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April 3, 2012

Rebels head to Pearl with momentum

MORE: OLE MISS STATS|TOP 25

OXFORD, Miss. -- Following the "total team disaster" on March 20, Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco got straight to the point.

His Rebels had just lost their third straight game and were minutes removed from a 10-0 loss to Southern Miss. They weren't scoring runs, pitching was experiencing lapses and errors were compounding on one another.

"We've got to get tougher," Bianco said. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves. You've got to grow up. This is the SEC. You have to handle it. You have to bounce back. That's what we have to figure out."

Two Tuesdays later, No. 10 Ole Miss (20-8, 5-4) has ended the skid and is carrying significant momentum. The Rebels are 5-2 since the Southern Miss debacle, including a profile-enhancing series win over No. 1 Florida this past weekend. The Gators have lost just four games all season, and two of those came in Oxford.

Bianco has been pleased with Ole Miss' mental strength over this stretch. Alabama hit a two-out, two-strike walk-off home run to defeat on March 24, but the Rebels regrouped quickly and put together a late rally to win the series in Tuscaloosa the next day. This past Sunday, the Rebels blew a five-run lead but found two late runs to top the Gators' bullpen, arguably the nation's best.

Now Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss, Ole Miss meets back up with the Golden Eagles (16-12), who lost a series to Rice over the weekend after blowing a 6-0 Sunday lead and carry a No. 94 RPI (Warren Nolan) into the game. The Rebels are at No. 12 in RPI.

While ending a three-game losing streak to Southern Miss and getting some revenge from the shutout shellacking two weeks ago are storylines, the Rebels are more focused on winning a baseball game against a top 100 RPI team and keeping things moving forward prior to a weekend at No. 8 Kentucky.

"Baseball isn't a game you play (with negative emotion)," Bianco said. "You can't play with anger. It's about playing the game well and doing the things we always talk about. In baseball, the best team doesn't always win. It's the team that plays the best. Sounds like coach speak, but it's true. We played a little bit better than Florida this past weekend and subsequently we got the win in two games.

"That's the focus. It's not as much Southern Miss. It's can you come off this weekend after getting all the pats on the bats and refocus and get into the game (Tuesday)."

Ole Miss freshman right-hander Sam Smith (1-2, 4.32) will against face USM sophomore Boomer Scarborough (1-0, 2.54). In the first meeting this season, Smith allowed four runs (one earned) in four innings. Scarborough threw 4.2 scoreless innings.

The trip to Trustmark Park begins a road swing, as Ole Miss will play eight of its next 10 away from Swayze Field. The Rebels host a doubleheader against Central Arkansas on April 10.

"I think (we're mentally tougher)," Bianco said. "We're about to go on the road and play two top 25 teams (Georgia dropped out of the top 25 on Monday). It's yet to be determined how we grow as a team. Can we let this elevate us moving forward?"

WAHL NAMED SEC PITCHER OF THE WEEK: Sophomore right-hander Bobby Wahl has been named the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week, the league office announced on Monday.



Wahl helped the Rebels claim a series win over top-ranked Florida this past weekend with both his arm and his feet, picking up the Friday win on the mound before scoring the game-winning run on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth as a pinch runner.



The Springfield, Va., native took the mound for the Rebels on Friday night and worked eight scoreless innings while holding the Gators to two hits in his time on the mound. The eight innings of work was a career-long for Wahl, who had only one base runner advance past first base in his time on the mound.



The shutout victory for Wahl was his third of the season and improved his record to 5-0 on the season. It was also the first time Florida had been shut out since March 8, 2011.



Wahl then used his feet to help clinch the weekend series on Sunday, entering the game as a pinch runner with one out in the bottom of the ninth. The sophomore pitcher entered to run for his catcher Will Allen who had reached on a single.



Wahl then went first to third on a single up the middle from Preston Overbey before Florida chose to intentionally walk designated hitter Zach Kirksey to get to Senquez Golson. With the bases loaded and a modified infield defense with five defenders after adding an outfielder, Wahl came home on a grounder down the first base line from Golson and scored safely when the throw was off the mark and gave the Rebels the win.

Wahl note provided by Ole Miss media relations.


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