Ole Miss had been waiting for sophomore right-hander Josh Laxer to be himself. Tuesday night he was.
By: Jeff Roberson, OMSpirit.com
The Rebels returned home from their sweep of Florida International as four pitchers, starting with Laxer, combined for a 2-0 win over Southeastern Louisiana.
“It was his best outing of the year,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco of Laxer’s 5.1 innings, no runs, four hits, two walks, one strikeout performance. “He’s kind of been up and down. He’s so talented. He’s going to have a lot more nights like this. Sometimes you need a night like this to kind of push you through.”
Laxer said Bianco sat him down and talked to him. And he listened and responded.
“Coach (Bianco) actually sat me down yesterday, and I’ve been struggling with my confidence on the mound. He told me to go out there and pitch like I’m the No. 1 prospect in the nation. That helped me a lot, him sitting me down and telling me to have confidence out there. That’s been my biggest struggle so far this year.”
Laxer said Bianco knew just what to say, too.
“Coach B’s a man of very good words, and he shed some on me yesterday. I’m very happy for that.”
Laxer emphasized this performance was big for him.
“Of course it is,” he said. “I really needed this outing.”
Bianco said the message was clear.
“I just told him to pitch like he did when he was in high school, to have that body language and go out and be the guy you can be,” he said. “And to pitch with a lot of confidence. I thought he pitched really well today.”
Laxer was relieved by freshman left-hander Matt Denny, who continues to come in and give the Rebels effective innings. Denny went two innings of no run, no hit baseball with a walk and three strikeouts.
“What’s really happened with (Denny) is that he’s worked with Coach (Carl) Lafferty and T.J. (Beam) in the bullpen, especially since he’s been back in January with the breaking ball,” Bianco said. “Of the left-handers we’ve got, he’s got the best breaking ball. Out of the left-handers we’ve got, he seems to be the best lefty-lefty matchup out of the bullpen. He’s just continued to improve.”
Tanner Bailey went two-thirds of an inning, followed by Brett Huber who finished things off.
“I thought Denny and Bailey did what they’ve done all year long, and that’s really attack the strike zone in relief,” Bianco said. “Huber had a little more difficulty than normal in the ninth. But he struck out the four-hole guy and then gets the last guy out to end the game. So a pretty clean game by us.”
The Rebels scored in the fourth inning, manufacturing a run when Tanner Mathis was hit by a pitch to open the inning. Austin Anderson put down a sac bunt to move Mathis to second before a Stuart Turner double to left field scored Mathis to put Ole Miss on the board.
A sixth-inning solo home run by Anderson added to the UM lead. The junior shortstop was happy to get one, his first round-tripper of the season.
“I don’t get many,” said Anderson, laughing. “He left it up, so I put a good swing on it and it went over the fence. I knew I hit it pretty good. It felt good.”
Laxer (1-0) got the win. Huber got his fifth save of the year.
The Rebels added another run in the sixth on a Ole Miss (12-1) and Southeastern Louisiana (8-3) play again Wednesday at 11 a.m.