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Ole Miss, Alabama ready for tournament openers


Matthew Stevens



Knowing he is in a win-or-go home scenario, University of Mississippi coach Mike Bianco is throwing one of his weekend starters on short rest.  


The Rebels will be sending junior Mike Mayers to the mound for the opening game of the Southeastern Conference tournament in Hoover, Ala., at 9:30 a.m., against the University of Kentucky at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.  


Mayers (4-5, 3.21) will be making his second consecutive start on four days rest. He threw 105 pitches in a 7-1 loss at Louisiana State University Thursday. Mayers gave up five runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out seven in the series-opening game against the Tigers.  


Ole Miss (36-20, 15-15) has been behind on schedule for the starting rotation after a rainout washed away play two weeks ago in the home finale series against Mississippi State University. Mayers finished the final seven innings, allowing just two hits and striking out five in 94 pitches in a relief effort for Bobby Wahl.  


Earlier in the day, Bianco was unsure during the SEC media teleconference which pitcher the Rebels would announce for their single-elimination contest against the Wildcats. In that media session, Bianco also seemed frustrated with how to approach pitching junior ace Bobby Wahl after the projected first round pick threw Sunday at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. 


In a 10-5 victory over Kentucky at Swayze Field on April 26, Mayers went six innings and allowed just one hit while striking out eight to get the win.  


Wahl (9-0, 1.99) may be held for a possible NCAA Regional opening round game next week as the Rebels are likely to be a two or three-seed when the bracket is announced Monday afternoon.  


"That's another thing we'll talk about (Monday)," Bianco said, "No way he'll start Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday but we could use him out of the bullpen. We want to pitch him and need to pitch him but we have to make sure he is feeling good when the regional rolls around." 


Ole Miss is not only dealing with monitoring weekend starters on short rest but also sophomore right handed pitcher Sam Smith is dealing with a severe blister on his pitching hand that could derail him from any SEC tournament action. Smith, who has made 13 starts this season, hasn't had any injury problems in the past but has averaged just 4.5 innings per start in conference play this season.  


"I don't know, I haven't seen him since Saturday," Bianco said. "It's the first time he's come up with a blister that's been an issue this year. We didn't think it was that big of a deal." 


Tide using victory over Vanderbilt as momentum for Hoover: When you're one of only three teams to accomplish something in your league, it's instant motivation and that's exactly the motto for the University of Alabama baseball program heading into the Southeastern Conference tournament. Alabama (32-24, 14-15) is using its 10-inning victory Friday against No. 1 Vanderbilt University to convince themselves they can make a run in the 2013 SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala. The Tide will open play will play hated rival Auburn University (33-22, 13-17 SEC) in the first round approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Mississippi versus Kentucky game, which starts at 9:30 a.m.  


"We have a confidence with our team that we can play with anybody," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We truly believe that we can play and be competitive with anybody in the country. 


Alabama is slated to start sophomore left-handed pitcher Justin Kamplain (1-0, 4.53), while the Tigers will counter with junior left-handed pitcher Conner Kendrick (5-3, 2.03). Kamplain, who entered the season as the Alabama closer, will make his 20th appearance and sixth start of the season on Tuesday. Kamplain is second on the team with 48 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched and is second on the team with 0.92 strikeouts per inning pitched. 


"We made the decision to try and get the victory against Vanderbilt on Friday night and we went for it," Gaspard said. "He actually threw 38 pitches then and we feel good about him being able to bounce back and get us started well Tuesday."



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