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May 22, 2013HOOVER, Ala. -- Sam Smith might not be the first name mentioned when talking about most important players for Ole Miss, but he's been as consistent as anybody.
The sophomore right-hander allowed one run in six innings and kept Arkansas out of sorts with a good mix of three pitches, including a slider that he spotted after an inning or so and a fastball that ranged from 86 to the low 90s.
"I found my slider in the second or third inning and it was a good pitch for me," Smith said.
The Razorbacks (36-19) got the winning run on a Matt Denny wild pitch for a 2-1 win in 10 innings, but Smith was the relevant performance of the day - and potentially a vital piece deep into regional play next weekend. Ole Miss (37-21) head coach Mike Bianco has had a quick hook on the Barbe, La., product, but Smith has given the Rebels a chance every time out.
He's given up a combined 10 runs in his last seven starts, and Ole Miss had the lead when his left the game in four of the final five weeks of the regular season. He had a no-decision in the other one, a 5-4 Ole Miss loss at LSU.
"He's got enough fastball to beat you," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "He works both sides of the plate, and we talk about it all the time, but the truth of the matter is most guys don't do that."
Smith stymied Arkansas on four days rest but only threw 69 pitches during his last start due to a blister on his throwing hand. That blister was bleeding by the end of the sixth inning against Arkansas.
"He couldn't go anymore," Bianco said of Smith. "He was bleeding pretty good and we've got to get him ready for next week."
Smith is undefeated on the season (3-0) with a 3.11 ERA. He's walked 19 in 63.2 innings, but his command has been improved since early in the season.
WAGUESPACK TO START: Ole Miss will play the morning game in the SEC Tournament for the third day in a row, this time against Alabama.
The 9:30 a.m. start is an elimination game.
Freshman right-hander Jacob Waguespack will start for Ole Miss. The Louisiana native dealt with elbow tendonitis for much of the season but has performed well in limited work, allowing three earned runs on seven hits in 9.1 innings. He has three strikeouts and three walks in five appearances.
In his one start this season, Waguespack took the loss against Southern Miss eight days ago, surrendering two earned runs in three innings. Seven of the nine outs were ground balls. He was on somewhat of a pitch count and threw three scoreless before giving up two singles to start the fourth inning. Austin Blunt allowed both those runs to score.
Bobby Wahl could see action in relief, but he'll likely start Friday, should the Rebels win on Thursday.
Wahl worked a little in the bullpen before the game.
"We have to be careful with Wahl," Bianco said. "We have to do what's right for him and the program. As much as we want to have success here, we have to win the following day, too. Someone else has to pitch, and we've really pushed him over the past couple weeks. We need to get closer to what his routine normally is."
ASTIN IN ACE FORM: Arkansas had the luxury of Tuesday off due to being the No. 3 seed, and that allowed the Razorbacks to throw normal Friday pitcher Barrett Astin on five days rest.
Astin delivered a doozy.
The Forrest City, Ark., native, who Ole Miss recruited heavily but couldn't pull him away from the in-state university, used a sinker and a secondary mix to give up just a first-inning run over eight innings. He coaxed 13 groundouts and struck out four Rebels.
Astin threw 90 pitches, 58 strikes and lowered his ERA to 1.94 on the season.
"We'll be happy when he leaves," Bianco said of Astin. "He's a warrior out there. That cut fastball and the slider and a two-seam away from left-handers, he's the complete package. He runs through innings. It's hard to barrel up balls against him."
Bianco tinkered with the lineup on Wednesday, trying to break up the right-handers in the order because Astin is so difficult to hit from that side. One switch was Auston Bousfield to the five spot, and the sophomore struggled, going 0-for-4 and leaving three men on base. Ole Miss left four as a team.
Also Christian Helsel came in for Preston Overbey late in the game, due to Overbey's lingering shin splints that limit his range at second base.
Astin is so tough on right-hander hitters but maybe he'd get a slider up or see something to handle," Bianco said of starting Overbey. "He's hobbled though and just can't get to balls. We have to with better defensive lineup."
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