“I don’t really know what to say. We played well again,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “It was an offensive day for us. Once again we get out of the gates well and have some big at-bats.”
Starter Mike Mayers gave up a run in the fifth, and reliever Chris Ellis two runs in the sixth.
“It was far from Mayers’ best day,” Bianco said of his Sunday starter, who got the win to move to 2-1 and went five innings, allowing just a run on four hits with three walks and just one strikeout. “He really struggled out there with command, his stuff, his velocity and slider. He threw some good changeups but he was able to throw some good pitches and get out of some innings early.”
After Ellis went an inning with two runs on two hits, Dylan Chavez came in to pitch the seventh and eighth, and Brett Huber closed it out in the ninth.
“I thought Chavez and Huber were tremendous at the end,” Bianco said. “But it was all about offense today.”
The Rebels, as they had all weekend, jumped on the Cougars early, scoring two runs in the first inning. After a Tanner Mathis ground out, Austin Anderson doubled to right field. Alex Yarbrough doubled to left center to score Anderson. After Matt Snyder popped up to the third baseman, Andrew Mistone singled up the middle to score Yarbrough.
Alex Yarbrough after a two-run homer in the eighth
Anderson, 3-for-5 on the day with three runs scored, tripled to lead off the third. He later scored on a Mistone fly out to center field. That made it 3-0 Rebels.
After Houston broke the 22-inning scoreless streak in the top of the fifth, Ole Miss came back with two runs of its own in the bottom of the fifth. A one-out single by Anderson was followed by singles from Yarbrough and Snyder.
Anderson scored on a Mistone fielder’s choice. Yarbrough, at third base, stole home as the Cougar second baseman tried to throw him out but couldn’t.
After Houston trimmed the UM advantage to 5-3 in the top of the sixth, the Rebels added one in the bottom of the sixth on a Will Jamison single to score Zach Kirksey who had doubled.
A three-run home run by Kirksey, his team-leading sixth of the season, in the seventh inning, and a two-run homer by Yarbrough in the eighth ended the scoring for the day.
Bianco, whose team outhit Houston 13-7 Sunday and outhit the visitors 40-17 in the series, said it was a most complete weekend.
“Without a doubt, and in every phase,” he said. “We played great defense, we really pitched and offensively with 28 runs, that’s a pretty good weekend. I can’t remember the last time we scored 28 runs in a weekend.”
Houston, meanwhile, managed just three and all of them on Sunday. The Cougars fell to 6-9 on the season. Aaron Garza, the first of five pitchers used by Cougar coaches, got the loss and is 1-2.
Breakout for Anderson
Sophomore Austin Anderson, who came into Sunday’s game batting .174 in seven games played, was on fire in the finale. He was a home run shy of the cycle and felt much better about things afterward.
“It feels good. Like I said on Thursday, I hit with (Coach Cliff) Godwin all the time,” he said. “I’ve worked on my swing ever since I returned back to school in the fall. Early on I felt I was getting good swings but not swinging at the right pitch, maybe a little anxious. I just try to stay patient and today I saw the ball well. It felt good to finally get some quality hits.”
Anderson had been mainly splitting appearances at shortstop with senior Blake Newalu, who is batting .318 with six games played. Freshman Jake Overbey has one start at shortstop.
Anderson said his main goal is for the team to win games.
Rebels salute the outfield fans
“I just try not to think about it too much. You can’t think about it,” he said of basically starting every other game. “You can’t press. You can’t think about it. It felt good to finally square the ball up. But I really don’t care who plays; I just want to win as a team.”
Yard for Yarbrough
Junior team co-captain Alex Yarbrough sent one out of the park in the eighth, into the left field terrace, his third round-tripper of the season.
The Rebels started every game off well, scoring six in the first Friday night, and two runs in the first inning of the Saturday and Sunday games.
“I think we had a gameplan,” Yarbrough said of the Rebels getting out of the gate fast offensively. “We knew what (the Cougar pitchers were) going to try and attack us with. We were trying to see everything up and Coach (Cliff) Godwin always does a great job of knowing exactly what the pitcher is going to try and do to get us out. We watch film of some at-bats against other teams, and Coach Godwin does a great job with that and it shows.”
Yarbrough said the Rebels head to Louisville for two games this week and then return home for the Auburn series to open Southeastern Conference play feeling good about themselves.
“It’s great. I think our confidence is the highest it's been so far,” he said. “We’re going to go play two games against a top 20 team in Louisville. They’re going to be really talented. We can’t wait to start SEC play here in front of our home fans next weekend. I think we played errorless ball the entire weekend. We had a really clean defense and the pitchers did really well. I don’t think you could have asked for much more this weekend."
Shut the Door
Closer Brett Huber wasn’t needed this weekend, but he got a chance to pitch anyway. On Sunday, with Ole Miss up eight runs, the veteran righty came in to finish the Cougars off.
Huber didn’t mind the lack of work or the large lead he walked into Sunday. He was pleased the weekend went so well.
“Our offense this weekend was just dynamite,” he said. “Every at-bat. Every pitch. I’m proud of them. That’s what they’re supposed to do. I like how when all the attention’s on them they can handle it. The pitchers, we all did very good jobs this weekend.”
Huber said Bianco told the team to treat this weekend like league play.
“Friday night Coach (Bianco) tested us,” Huber said. “He said this is a SEC weekend basically. And we responded. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Give respect to them. They’re a good team. We just came out ready to play this weekend on all three sides of the ball – defense, pitching, and offense.”
Huber said he’s been fairly happy with his season so far. He has four saves in five appearances totaling five innings.
“Pretty good so far,” he said. “If I give a hit up here or there, like last weekend I gave up some hits, I’m OK with that. I can’t be walking people like I did last year. That’s important to me right now. But I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job so far.”
He mentioned an elbow problem he had earlier seems fine.
“I think my elbow’s starting to feel a lot better now, too,” he said. “Today it’s probably felt the best it has so far this year. When I tweaked it before I got back from winter, it just never really felt the same. Last weekend it started feeling good. When I’ve played catch every day, I haven’t really had any issues, no soreness. It’s felt good, and I’m excited for that.”