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Ole Miss baseball needs to do more than just win on Saturday against CSU Bakersfield

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Conserving pitching is now the name of the game.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, Ole Miss' 3-1 loss against Maryland in the regional opener could have been a lot worse. For a while there it looked like starting pitcher Christian Trent wasn't gonna make it past the fourth inning, a disaster that would have eaten up the Rebel bullpen and left them toothless moving forward. Instead, Trent managed to trek his way through 6.1 innings and Jacob Waguespack, whose brilliant 2.2 hitless innings got mostly overlooked in the loss, carried it across the finish line.

Which brings us to what the Rebs need to do Saturday in their elimination game against CSU Bakersfield (6 p.m. CT, WatchESPN.com). Yea, yea smartass, they have to win. But they also need to continue to conserve pitching. The chances of Ole Miss' thin staff outlasting UCLA's armament of pitchers was never very good to begin with, but dropping to the losers bracket ensures the Rebs now have to play an extra game, putting them one starter behind whoever takes the winners bracket face-off between the Bruins and Terps.

What the staff needs now are long innings from Saturday starter Brady Bramlett and plenty of run support from the offense. If Bramlett works seven or eight and the bats build a sizable lead, Mike Bianco won't have to reach into the top of his bullpen. That would leave Scott Weathersby for a potential Sunday start with a fresh Wyatt Short ready to put in extended innings behind him. That still leaves you with a major question mark for a potential Game 4 (Will Stokes? Evan Anderson?), but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

Bramlett is capable of a long, dominant start, but he made it through the seventh inning in only two of his 10 SEC starts this season. Bakersfield, for their part, hits a decent .281 and draws 3.65 walks per game. On Friday, they let UCLA ace James Kaprielian work through seven innings on 93 pitches (the Bruins have designated eighth and ninth inning setup guys, or Kaprielian could have easily gone longer).

At the end of the day, though, this is survival mode. If the game is tight and Bramlett is laboring, Bianco will have no choice but to turn to the big guns. That might extend the Rebs' stay by one game, but it probably ends any real shot of making the regional finals.