A sense of toughness and maturity beamed from an Ole Miss baseball team that took two of three on the road at Texas A&M this past weekend. A team whose confidence is continuing to grow gutted out a pair of one-run wins on Thursday and Saturday to improve to 22-3 (4-2) on the season.
Each game saw a relatively early exit for Ole Miss' starting pitcher, an uncharacteristic occurrence for what has been a good weekend rotation. But it was picked up each time by the bullpen, headlined by Parker Caracci getting the final five outs on Thursday night and the last three on Saturday to close out the series.
Caracci whiffed Braden Shewmake and Logan Foster -two of the better hitters in the Southeastern Conference - in the eighth inning of Thursday's game to escape a bases-loaded, one-out jam made more complicated by a long replay of a play on a call at second base. Caracci blew fastball after fastball by the Aggie hitters, hitting 98 on the stadium radar gun. It was the biggest moment of the season for a guy who has earned every opportunity afforded to him this season.
"We knew he was a strike thrower. We knew he would fill up the zone with his fastball and slider. In the fall his fastball got up to 95 but was inconsistent," head coach Mike Bianco said. "We saw some spurts of this just not as consistent as this. Now that he has been back out in the spring and fully rested, and being out there, it is a tough position, to get out there on that bump by yourself with 10,000 people watching and to be able to perform in a game. Those last three outs are tough to get. The other thing is composure. Will they be able to perform? He surely has been lights out for us this year.
Caracci has progressed mightily since the upper 80s strike-thrower Bianco saw coming out of Jackson Preparatory School four years ago. His velocity has risen to the mid 90s with a good slider to complement it. The consistency Bianco alluded to finally meshed with the stuff he'd shown flashes of and it's equated to a breakout redshirt sophomore season.
"I didn't expect it this early," Caracci said. "They've helped me with my mechanics, getting into my lower half more and really learning to attack the strike zone."
Will Ethridge's three innings of scoreless, two-hit baseball in relief of Ryan Rolison paved the way for Caracci's moment on Thursday. Ethridge stranded two runners at second and third when he came in during the fifth inning to keep the game at 4-2 A&M and keep the Rebels in it. On Sunday, the bulk of the bullpen chipped in as Jordan Fowler, Greer Holston, Ethridge and Dallas Woolfolk ate up 6.2 innings of the game in relief of James McArthur before Caracci came on in the ninth. A bullpen that has been the backbone of this baseball team came through in multiple spots on the road to deliver a series win over a top 15 team.
"It is a luxury," Bianco said of his bullpen. "These guys have more depth and can give some different looks."
What impressed Bianco the most? His team won a road series in a weekend when it didn't play well admittedly, especially on the mound from the starting pitching where the Rebels have been so dominant this year.
"We won two out of three this weekend but we didn't play great," Bianco said. "The first two days offensively didn't do much until the end of the game. Our starting pitching was the worst its been all year. There are always things we can work on. I am proud of the way we played and competed, but it certainly was not our cleanest games. It shows a lot of toughness and competitiveness you have to have in our league."
Ole Miss got hits when it mattered in the late innings, something that had eluded it last season. It came from all over, too. From Chase Cockrell who went 5-8 in the final two games. Cockrell's had a breakout sophomore season. He made a mechanical adjustment by widening his stance and reducing his front leg kick in the box over the fall and winter, and it has allowed him to put more balls in play this year. With his power, fewer strikeouts have produced more hits. As simplistic as it sounds, that's been a difference maker at the plate.
"He's so strong and has tremendous bat speed," Bianco said. "Not just power with home runs, when he touches the ball and puts it into play, his hit percentage is really high. He had that last year. He got to a point where he was striking out too much. He is putting more balls into play this year, breaking balls and off-speed pitches."
Thomas Dillard hit a go-ahead double to give the Rebels an eighth inning lead on Thursday night. He has a 14-game hitting streak working. It came from Cole Zabowski and Will Golsan, who combined to go 5-10 with 4 RBIs in the finale.
"I think it is just guys having good years," Bianco said. "Certainly, we have a physical lineup. The biggest difference I see is that we are better hitters than we were statistically. Guys are getting good, confident swings off. That is certainly a good combination."
Bianco said he spoke to his starting pitchers about trusting themselves and their stuff, not getting caught up in swings and misses and battling to find a way to win a ballgame.
"They are so talented and there have been times where, I don't want to say easy, but success came quicker," Bianco said. "Texas A&M was excellent offensively. They hit it hard. They had 17 two-strike base hits. I don't know if I have ever seen that. Nine on Saturday. I think at times we got frustrated with that. We'd been striking out so many people that when you don't get a strikeout, or even a ground out or pop up, it got to us a little bit."
Ole Miss will need its starters as it enters a week of four games against ranked teams, beginning Tuesday with Southern Miss before third-ranked Arkansas comes to Swazye for a series this weekend. It will be a top-five match up between two SEC West teams looking to gain ground early in the conference slate.
First pitch on Tuesday is set for 6:30 p.m.
At Ole Miss' Pro Day on Tuesday March 27, 11 Rebels will go through drills and workouts with the hope of catching the eye of NFL scouts and teams.
A pair of offensive linemen in Daronte Bouldin and Rod Taylor will be on the field as well as Breeland Speaks and Marquis Haynes, who became a formidable duo on the Ole Miss defensive line this past season. Running back Jordan Wilkins and kicker Gary Wunderlich will also be on display for teams on Tuesday.
Below is a full lists from Ole Miss' 2017 team who will be participating in tomorrow's Pro Day.
The event is closed to the public, but fans are encouraged to follow along on Twitter (@OleMissFB) beginning at 9:30 a.m.
OXFORD, Miss. - Nearly 200 fans from all over made their way inside the gates of Vaught Hemingway-Stadium and onto Jerry Hollingsworth Field to compete in the first-ever Fan Pro Day as part of Ole Miss' Year of the Fan initiative.
Kids in eighth grade and under, Ole Miss students, as well as adults over the age of 22 made their way around 10 different drill stations set up across the field and put their NFL Combine-like football skills to the test.
The events consisted of a 40-yard dash, cone drill, field goal competition, punt catch, quarterback competition, shuttle run, tackle dummy obstacle, vertical jump, hot dog eating contest and a cooler pull and dig.
Nat Dean and his son, Drew, of Water Valley, made a pitstop on their way home from a baseball tournament in Southaven to let Drew flash his skills on the gridiron.
"I think this is really neat," Nat said. "I think it is a great way to get fans engaged by getting to be on the field and all of the festivities ."
Drew's favorite drill?
"Probably the 40-yard dash," he said as he pointed to his scoresheet that showed a quick time.
Nat said it was Drew's first time getting to be on the field.
"They get a feeling of being big time by playing on a surface where big time athletes play," Nat said. "I think it's cool for them to get to experience that.
Kelly and her daughter, Kailey, drove more than six hours all the way from Vancleave, Mississippi, to come partake in the fun. Kailey said the vertical jump was her favorite station.
Barrett Hopkins and his son, Hayden, trekked down from Ripley for them both to go through the gauntlet of drills. Hayden was partial to the quarterback throwing drills as he ran around on the field for the first time.
"This has been really cool," Barrett said. "We have always wanted to come down onto the field."
Barrett caught a ball on the jugs machine and decided to retire on top.
"I caught one and walked away," he said with a grin.
Contestants times and scores at each drill flashed across the video board as kids ran through the drills and pummeled some tackling dummies.
The nearly two hour event allowed the fans to emulate the athletes they've watched for so many years inside Vaught-Hemingway as well as gave them an early taste of Saturday afternoons next fall.
When Eric Swinney looks around the running back group meeting room, he can quickly see he's now the oldest guy in the room. That comes a leadership role he's beginning to embrace.
He's now taken it upon himself to mentor some of the younger running backs that Matt Luke has been bullish on throughout spring ball.
"It's different taking on a leadership role," Swinney said. "I am trying to help the new guys out like Isaiah and Armani (Linton), even Scottie. Telling them to study the playbook, get in the film room and getting the calls even when they are not on the field."
Luke said after practice on Tuesday the two biggest surprises of the spring have been newcomers Isaiah Woullard and junior college transfer Scottie Phillips. Swinney tends to agree with his head coach.
"They're learning the system really fast and making plays, man. Isaiah is quick an strong. Scottie is making big time plays and they're going to do well for us," Swinney said.
Swinney's a guy who's endured a pair of catastrophic leg injuries, the second coming on his first touch in game action after surviving the first in the Rebels' 2016 season opener against Florida State. It forced him to sit out a second straight college season.
Last year, Swinney finally got back onto the field, carrying the football 41 times for 195 yards. It was a start, and more importantly, Swinney began to feel like his old self again.
"I am not really adjusting to it, but I feel like I am getting back to myself a little bit when I am out there," Swinney said.
He says he's put on more weight and has become a more deliberate back as a result of the injuries. Aside from that, he doesn't feel any major lingering effects anymore. He's healthy again.
"Everything feels like it has balanced out," Swinney said. "My body is feeling great. I am taking care of myself. Just learning how to take care of my body has really helped me."
Swinney's enjoyed seeing some newcomers emerge around him. Between he and D'Vaughn Pennamon, he hopes this team will begin to compile some depth in the backfield. Phillips and Woullard's emergence will only add to that.
"We're working well together," Swinney said. "We're competing out there just working every day and getting in the film room. We're trying to make this team better."
Ole Miss is now on the back end of of spring practice as the culmination nears with the Grove Bowl in two weeks. The Rebels are banged up and have held some guys out of practice as a precaution. It's allowed some of the younger players to get more reps, like Ben Brown on the offensive line. He's been working with the first team the last couple of days.
"It helps out a lot," Brown said. "It's a lot faster paced for sure. There are a lot of very talented players. I am just happy to be getting the reps."
Brown got adjusted to the speed of the college game as a freshman last year as he redshirted and the coaching staff is hopeful he will be a contributor this fall to pad the offensive line depth with the departure of Daronte Bouldin and Rod Taylor. Depth up front helped the Rebels battle some attrition on the offensive line last season and kept the running game afloat late in the season.
"I feel really prepared," Brown said. "Getting to learn from the older guys has been a big time help."
This weekend's series at Blue Bell Park between Ole Miss and Texas A&M will feature two teams that mirror each other in a lot ways.
Both clubs pitch it well and are one and two in the SEC in team ERA with the Rebels carrying a slight edge at 2.19 to the Aggies' 2.32. Both teams are also hitting exactly .300 as a team through 22 games and one weekend of conference play.
Two veteran rotations will square off against each other beginning with sophomore lefty Ryan Rolison facing junior Aggie right-hander Stephen Kolek, a four-pitch guy with a good fastball and a wipeout slider. Kolek made 10 SEC starts a year ago for the Texas A&M, going 2-4 with a 4.55 ERA.
"It's always fun getting into SEC play facing the best arms," Thomas Dillard said. "These are the things you look forward to when you commit to Ole Miss."
Friday will feature Brady Feigl, Ole Miss' junior righty, who has been consistently dominant through the first month of the season. Feigl scattered four hits and one run over 6.1 innings in a win over Tennessee last Saturday to move to 5-0 on the year. He'll square off against lefty John Doxakis, a big 6-foot-4 frame who can hit 94 with good secondary stuff. Doxakis is 3-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 27.1 innings this year.
James McArthur and Mitchell Kilkenny will round out the series on Saturday. Ole Miss faced Kilkenny out of the bullpen a year ago, and he's been dominant for the Aggies this season with a 5-0 record and 1.32 ERA in 34 innings.
"We have all heard about their arms," catcher Cooper Johnson said. "They've got three really good ones and it is going to be a challenge. As a catcher, I definitely respect that, a good pitching matchup.
This will likely be a tight series with two teams that have a lot of arms. The Ole Miss staff surrendered just one run over its final 20 innings of baseball last weekend after dropping the series opener to Tennessee. Pitching was thought to be the core strength of this team going into the season, and it has certainly shown the ability to lock opponents down for extended stretches over the course of a weekend.
"With the three guys we have on the weekend, it is a pretty reassuring feeling," Johnson said. "You only have to score a couple of runs. Obviously, you want to score nine runs every time, but with the level of competition we face, it is tough to do that. It is definitely reassuring to know if we string a couple innings together and score some runs, our starters will take us deep into the game and we have a lot of guys in the bullpen who can come in and shut it down."
This will be the first time the Rebels will enter an SEC road environment this season =. Mike Bianco thinks his team is eager for the challenge.
"They're very similar to us statistically in the sense they do a lot of things well," Bianco said. "They pitch it well. All three of their starters are really good and it should be a good challenge for us. Going on the road and the first tough environment for us. There should be good crowds with a top-10 matchup. I think these guys are excited."
Ole Miss last won a series in College Station two trips ago in 2014, when it clinched the SEC West on its way to Omaha. First pitch on Thursday is set for 6 p.m. CT and will air on SEC Network.
"They're a good team like and have played good competition like we have," Johnson said. "I think we are just focused on playing the game and ourselves, taking it day-by-day and competing."
Ole Miss returned to the practice field after a week-long hiatus during spring break. The Rebels are now in the second half of spring football, culminating with the Grove Bowl on April 7.
"There may have been a couple of mistakes from the layoff, but the energy was good," head coach Matt Luke said of the team's return to the field. "I thought they were physical. They had good session with weights yesterday to kind of get back into the swing of things and I thought it was a good practice."
Luke was bullish on two positions in particular, the running backs and the linebackers, two spots the Rebels have holes to fill from departures from the 2017 team and also two positions with some of new faces that will need to contribute next season. He was pleased with how the linebackers have been playing downhill against the run and the consistency of their reads.
"I really like that they're taking on Coach Sumrall's personality and playing physical," Luke said. "I saw a couple of physical plays that I haven't been seeing. Them playing down hill against the run and being physical. Josh Clarke made a really good play blowing up a play in the hole. There are some really good things going on, but obviously a long way to go and plenty to improve on."
On the other side of the football - one of the positions the linebackers have been tasked with neutralizing - Luke had high praise for newcomer Scottie Phillips at running back before the team departed for spring break. He hasn't changed his tune since on the the number one junior college running back in the country.
"I was cautiously optimistic before they got there but now, Scottie broke another long run towards the end of practice. We are really really pleased with them," Luke said.
The Armini Linton project at running back took a small setback as he's been dealing with a hamstring injury. But Luke and the staff saw enough of the former defensive back to feel confident about keeping him on the offensive side of the football for the foreseeable future. Linton played running back in high school. While the concept isn't completely foreign, he's using the spring to learn the playbook and various blocking and running reads.
The Rebels return D'Vaughn Pennamon and Eric Swinney at this position, two guys who have game experience and a decent bit of SEC touches. Luke knows what he as in them. He wants to use spring ball to see what guys like Phillips and Isaiah Woullard bring to the table, as well as the newly-transformed Linton.
"They have to keep coming," Luke said. "They've made some mistakes but they keep coming along. Swinney has been solid. He knows what to do. We want to see some of those new guys."
Ole Miss has a number of guys banged up through offseason surgeries and the natural attrition that comes in the football offseason. It's allowing other guys to get more reps in practice as the Rebels attempt to build depth next fall. Tight end Octavious Cooley is a one player who has benefitted from increase practice time with Dawson Knox being sidelined with a foot injury.
"Looks like he has his weight in check and looks like he is in the best shape he has been in since he has been here," Luke said. "That has really helped him become more consistent by not just making one good play, but several in a row. We are really pleased with that."
Luke envisioned possibly playing Cooley and Knox at the same time next season.
"It gives us the flexibility to play some 12 personnel with he and Dawson out there at the same time. It is really exciting to see him playing the way he is," Luke said.
The same is true on the defensive line with Benito Jones and Qaadir Sheppard nursing injuries. None of the injuries will affect guys going into fall camp, so the staff is framing it as a positive in the sense that they can focus on getting younger players ready to contribute next fall.
"It's the same thing with Ross (Donelly) and Sincere (David)," Luke said. "They are getting more reps than they've ever gotten before and it's making them better. It will get us depth when Benito (Jones) and Qaadir (Sheppard) come back. It will just make us better."
Kermit Davis walked onto a makeshift stage constructed on the floor of the court he will put a product on next fall as he returned to his home state to be introduced as Ole Miss' next head men's basketball coach.
As Davis took the microphone to address a host of fans sitting in the seats in front of him, he alluded to what he'd like to build this brand into.
"We built a a national brand of basketball at Middle Tennessee State," Davis said. "What is the Ole Miss Basketball brand going to look like? Relentless, athletic and a team that is going to play hard and be tough to beat. We are going to play fast and smart, get easy buckets in transition."
Davis spent 16 years at a mid-major program in Murfreesboro. Admittedly, he didn't go seeking opportunities elsewhere as other jobs came along and then passed by. This one felt right to the 58-year-old Mississippi native.
"We were there for 16 years and really happy there," Davis said. "I was comfortable and thought I might spend the rest of my life there. I always said I would only leave for a prestigious university in the best conference in America."
"As the process went on, I knew this was the place for me. I wanted to align myself with leadership that I trust, aggressive-thinking leadership and leadership that is all-in with Ole Miss Basketball. The infrastructure there and all of the things I feel about coming home to the state of Mississippi and coaching in the SEC. It will all be a perfect fit."
The first step for Davis will be building a roster. In the next couple of weeks, he says he will travel to meet a number of current Ole Miss signees in Serrel Smith and Zach Naylor.
"We have a system of play," Davis said. "It's a system we know how to recruit to meet the needs in order for Ole Miss to be successful in this system. I think with this product to sell, we are going to get new players."
It will also consist of meeting with the current players on the Ole Miss roster and fighting the attrition that naturally comes with the fickle industry that is college basketball. Davis says he feels good about the conversations he has had with the current players, many of whom were in attendance as he was introduced.
"As I went through this process I was only worried about two things, my players at Middle Tennessee and the players at Ole Miss," Davis said. "We have had great positive conversations with all of them and talked about the process. We had a great team meeting. They have all been very receptive and this is just a start. I told those guys I don't come into one team meeting and think I know everybody and can figure everyone out. It's going to be a process. I told them this is natural."
Davis will bring Ronnie Hamilton and Win Case off of his staff at Middle Tennessee and said he will conduct a search for the third assistant while also meeting with the current Ole Miss assistant coaches. He has a $900,000 pool for assistant coaches.
"One thing Ross has done is he has given us the means to go out and hire as good a staff as anyone in the SEC," Davis said. "We are going to do that."
Davis has a record of 403-238 as a head coach. He boasts nine seasons of 24 or more wins and is an eight-time conference coach of the year. All of these were factors that kept Ross Bjork gravitating back to Davis throughout the search process. He morphed a struggling Blue Raider program in a consistent winner and spoke with a sense of eagerness to continue building on what has been started at Ole Miss.
"I am in heaven," Davis said. "We are carrying a big bat into recruiting. I know a lot of people in the SEC carry one too, but we've got an experience we can really, really sell."
OXFORD, Miss. - A heavy dosage of mid-90s fastballs was the remedy for James McArthur's six innings of two-hit baseball in a 5-0, series-clinching win over Tennessee on Sunday afternoon. The junior right-hander worked both sides of the plate, as well as the top and bottom of the strike zone, keeping the Volunteer offense off balance for the entirety of his outing.
"Filling up the zone with fastballs," McArthur said of his day. "A whole lot of fastballs today, working up in the zone and bringing it back down to the knees when I need to. A lot of fastballs and attacking hitters with them."
McArthur found a rhythm from the first pitch on and really didn't have many stressful innings aside from stranding a pair of runners twice in the first three frames. Tennessee struggled to barrel up the lanky righty's heater and sparsely made hard contact as he worked in enough breaking balls to keep them honest.
"I thought he was terrific," Bianco said. "I think sometimes you can get caught up in the strikeouts because we can strike some people out. He had four today. When you are in the SEC and go six innings without giving up a run and really only a couple hard hit balls, he really controlled both sides of the plate."
Parker Caracci took the baseball from McArthur in the seventh and struck out seven hitters in the final three innings as the two combined for a four-hit shutout. After a six-run seventh inning doomed Ole Miss on Friday night, its pitching staff gave up just one run over its final 20 innings of baseball.
"We knew could pitch," Bianco said. "I am just proud of the way we responded after we gave up eight on Friday. Certainly, that had a lot to do with our fielding and only having one inning in which we couldn't get off the field. To answer after that, to swing it really well and pitch it really well over the last two days and play clean defense says a lot about how we are playing."
McArthur received an early cushion when Jacob Adams demolished a 1-2 fastball inside over the right field fence in Ole Miss' first at bat of the game.
"It's awesome," McArthur said of his early cushion. "First at-bat and you put a run up on the board, you can't ask for much more than that."
Ole Miss hit three home runs on the day, coming from Cole Zabowski in the sixth and a two-run shot off the bat of Thomas Dillard in the eighth to put the game away. Ole Miss scored 18 runs this weekend and Adams was 6-for-10 with five RBI and two runs scored.
"Really just staying agreossive and hunting fastballs and adjusting to the off speed," Adams said. "Just aggressive with my approach."
He has looked sharp at second base. After sitting out of fall practice with a broken foot, Adams thinks he is getting more comfortable at his position.
"I definitely have gotten more comfortable as the season has gone on," Adams said. "Just getting confident with certain plays I have been able to make in practice and carrying it over to the game. I felt pretty comfortable over there."
Adams is hitting .366 with a pair of home runs and now a six-hit weekend in his SEC debut.
"Just a great weekend," Bianco said. "There's a kid who was here this fall but didn't get to play. He kept his head up and when he has gotten his opportunities he has played really well."
The Rebels' other six-hit weekend came in just two games for shortstop Grae Kessinger, who did not play on Sunday due to injury. Anthony Servideo manned shortstop in his place and Adams hit in the leadoff slot. Bianco said there was a chance Kessinger could've played today but elected not to as a precaution. He believes the sophomore will not be out for an extended period of time.
Caracci's dominance allowed Ole Miss to rest veteran closer Dallas Woolfolk this weekend, a guy the team will heavily rely on to get through the grind of an SEC season. This was a good start to the weekend for this team and its confidence. Bianco was happy with how the Rebels responded to a Friday night defeat and was pleased with how Ole Miss played in all three phases after that.
The Rebels return to action on Tuesday morning against New Orleans before hitting the road for a series at Texas A&M next weekend. First pitch on Tuesday is slated for 11 a.m.
Mike Bianco balked on declaring Brady Feigl's 6.1 inning, nine-strikeout outing on Saturday against Tennessee his best one, but that's mostly because there have been ample to choose from.
The junior right-hander has been consistently dominant sandwiched in the middle of a lethal weekend rotation. He improved to 5-0 on the season by stifling the Volunteers in a 7-1 Ole Miss win, scattering four hits over six-plus innings with his only blemish coming on a first-pitch fastball to Justin Ammons in the sixth.
"It's hard to say it is the best because he has been so, so sharp," Bianco said. "It's hard to be critical of what he just did, locating the fastball on both sides of the plate and to throw all three pitches. Even today he used the change up a bit. I am proud of him. I am proud of this effort."
Feigl fanned nine hitters and walked just one. He's struck out 34 and walked three batters this season, a remarkably consistent pace at this juncture in the season. As Bianco alluded to, he's been able to work his fastball on both sides of the plate and compliment it with a change up. But it has been the slider that has been the catalyst to all of those swings-and-misses.
"I have been able to funnel it in more," Feigl said. "It is playing up my other pitches. With Fortes or Cooper behind the plate, they make them look a lot better back there."
The pitch is one that's always been the wipeout call for Feigl, but also one in the past he has struggled to harness consistent command for. Before the season started he mentioned that pitch as being a large factor in his consistent success. He is in full control of it and is reaping the benefits of its bite.
"The slider is such a swing-and-miss pitch," Bianco said. "I thought at times last year he just couldn't get it in the zone enough. It doesn't make for a bad year. It just makes for him to sometimes to be on his heels. This year it is obviously in the zone a lot more. It has helped his other pitches. It has helped him be more free with his fastball and freedom to use his change up like he did today."
Ole Miss hasn't been punched in the mouth often this year, once in the series opener at Long Beach State and once on Friday night to open this SEC series, but each time Feigl has led the charge in issuing a responding blow. He's connected each time.
"That's why we do it," Feigl said. "That's why we go out there to Long Beach.. The biggest thing is to be able to punch back. It's swing day. It's the offense, the defense and the pitching. We did that today."
There wasn't much stress on his shoulders today due to his brilliance, but the made pitches to get off the field when trouble beckoned. A fastball inside in the sixth inning induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to escape a bases loaded no outs jam. A similar situation to what Ole Miss found itself in in the seventh inning of Friday's game. Tennessee was able to get two hits and take control of the game. Today, the Rebels thwarted any momentum it could've gained.
"That's huge," Bianco said. "Those are game winners. You look back at those plays and wonder what a difference that would made. Last night they hit a double in the gap and today they would've been back in it. Those are huge plays."
Feigl jogged off the right side of the mound with a fist pump as demonstrative and precise as his arsenal of pitchers were on this Saturday afternoon.
"Feigl is terrific," Grae Kessinger said. "You know what you're going to get and it is just fun to watch him do his thing."
Kessinger had a three-hit day to bring his hit total to six on the weekend and helped Ole Miss ambush Tennessee starter Garrett Stallings by putting up two runs in the second, one in the third and three in the fourth. Jacob Adams roped two extra-base hits down the right field line in the second and fourth innings that produced 3 RBIs and gave Feigl a cushion. Kessinger had two RBIs himself and is now hitting .393 on the season. The Rebels evened the series at one apiece.
James McArthur will go tomorrow in the rubber game at noon.
The 2017 SEC season brought with it some hard lessons and adverse situations for a young Ole Miss ball club. But this time around, a team that ran through its nonconference slate at 17-1 and has consistently shown signs of being a more mature team is ready for another crack at league play.
"That's one of the things you come to college dreaming of," sophomore left fielder Thomas Dillard said. "The Friday night lights in the SEC with 10,000 people at every game. It is good that it is here. We have had a good start to the season but in SEC play we have to keep ramping it up and coming to the field ready to play every day."
Dillard's hitting at a torrid .350 mark with four long balls and 15 RBI through the first 18 games and is one of the slew of Rebels from last year's core that has taken the next step forward at the plate. Dillard is getting more at-bats from the left side early on and is hitting much better from that side of the plate as a result. He isn't concerned with the imbalance. Last year, he hit .200 average points higher from the right side. Dillard just thinks it is a matter of sample size this year.
"A switch-hitter is two different hitters technically speaking because you are using two different sides of the brain," Dillard said with a grin. "Last year, I think I hit .200 points better right handed and this year I am hitting better from the left side. I am just trying to find a happy medium. I haven't gotten many right-handed at-bats but I know Tennessee is throwing lefty so I just need to go out and compete to help my team win."
He'll get opportunities from the right side when facing Volunteer lefty and Friday night starter Garrett Crochet.
"I think it is sample size," Dillard said. "I have hit a lot of hard balls right at somebody. I think it is sample size and a little unluckiness."
Dillard isn't the only one ready for another go around in the Southeastern Conference. Sophomore shortstop Grae Kessinger--who has compiled a team-leading 24 hits in the leadoff slot--is eager to get back into the heat of SEC competition.
"We've had a good first part of the season, but when this time of the year comes around the feeling in the air gets special," Kessinger said. "We are really ready to get back after it and prove this team is ready to go for SEC play."
Kessinger has benefitted from an aggressive approach in the leadoff slot, hunting for an early fastball to drive. It has proved to be fruitful and equated to him hitting .338 with seven extra-base hits.
"It has just been staying consistent with what I want to do," Kessinger said. "It doesn't matter how one game or one pitch goes, just sticking with my approach and staying true to who you are. I think that has really helped me."
One thing head coach Mike Bianco has been pleased with is his team's response to adverse situations. Its first loss came in the series opener at Long Beach State, and the team has proceeded to rattle off nine consecutive wins since. It escaped a slippery ninth inning on Tuesday at Georgia State, one in which Dallas Woolfolk worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in a 5-3 game.
"We all want it easy," Bianco said. "We all want to win 10-0 or 16-2 as we did the next day, but it is not going to happen. You have to be able to be in those games and you learn a lot about yourself in those games. I am proud of the way we handled it."
Granted, Bianco noted the snafus that led to the tight spot were partially self-inflicted, but the toughness and maturity his team displayed to get out of it and seal a close game was telling to him. Tim Elko made a sharp play on a ground ball to third, and then the Rebels turned a nifty 3-2-3 double play to end the threat and the ballgame.
"We put a lot of pressure on ourselves but the good news is that we were able to handle it," Bianco said. "Dallas handled it on the mound and had two nice plays from Elko and Fortes to finish the game. It is good for you. Those are the things in which you find out what kind of club you are."
Ole Miss is 17-1 and playing good, clean baseball heading into the beginning of the most important portion of the season.
"You have to come ready to play every day," Kessinger said. "It doesn't matter how Friday, Saturday or Sunday goes. All of these teams can beat you on any given day. You have to be mature and take care of your business each day without looking forward or into the past."
14 For '14,
2013 World Championships,
2014 Season Highlight,
2014 World Cup,
2014 World Cup Brazil,
2014 Year in Review,
2015 NFL Draft,
2015 Rebels' Choice Awards,
2016 SEC Women's Golf Championships; Kory Henkes; Ole Miss Women's Golf; Rory McIlroy;,
2016 Summer Olympics,
3 Things About Gameday,
3 Things You Should Know About Gameday,
38: The Chucky Mullins Effect,
A Year in Review,
A Year in Review 2014,
Alabama Crimson Tide,
Arkansas Women's Basketball,
Armintie Price Herrington,
Athletics Week in Review,
BBVA Compass Bowl,
Be The Fan,
Best of the Season,
Best Seat in the House,
Billy Van Devender,
Bo Wallace Stadium,
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Bram ten Berge,
By The Numbers,
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Egg Bowl Motivational,
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Engineers Without Border,
Episode 1 Sneak Peak,
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Florida Men's Basketball,
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Give To Athletics,
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mary ashton nall,
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Year In Review,
Tiffany J. Moore said:
This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future! in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades
Fiftyyears fan said:
How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC. in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note
Karen Holden said:
Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team. in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance
Trent browning said:
Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia
I like what you guys are up too. Such smart work and reporting! Keep up the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my site in post Madden 17 Ratings for Former Rebels
Jamie laverty said:
Bulmer I love you and ole Miss in post Fast Runner From Down Under
Sharon Hamlin said:
Hi! Really Bulmer is very fantastic & dedicated in his job. Really outstanding & well done... :-) in post Fast Runner From Down Under
Sharon Hamlin said:
Hi! Really motivating post & outstanding job did Bulmer .Loved it... :-) in post Fast Runner From Down Under