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No. 16 Diamond Rebels welcome Miami (Ohio) for three-game series

Alex Edwards/The Daily Mississippian


The No. 16 Ole Miss baseball team will go for a second sweep in as many weeks when it plays host to the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (3-3) this weekend. 

The Rebels (7-1) have won six straight games, but they will have to play well to come out on top. 

“It’s more about what we do,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “I’m more concerned with how we play.”

Offensively, the RedHawks are averaging 5.5 runs per game and hitting .272 as a team, compared to seven runs per game for Ole Miss and a team average of .305. Miami (Ohio) is led at the plate by junior first baseman Kevin Bower, who is batting .625 in 16 at-bats this season. Behind Bower are freshman designated hitter Matt Honchel and senior center fielder Alex Jonshon, who are hitting .421 and .375, respectively. 

The RedHawks are coming off a 1-0 win over Michigan State.

Friday’s game is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. while Saturday and Sunday have a scheduled 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. first pitch, respectively. 

Wahl, Hively and Mayers ready to hold down weekend spots.

On Friday night, sophomore right-hander Bobby Wahl will take the hill for Ole Miss. Wahl is 2-0 this season with a team-leading 1.50 earned run average and 11 strikeouts in a team-high 12.0 innings.

Senior right-handed pitcher RJ Hively will get his third consecutive start Saturday. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native has posted a 1-0 record with a 4.66 earned run average, to go along with a team-high 13 strikeouts in 9.2 innings. 

“I’ve got to make pitches,” Hively said of what it will take to put together a complete performance. “I’ve got to use a focal point, which is part of our mental game that we practice. You have certain things you say to yourself to get you back into your green-light formula and get back in your routine.”

In Sunday’s game, Bianco will send sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers to the mound for his second weekend start of his career. The Grove City, Ohio, native, who is 0-1 this year, has looked dominant most of the time on the mound, but a few miscues have resulted in Mayers giving up seven runs in 9.0 innings.

“It’s real frustrating to go out there and pitch like I did,” he said. 

“You feel great, and then all of a sudden, it’s taken away from you. I’ve got to give my teammates credit. They’ve done a good job picking back up.”

Mayers knows what it will take to get the job done.

“This week I’ve really gone back to things I used to do,” he said. “I’ve worked on my conditioning to make sure that by the fifth inning I won’t get as tired. I’m not really sure what happened (last week), but I’m just trying to hit my spots and really fine-tune everything.”

Kirksey comfortable at the plate

Senior outfielder Zach Kirksey has shown vast improvement thus far this season, especially in Wednesday’s 13-1 blowout of Jackson State, going 2-for-3 with a three-run home run and a two-run double. The West Monroe, La., native credits Ole Miss assistant coach Cliff Godwin for his progression at the plate.

“Early in the spring, I really wasn’t doing too well and coach Godwin talked me into going into a wider, two-strike approach,” Kirksey said. “He really simplified things. He said my head was moving a little bit, and that was making me swing at bad pitches and not stay on some balls. As soon as I spread out, I started making solid contact. Ever since then, I’ve been getting better and better. I’ve been able to stay shorter, more simple and get the good part of the bat on the ball.”

Kirksey is batting at a .538 clip this season with two home runs and 11 RBI, and Bianco is glad to see him stepping up.

“I’m excited for him,” Bianco said. “He had a good fall. And he got off to a good start last year but not like this. You look at the games this year, and he just looks like a force up there. He’s really locked in.

“I think the difference between this year and last year is his approach at the plate, being able to hit the ball the other way. He just looks more comfortable up there and confident. He’s made some great adjustments. He looks terrific.”