BLOG — Mississippi State lefty Ross Mitchell had allowed 10 earned runs all season entering Friday’s series opener against Ole Miss. The Rebels had five before they were done batting in the top of the fourth.
That’s all the support Ole Miss starter Chris Ellis needed.
Ellis pitched into the seventh, allowing an earned run or less for the seventh time in nine starts, and Ole Miss’ offense finished with 13 hits as the 19th-ranked Rebels started the weekend with a 6-1 victory at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville.
“I thought our guys did an excellent job tonight that, even some close pitches that were called, we didn’t swing at, which was good because you’re going to hit them into the ground and it’s going to be a ground-ball double play or a ground-ball out,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “I thought our guys were very patient. You’re never going to bang (Mitchell) around, that’s just not going to happen. But I thought tonight, we hit him about as well as you can.”
Ellis had another productive outing even if he didn’t have his best command. The junior right-hander scattered eight hits, walked one and hit a batter before leaving with two outs in the seventh, but an RBI groundout from designated hitter Alex Detz scoring Derrick Armstrong in the third was the only offense the Bulldogs mustered.
Ellis improved to 5-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.81.
“It was a command feel for me,” Ellis said. “I had to buckle down a couple times and focus on hitting a low spot or enticing a ground ball. I thought the defense worked well behind me when I did that.”
The bigger surprise was the swings the Rebels (28-8, 8-5 Southeastern Conference) were able to get off against Mitchell, who sported a 1.54 ERA coming in and was holding opponents to .198 average. Ole Miss started fast, tallying five hits through the first two innings to grab a 3-0 lead on RBI singles from Brantley Bell and Sikes Orvis and an RBI double from Braxton Lee.
The Rebels answered Mississippi State’s lone run with a pair in the fourth. Preston Overbey and Errol Robinson started the frame with back-to-back singles and came home on Will Allen’s groundout and another double from Lee, who was one of five Rebels to finish with multiple hits.
Orvis finished with two RBIs, knocking in the Rebels’ final run with a single in the ninth.
“We really wanted to see the ball up,” said Robinson, who went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .300. “He’s a good pitcher over there, and he’s a soft-tossing lefty, so really moving up in the box, trying to see it deep and also see it up and just drive the ball the other way.”
The Rebels, who started the night ranked second in the SEC in hitting (.304), have pounded out 43 hits in the last three games.
“We’ve really hit it from day one,” Bianco said. “We’re playing well, but I thought tonight we did everything pretty well.”
Mississippi State (21-14, 6-7) had a couple of chances to get back in it late against freshman reliever Wyatt Short, who came on with Ole Miss up 5-1 and a runner on second. But the southpaw induced a grounder from Detz to end the seventh and got Wes Rea to line out to strand a pair of runners in the eighth before retiring the side in order in the ninth for his third save.
“I was just thinking, ‘Go in there, pound the zone, throw strikes,’” Short said. “(Bianco) will leave me in as long as he wants to leave me in.”
In the video below, Ellis talks about his outing and making some crucial pitches when needed to avoid trouble.
The teams will play the second game of the series on Saturday at 3 p.m. Southpaw Christian Trent (4-0, 2.41 ERA) will oppose Mississippi State right-hander Trevor Fitts (2-2, 3.41). The game can be seen on SportsSouth. (April 11, 2014)