[ED: Spring Break has us all crazy. Sorry that this is late, but it's worth the wait. And it's Juco's fault anyway.]
Wednesday night was my return to Swazye after a much too long leave of absence due to my Spring Break vacation. After a heart crushing charity series against No. 1 Sakerlina this past weekend, the Rebels looked to bounce back and establish the first win in this 4 game home stretch which includes SEC play against Mizzou. Leading in, it looked to be a winnable game as the Red Wolves came in with a run of the mill record of 11-8, but if there's anything that Ole Miss athletics know how to do it's lose games it shouldn't.
Jeremy Massie got the nod to lead the Rebs on the mound and didn't offer up anything amazing. The Red Wolves seemed to be making pretty good contact with his pitches throughout his showing, with Massie lasting only 3.2 innings. The bullpen proved it's worth however when Scott Wearthersby came in at end of the 4th with the Rebs trailing 2-1. He struck out five and gave up the only remaining ASU run (unearned off a wild pitch - the runner wasn't his). The really sad - or funny - part was that the runner that scored off the wild pitch did so from SECOND BASE. I can now take that baseball feat off my bucket list, thanks Rebs!
Josh Laxer came in for the save and looks to be establishing himself as the go to closer. Laxer was a usual mid-week starter last season and, from what I've heard, was pretty reluctant and resistant to be pitch in any other role. For whatever reason (incoming class of arms, not enough development during the offseason, who knows?), Laxer was bumped from the probable list of starters. However, it seems he might actually be embracing this role as a closer now. Laxer was consistently hitting his fast ball in the mid 90s and had a great pick off of Arky State's first base runner followed by a pop out to earn the save. I know Laxer caught some flak from the USC game last weekend, but I really think Bianco has him in the right role and made the right move to show his confidence in Laxer this week.
Bats and bases:
The aggressive base running continued to shine with a double steal in the first which first looked like a bad news pickle to catch Austin Anderson out at 2nd. However, Braxton Lee took off towards home plate at the same time and was able to slide under the tag for the first run. There was also some old school Bianco ball in the 7th inning when Lee executed a squeeze bunt that pushed 3rd base runner Dalton Dulin across the plate to give the Rebs a 4-3 lead on what would be the winning run.
Errol Robinson continued to impress with his leather with two plays that queued up the "Sportscenter" theme on the stadium speakers. Both were backhand snags out of the dirt to throw out the runner at first. (Although the Arky State coach had a fair argument against one of them when he came out of the dugout to debate the call.)
This weekend the Rebs welcome an 11-9 Mizzou club that dropped their previous series against Tennessee 1-2. Their other victories include wins over directional schools and universities that offer hair styling and cosmetics as a major - much like Ole Miss' out of conference schedule. So far the "Rebel toughness" (some might say "luckiness") theme continues to manifest itself in midweek games that probably should not be as close as they are. Regardless, the Rebs only have four losses on the season leading into their home SEC opener and, considering the amount of uncertainty surrounding this club during the preseason, I'd think most fans can be satisfied with how Bianco has coached up this team. See y'all at Swayze, 6:30 PM this Friday. Bring your hecklin' voice and plenty of booze.