Laxer Shuts The Door In SEC Home Opener

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In game one of last Saturday's doubleheader at No. 1 South Carolina, junior right-hander Josh Laxer allowed three runs in the ninth, as the Gamecocks rallied to win 5-4 in 10 innings.

On Wednesday, Laxer bounced back and earned the save in a 4-3 win for Ole Miss over Arkansas State. He followed that outing with a five-out save, his third save of the season, to close out a 4-3 win over Missouri in the Rebels' SEC home opener Friday night.

"Coach B sat me down after that game, and he said I went in there and did what he wanted me to do, which was throw strikes," said Laxer, referring to the 5-4 loss at South Carolina. "He told me if I wanted to be the closer for this team that I to have to have a short memory, and that's what I tried to do."

"He was terrific," head coach Mike Bianco said. "I'm really proud of him. He's done that basically the whole year."

Missouri had cut the Ole Miss lead from 4-0 to 4-3 on three-straight base hits in the eighth when Bianco called for Laxer out of the bullpen, the Rebels' fourth different pitcher of the inning. He inherited the would-be game-tying run at first with one out.

Laxer struck out the first batter, and senior catcher Will Allen erased the runner at first throwing him out at second on an attempted steal. He came back out for the ninth and worked a scoreless inning, punctuated by his strikeout of the game.

"I was kind of expecting to go in in the ninth, but I'm learning slowly but surely," Laxer said. "I'm not used to coming out of the pen, but you have to get ready fast. That's what I had to do and I did. I was just happy to come in and get outs for my team."

Ole Miss staked a 4-0 lead after three runs in the first and another in the third. Senior third baseman Austin Anderson hit a two-run home run into the right-field bullpen, and junior first baseman Sikes Orvis followed with a solo shot to nearly the same area two batters later in the first.

Down 4-0, Missouri threatened in the fifth with runners at second and third and no outs, but Ellis limited the damage to one run. For the game, Ellis allowed one run -- unearned -- on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts, as he lowered his earned run average from 0.82 to 0.67. 

"It was his best outing in three or four weeks," Bianco said. "He had good command with all three pitches. He got ahead on a lot of hitters."

"Mental toughness is a lot of it," said Ellis of his ability to strand runners this season, including five against Missouri. "(Strength and conditioning coach) Ben Fleming kicking our butts in the weight room helps a lot with it, and not just trying to throw it by people like last year but being able to make pitches."

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