again, but Kevin Mort popped up to center to end the frame.

McKean finished his stint in the fifth inning with a perfect frame, leaving the game in the hands of Jordan Cooper after completing a linescore of no runs, three hits, no walks and five strikeouts.

The Rebs filled the bags for the gazillionth time in the bottom of the fifth and David Phillips delivered a two-run double.

Cooper hit two batters in the sixth and set things up for Barry McDonley's RBI single. The Lions were finally on the board.

Apparently, the Rebs didn't appreciate the visitors scoring. A three-run homer by Hashman and an RBI single by Mathis accounted for the four Rebel runs in their side of the sixth inning.

Unfortunately, there is no mercy rule in regular season college baseball. The Rebs, after six, led by the softball-ish score of 16-1.

But the Rebs were able to empty the bench, so to speak, in the final innings.

The few fans who braved the chilly night ignored the seventh inning stretch and went straight to the seventh inning exit. Relatives and girlfriends stayed.

Trent Rothlin worked the eighth in an attempt to get his mojo back after a couple of rough outings. He was effective in the inning, but, no offense to Trent intended, one got the feeling Cy Young, in his current condition, would have been effective in that situation. The Golden Lions had no bite left and were looking for a warm seat on the bus by the time he entered the contest.

"We are going to put him in the pen for now and wanted Trent to get another inning before this weekend," Bianco explained. "He had good stuff tonight."

The Rebs scratched across one run in the eighth when Hashman, who walked, scored on a wild pitch against the fourth lefty of the night the Golden Lions ran to the mound. We will withhold the names of the Pine Bluff pitchers to protect the innocent and baseball battered.

Miles Hamblin, who caught most of the game, finished the contest on the mound for the Rebs with a suprising fastball in the low 90s.

"Miles leaves the regular pitchers, who take bullpens all the time, in awe because yesterday was the first day he's been on the mound here and he comes in and throws 93 with a 78-80 curve," Bianco laughed. "He pumps the zone full and brings it."

Mercifully, this one was over and the Rebs moved their record to 13-4 while the Goldedn Lions limped home with a 3-8 worksheet.

On Hashman's effort, Bianco was pumped up.

"He was terrific. He plays so hard. He gives you everything and is a great leader even when he's on the bench," Mike noted. "He plays baseball like a football player, with intensity and emotion. Taylor showed his hustle when he almost made of the top five catches ever on this field on a foul ball fly. He just hustles. He also looks more physical and he can really run - I mean really run. He can steal bases as good as Tim Ferguson, maybe better."

For his part, Hash said he's feeling better about himself this year.

"I'm more aggressive this year. I was taking too many pitches last year and that's not me," said Hashman. "Also, I got contacts over the summer and seem to be seeing the ball better. It's pretty cool to set that runs scored record with all the great players who have played at Ole Miss through the years."

McKean (2-1) got the win. Matt Smith added three hits to match Hashman and knocked in three as well. Phillips had three RBI and Hamblin knocked in two runs.

Ole Miss opens SEC play this weekend against Kentucky in Lexington.

Bianco believes his squad is ready for the challenge and may have the services of Matt Snyder, who has been out with a dislocated shoulder, for DH or pinch hitting duty.

"We've answered a lot of questions, especially on the mound. We've established some roles and feel comfortable with that going in," Bianco assessed. "At the plate, it's more difficult to say because Snyder has been out, but we think he may swing it some this weekend if he doesn't regress tomorrow in BP.

"Miller will be at third, Yarbrough at second. First base will depend on lefty-righty probably. Our batting average is not real high - we are eighth in the SEC, but we are third in runs scored, which I'd much rather have than the average. We have been hitting with runners in scoring position which is what we want.

"I think we are ready."


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