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Laxer leads Rebels to 3-0 win against Golden Eagles

Alex Edwards/The Daily Mississippian

 

PEARL – Head coach Mike Bianco has been looking for a Sunday starter since moving senior right-hander R.J. Hively to the back end of the bullpen after the Georgia series, and Josh Laxer certainly made a case for the spot with seven shutout innings in Tuesday night’s 3-0 win against Southern Miss at Trustmark Park in Pearl. 

“There’s no doubt,” Bianco said of Laxer as a weekend starter. “I say that because they’re all in consideration. We’ve seen Will Kline, Eric Fowler and other guys in the bullpen take a night like this and make a career out of it. Hopefully, we’ll see if that happens for him.”

In his fourth start of the season, the freshman right-hander tossed a career-high seven innings giving up no runs on four hits with a walk and a career-high five strikeouts as Ole Miss (29-16) avenged an earlier 10-0 loss to Southern Miss on March 20.

“You can see tonight he had his best command, but yet it was his best stuff,” Bianco said. “He was 92-95 (mph) in the first, maybe, four innings with a power slider and with good command. When you take those restraints off and just let it go, he can be special.”

Bianco said Laxer worked with pitching coach Carl Lafferty Monday and talked to him about his approach on the mound. Laxer, who said he hasn’t had the year he would have liked to have, credited Lafferty for a lot of his success on the mound Tuesday night.

“He sat me down and told me to have a mentality I had when I pitched in high school to just go after batters and not worry about nibbling in the corner – to just blow it by them  and I think that helped me a lot,” Laxer said of Lafferty.

Bianco also credited the defense behind Laxer, including a pair of web gems – one from sophomore shortstop Austin Anderson and another from junior third baseman Andrew Mistone.

Offensively, the Rebels got on the board with two runs in the second inning, and a combined effort from Laxer, Aaron Greenwood and R.J. Hively made the runs stand up for Ole Miss.

Senior first baseman Matt Snyder led off with a double down the right field line and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Sophomore catcher Will Allen followed with an RBI single up the middle. Allen went from first to third on a failed pickoff attempt and scored on an infield single to the shortstop off the bat of junior designated hitter John Gatlin.

Ole Miss, then, added an insurance run in the fourth courtesy of Allen. He led off the inning with a single to left, advanced to second on a dropped third strike, stole third and came around to score on a sacrifice fly from freshman center fielder Auston Bousfield.

“Just like we talked about with the defense, those little things – a sacrifice fly and taking an extra base – count in a 3-0 game,” Bianco said. “There are going to be a lot of nights where you don’t score six, seven or eight runs. You’ve got to take runs when you can get them.”

Laxer pitched into trouble in the fifth, giving up back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners with no outs. However, Laxer got a pair of fly ball outs, while Allen threw out a runner at second, his seventh runner caught stealing this season, to stand a runner at third and get out of the inning unscathed.

Bianco lifted Laxer at the start of the eighth in favor of sophomore right-hander Aaron Greenwood who struck out the side in order. Hively closed things out with perfect ninth to earn his second save of the season.

Rebels Return Home

Ole Miss hosts Murray State (21-24) tonight at 6:30 p.m. before starting a three-game home series with No. 4 LSU Friday. The Racers are currently in seventh place in the Ohio Valley Conference after taking two of three from Southern Illinois-Edwardsville this past weekend. Freshman right-hander Sam Smith gets the start for the Rebels. Smith is 2-3 with a 5.19 ERA in 34.2 innings pitched this season.

Wahl, Yarbrough Named To Midseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List

Sophomore right-hander Bobby Wahl and junior second baseman Alex Yarbrough have been named to the midseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award honoring the nation’s top college baseball player, it was announced by USA Baseball on Tuesday.

The midseason list is made up of 60 players from around the nation and USA Baseball officials will announce the 30 semifinalists for the 2012 Golden Spikes Award on Tuesday, May 29.  The list of 30 will then be sent to a voting body consisting of past USA Baseball National Team coaches and press officers, members of media that closely follow the amateur game, select professional baseball personnel and current USA Baseball staff, representing a group of more than 200 voters in total.

Ole Miss Sports Information contributed to this report.