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More often than not this season, Ryan Rolison's outings have gone as his fastball command has with the success of the former and latter mirroring one another. On this night--a crucial 5-4, series-opening win over Auburn, which elected to save ace Casey Mize for the second game--the command of that pitch was masterful for the immensely talented lefty. After an uncharacteristically shaky outing at South Carolina last weekend, he gave a hearty 6.2 innings of two-run baseball, striking out five and walking four. Ole Miss needed every bit of it as it held off the Tigers.
"Really it was just my fastball command being better," Rolison said. "I was able to get over a slider when I needed to tonight and was able to fill it up."
He cruised through the first two frames, requiring just 17 pitches before slipping out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third by way of a strikeout, in which he blew an elevated fastball past Steven Williams, and then a nifty play from third baseman Tyler Keenan. Rolison exited the mound with a fist pump as the Rebels preserved an early lead and escaped with no damage.
"I needed to make the big pitch and I haven't done that in the past," Rolison said. "I was able to get that fastball in there for a big strikeout and was able to get out of there with no damage."
Rolison exited the game in the sixth inning after throwing his 95th pitch and looked on as Parker Caracci got the last seven outs after relieving Houston Roth, who faced two batters.
"I thought he was really good," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He was really sharp tonight."
Rolison was spotted the early lead thanks to Will Golsan demolishing an 0-2 fastball offering from Tiger starter Davis Daniel over the left field wall in the second inning. The senior captain sandwiched that and an RBI base hit in the fourth around a Nick Fortes solo shot to a similar spot in the third. Golsan was 2-for-4 on the night with the trio of runs driven in.
"I was sitting fastball and trying to just adjust to a breaking ball," Golsan said. "I happened to get my hands out and was short to it."
Ole Miss needed efforts from places across the diamond to gut this thing out. Keenan made two run-saving plays at third base to get the Rebels out of threatening innings. Keenan drove in the game-deciding run in the sixth by cracking a two-out double down the right field line. Parker Caracci--four days removed from the longest outing of his career--got the last seven outs of the game after the Tigers plated three in the seventh and preserved a one-run affair with his ninth save of the season.
"It's the same thing we have been seeing all season," Golsan said. "He fills up the zone with his fastball and his curveball. He is un-hittable. It is great to see."
A team that had let a couple of one-run games slip recently, but also one that has been good in that department for most of the year as a whole, buckled down for seven more outs.
"I think sometimes it is just the time of the year," Bianco said. "He pitched really well at the beginning of the year. If you run out there in enough of those close games sometimes it doesn't work for you. He hit a two-week span where it didn't work out as much. Some of that may be our fault. Maybe before that we shouldn't have let as many runs score. Maybe after that we should have scored a few more runs. It would be hard to believe we would be where we are without the way he has pitched."
Ole Miss will face Mize on Friday as it goes for its fifth SEC series win of the year.
"It's always nice going out and get the first one of the series," Golsan said. "Tomorrow is going swing day and Casey is going to good. We are going to have to come out, bear down and compete."
Ole Miss did not lose an out-of-conference baseball game at Swayze Field this season, cementing that note with a 10-3 drubbing Arkansas Pine Bluff on Wednesday.
The Rebels are 23-2 in non-conference games this season with one remaining in two weeks at Arkansas State. Here are some news and notes from the game as this team prepares to travel to Columbia this weekend to take on a South Carolina club playing its best baseball of the season.
- Grae Kessinger went 4-for-4 on this day with a double and three runs scored. He's hitting .311 and has been as productive and active in the leadoff spot as head coach Mike Bianco could ask this season.
"I am feeling good at the plate," Kessinger said. "This game is going to have its ups and downs but it is all about keeping a level head and that is what I am trying to do, not doo too much and be yourself."
The sophomore shortstop has 52 hits on the season and is slugging at a .417 mark.
- Dallas Woolfolk turned in a flawless eighth inning in which he struck out two hitters and flung fastballs consistently at 94 miles per hour. He was also flipping his secondary stuff into the zone and looked more like the power weapon out of the bullpen Ole Miss has been accustomed to seeing after struggling a bit in recent weeks.
"I felt pretty good," Woolfolk said. "I cannot thank the coaching staff enough for sticking behind me. You find out how to grow in times of struggle."
Woolfolk says he lost confidence for a bit but quickly regained it and thinks his velocity has been on the uptick as a byproduct of that. He's a vital piece to the Ole Miss bullpen down the home stretch of the season and today was certainly a good sign for him and the ballclub.
"That came back naturally with confidence," Woolfolk said. "It has helped me get along this rough ride, but I am back. It has been about clearing the mind, having positive thoughts and getting back to my roots."
Bianco was pleased with what he saw from the All-American as well.
"He was impressive," Bianco said. "He is a piece that is nice to have in the bullpen. He looked more confident not only with velocity but with command. He looked more like himself."
- Bianco bore more good news concerning the bullpen on this night. He said Houston Roth threw in the bullpen and will travel with team this weekend. The sophomore right-hander has been hampered the last two weeks with a hamstring injury and appears to be getting healthier from Bianco's report.
"I think he will be ready to throw this weekend," Bianco said. "He threw a bullpen today and looked good, looked strong."
- Anthony Servideo mashed his first collegiate home run well over the right-field bullpen in the second inning. Servideo played second base and shortstop late in the game and looked sharp defensively.
"You can see how good he is," Bianco said. "He made a couple of excellent plays in the four-hole and covers so much ground. He can swing it too. He had a good fall offensively and will be a good offensive player for us."
Ole Miss returns to action on Friday against the Gamecocks. First pitch is set for 6:00 p.m. CT.
The pitch was undetectable as it hummed in at 85-miles-per hour out of the hand of LSU pitcher David Fontenot towards an awaiting Thomas Dillard in the bottom of the seventh inning of a 7-6 ballgame LSU led. Fotenot inherited a mess initiated by Caleb Gilbert, who'd let up two runs on a Tim Rowe double and a Grae Kessinger single to pull Ole Miss within a run at 7-6 in this crucial rubber match.
"It might have been a fastball. It might have been a change up. Anything in the zone I was just trying to put a barrel on," Dillard said. "That's one of the things you dream of as a kid, 3-2 count and an opportunity to put your team ahead."
That he did. He demolished the offering into the right field seating for a three-run shot that sent the 12,152 people inside Swayze Field - the largest crowd in the building's history - into a frenzy as the Rebels snagged this late-April series thanks to his thunderous shot that disappeared into the student section in right. He battled back from an 0-2 count to run it full before altering the game permanently with the blast, laying off two high fastballs out of the zone that have enticed the slugger in the past.
"The pitches he laid off were as impressive as the swing and the home run," assistant coach Mike Clement said. "He battles back 3-2 and makes the guy throw something over the plate before doing what Thomas does."
Ole Miss erased a 7-4 deficit on Dillard's first hit of the weekend and largely thanks to the five-run seventh inning that saw a struggling LSU bullpen succumb to the relentless bats of the Rebels in the late innings of the ballgame for the second time in three days. The win vaulted the Rebels to 12-9 in SEC play and 34-11 on the year.
Dillard's theatrics will rightly be remembered for changing the course of this series, but a variety of other efforts saw this comeback come to fruition. Will Ethridge relived Maxwell Cioffi in the third inning after Cioffi tried to hold the game together in succession of James McArthur. Ole Miss led the game 4-1 in the that third inning thanks to a Chase Cockrell three-run home run the second, but the Tigers plated six runs in a third that saw Cioffi and McArthur exit in frustration. Ethridge was having none of that result. He hoisted 5.2 innings of three-hit relief and got the Rebels al the way to the ninth inning before Parker Caracci charged LSU for its final three outs, slipping out of a bases loaded-no outs situation in the process.
"Arguably the most important and valuable in this game," Clement said. "We can't win this game if we don't up a bunch of zeros after the six spot. He did that."
It was Ethridge's longest outing of his career, locating on both sides of the plate an nabbing left-handers on the outside corner.
"I just had to go out there and do my job," Ethridge said. "I was trying to put up zeroes fast and give our offense a chance to put up some runs."
That was really all it needed.
Kessinger battled in a marathon of an at bat in the seventh against Gilbert before stroking a base hit into right-center field to shave the deficit to one. It kept the inning going with one out outs and allowed Dillard to get to the plate after Ryan Olenek fly out and Nick Fortes reaching on an error.
"The two three-run home runs that will get the headlines," Clement said. "Grae got some huge hits. His at bats were huge."
That succeeded Rowe's fifth double in as many days who followed a Keenan double to make it 7-5.
"You could just feel the crowd and the momentum after that and you knew it was going to be hard to stop," Clement said.
The senior delivered an eight-hit week and was invaluably productive in the absence of the team's best hitter in Ryan Olenek, who is slugging .500 in SEC play and returned to the lineup at second base on Saturday after nursing a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder. Rowe's production at the plate merited a fourth consecutive start.
Caracci recorded the final two outs, slipping out of a bases loaded jam mirroring so many predicaments he has solved this season.
"Closers at any level are going to go through adversity," Clement said. "He has responded great. He is the same guy every day."
LSU was a talented yet struggling ball club on the road looking for an opportunity to rectify its season and Ole Miss was having none of it, plating 25 runs in three games to remain atop a crowded SEC West race. It took all hands on deck and this finale was a microcosm of that and perhaps one for a season that's called on so many to do well in clutch situations.
Tyler Keenan had two hits on this day and continues in his pursuit of a freshman campaign as complete and outstanding as anyone Rebel in recent memory. He hit .444 this weekend alone.
Ryan Rolison gave seven innings on Friday night in a 14-3 thrashing. Ethridge nearly matched that in relief on Saturday. Ole Miss hit exceptionally this weekend and pitched it well enough to win two games. The team is in first in the SEC west with three weekends remaining, making this series victory as vital as any in this season.
It was an appeasing result for the more than 32,000 fans that showed up for these three games.
"I've been here four years," Clement said. "This is not normal. This is a football environment in a baseball stadium."
It got behind Dillard before he launched the fateful shot to right field.
"I got behind and then the fans got up and got behind me," Dillard said. "The fans were just insane this weekend. They really fed me in that at bat."
It capped a 4-2 SEC homestand. Ole Miss returns to action on Wednesday against Arkansas Pine-Bluff at 6:30 p.m.
A grin spread across Tim Rowe's face as he stood in left field speaking to a group of reporters. These were the types of nights he envisioned going into a season that's seen some hurdles pop up in his path. He went 3-for-4 with three doubles and helped Ole Miss pummel LSU 14-3 to take game one of a crucial late-April SEC series.
He smacked one to the right-center gap in the second to open the game, another in the fourth that put the Rebels in position to tie the game at two after Tyler Keenan trotted home on a wild pitch.
The final one helped catalyze an eleven-run sixth inning for the Rebels, serving as the proverbial knockout blow to a feeble LSU bullpen who didn't help itself out in relief Zack Hess. John Kodros didn't record an out and was ousted after Rowe's damaging double. He came to the plate twice in that inning alone. The Tiger bullpen has struggled mightily in the last three weeks, compiling an era north of 16.
"It was awesome to keep rolling through the order," Rowe said. "We knew we had them."
Kodros' successor, Matthew Beck, bungled a pair of dribblers back to the mound to pave way for Nick Fortes and Will Golsan to plate a pair of two-run singles that piled the deficit to 9-3.
It's been a frustratingly idle season so far for the senior from Hernando, Miss. He's been sidelined by a nagging hamstring injury early in the season saw him get buried to a degree by a plethora of hot-swinging bats that Mike Bianco couldn't afford to take out of the lineup in favor of the left-handed slugger at the time.
"I am proud of him," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He starts the year with a pulled hamstring and really kind of gets behind some guys like (Chase) Cockrell, Ryan (Olenek) and Keenan. It was just tough to get him back into the lineup. But we have an injury and he steps in immediately and has had a ton of hits. I am really proud of him."
A partially torn labrum in the non-throwing shoulder of Ryan Olenek provided an opportunity for Rowe to get into the lineup. He hasn't wasted a pitch. He's got six hits in two games and is 6-for-7 with four doubles.
"It hasn't been that frustrating because I love seeing my teammates succeed," Rowe said. "It's just unfortunate how I got into the game with Ryan Olenek getting hurt. I am just trying to take advantage of the opportunity."
Staying engaged is no easy task when one comes into a season with high hopes as Rowe did only to have them mired by a muscle in his right leg.
"It's a little hard to wait," Rowe said. "You've just got to do what you do every day and put the work in on your own time."
Tonight was the type of night he envisioned so many times in the winter, a late April showdown with two SEC West heavyweights in front of a capacity crowd, swatting fastballs into the gap helping his team at the plate. His six hits in two games is a feat difficult in and of itself but even more daunting given that his at-bats in game action have been sparse because of his health.
"It's not difficult at all," Rowe said. "I just take my approach from batting practice straight into the game."
Once Olenek is able to come back healthy, Rowe at a minimum provides a great deal of pop and a left-handed bat for Bianco off the bench.
"It's great having another bat and left-handed bat at that," Bianco said. "When you have competition it makes it good for anyone. As much depth as you can have is key."
Ole Miss starter Ryan Rolison dazzled for his sixth win of the year and went seven innings for the third time in four starts. Rowe's night wasn't lost on him either.
"It's impressive to see him come off the bench like that with not a lot of at-bats," Rolison said. "I am really looking forward to him keeping it rolling."
For Rowe, it's about finding a way to help this team any way he can. Being healthy is a certainly a plus for the slugger and his team going forward.
"I feel great," Rowe said. "Credit to (trainer) Josh Porter. He got me back."
Unblemished in midweek games in 2018, Ole Miss' maturity and sense of focus surfaced again in the form of seven runs in the first two innings in a 10-3 bludgeoning of Arkansas State to move to 11-0 in such contests this season.
The Rebels picked up their 30th win overall and improved to 22-1 in non-conference games, neither of which are easy feats. It is a testament to this team's maturity and the focus it brings to the park each day. Head coach Mike Bianco thinks it is more than that as well.
"It is maturity, but what does that mean? It means you show up and you're present," Bianco said. "You don't take nights off and you are super focused. Beyond that, it has a lot to do with the offense. The offense shows up. We have talked so much about it, but the offense shows up every day. They don't have a ton of runs one day and have a couple tough games. Every day we put innings together and give ourselves a chance to win."
That offense arrived early and blitzed Arkansas State starter Zachary Patterson and took control of the game in the first two frames.
The Oxford duo of Thomas Dillard and Grae Kessinger homered in this game. Dillard demolished a fastball that curled inside the right field foul pole and sailed into disappearance. Kessinger, three batters earlier, deposited a similar looking fastball over the left field fence. It made for a four-run second inning that put the Rebels in cruise control the remainder of the way.
"I just didn't know if it was going to go foul," Dillard said. "I hit a similar one against Arkansas that went foul but there was a little more wind. I was just hoping it stayed fair."
While Dillard snapped a dry spell with his eighth homer of the season, Ryan Olenek stayed hot, extending his hitting streak to 16 games before exiting the contest in the fifth after fouling a baseball off of his toe. Bianco said the junior right fielder will be fine. Olenek is on a torrid pace in SEC play, batting over .500 with 30 hits. He will continue be a key cog in this offense as the team dives into the back half of its SEC schedule.
Ole Miss also found maturity on the mound from a senior and a freshman.
Jordan Fowler scattered five hits and surrendered just one run in five innings. He picked up his fourth win of the season as his solidly consistent freshman campaign rolled on. The left-hander most always looks composed and in control of the baseball game when he is on the mound. He struck out four.
"We wanted to get him some innings and tonight he was terrific," Bianco said. "He was in the strike zone, a lot of first-pitch strikes, fastball on both sides of the plate, two different breaking balls, a handful of changeups. I thought he was terrific."
Senior Will Stokes gave an inning and two-thirds, allowing just one hit and no runs. Stokes is a veteran presence who has done a little bit of a lot in his career and is an important piece of a bullpen that has been the backbone of this team for most of the season.
"Mindset is always to fill up the zone," Stokes said. "That is what I always try to do is make sure I hit my spots, put it in play and let my fielders handle it."
After yet another midweek win, the Rebels turn back to SEC play. Ole Miss hosts Georgia this weekend. First pitch Friday set for 6:30 p.m. CT.
With an eight-game road trip in the rearview, Ole Miss plays its next nine games in the state of Mississippi with back-to-back weekends at home to jumpstart the second half of SEC play.
The Rebels dropped two of three to both Mississippi State and Vanderbilt the last two weekends with the last three losses coming on one-run fashion in the final at-bat. Ole Miss held a lead going into the ninth inning--or the seventh in the case of the last two in a rain-shortened doubleheader in Nashville--in each of those contests, but were unable to close out the game.
Much focus is put on the bullpen in close situations like that, but on Tuesday the Rebels were quick to point out they have to be better as a team in those situations.
"We have to be better," head coach Mike Bianco said. "The takeaway really is in the eye of the beholder. We obviously have not been good enough. Each of our last three SEC losses we have had opportunities to close it out and we didn't. But prior to that people were talking about this being the best bullpen we have ever had. The glass-half-full side of it would be that we've seen it, we just haven't executed well. It is a combination of a lot of things. The biggest thing is guys doing their jobs."
To Bianco's point, Ole Miss is 7-4 in one-run games and before a six-hour span on Sunday afternoon that mark was 7-2. It's not as if this is a theme with this team, but the Rebels would like to make sure it doesn't become one.
"You can't blame the bullpen or just one guy," Ryan Olenek said. "One pitch can change the whole game. We are just trying to work to get better as a team. It is not necessarily the bullpen or one thing, it is a couple of mistakes we need to tighten up."
Some of it is merely the ever-teetering fortune that comes with the game of baseball. A ball finding a hole or a pitcher being squeezed on a close ball-strike call can alter the outcome greatly in close-game situations.
"Some of it is just baseball," Bianco said. "Some balls have found holes and made it more difficult. How to change that fortune is to make better pitches."
Ole Miss sits at 8-7 in league play at the halfway mark and right in the thick of things in a crowded SEC Western division. A large reason for that is the torrid pace Ryan Olenek is on. The junior outfielder is hitting .508 in league play with seven extra-base hits, two home runs and 11 driven in. Olenek has been consistent for the Rebels throughout his career. He's always been an aggressive hitter at times to a fault. This year, he thinks he's been able to harness that aggression without helping the opposing pitcher out.
"I made it kind of hard on myself sometimes the last couple years by swinging at bad pitches," Olenek said. "This year I have had better pitch selection."
Bianco's watched Olenek grow from a budding freshman whose hot bat he couldn't take out of the lineup down the stretch in 2016 to one of the best hitters in the conference. Olenek is second in the SEC with 56 hits on the season, just one knock off of the league lead, and 30 of those have been in league play.
"He's always been aggressive, but he's been able to get better pitches (this year) and to be overly-aggressive chasing pitches out of the zone," Bianco said. "If you pitched him really tough I think sometimes he would get himself out by being overly-aggressive. I think that is one thing. The other is that he feels good about himself and is playing with confidence. When you dod that you tend to barrel up a lot of balls."
True freshman Tyler Keenan isn't far behind. He's hitting .350 in conference play with four home runs. He has been as consistent as one can be as a freshman in this league.
"I go up there looking for one pitch and if I get it I am going to swing," Keenan said. "If not, I am going to fight until I do."
A lot of newcomers fall victim to the uptick in velocity and the quality of breaking balls, but he's plunged forward through the slew of adjustments pitchers have thrown his way and the different ways he's been pitched too. This past weekend, it was the Commodore staff hurling more off-speed stuff at him and trying to jam him inside. Keenan hasn't missed a beat.
"A lot of freshmen a don't freshmen don't play like they are capable of and the reason is the mentality," Bianco said. "They make the game different and more difficult than it has to be. There is a lot of pressure playing in front of large crowds, and they let it affect the way they play the game. Tyler is a great competitor, enjoys the game and those moments. The guys who are really good figure that out quickly.
Ole Miss hosts Arkansas State on Wednesday and will hand the baseball to freshman lefty Jordan Fowler. Bianco said he'd like to save Houston Roth to come out of the bullpen this weekend to add some depth as well as get Fowler more extended outings. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT.
After blazing through a stretch of seven games against top 15 opponents at 5-2, No. 3 Ole Miss is now facing a week in which it will play teams it is extremely familiar with and teams it considers its rival. The Rebels will trek to Memphis Wednesday night for a game against the Tigers at AutoZone Park before heading to Starkville for the weekend set against Mississippi State.
Mike Bianco made a minor tweak to his rotation to begin this week by flipping Ryan Rolison and Brady Feigl to have Feigl pitch on Friday night and Rolison on Saturday. Bianco pointed to Feigl's dominance on the mound through the season's first seven weeks as the reason for the switch.
"Brady has pitched so well," Bianco said. "Ryan hasn't pitched bad, just maybe not as dominant as Brady through the seven starts, and I thought this was the right time to do it, especially with the way the weeks fell to give him normal rest."
The Rebel skipper wanted it known that this is a fluid situation, as are most lineup-related things with any ball club over the course of a 56-game slate.
"Someone asked me this morning if it was permanent," Bianco said. "Nothing is permanent. The rotation is what it is this week, same with the lineup. Ryan understands and Brady understands. To use Ryan's quote from the beginning of a press conference, 'We have three Friday night guys throwing.' We are just trying to win baseball games and put the guy in there who is throwing the best."
Feigl has been lights-out this season, benefitting from improved slider command and being aggressive with hitters. The junior right-hander is 6-1 with a 2.23 ERA and has been good virtually every time he has grabbed the baseball this season.
For Rolison, it's just been a couple of minor mistakes that have led to innings slipping away from him. Bianco didn't seem too concerned with the recent minor struggles of his uber-talented left-hander and thinks he will get back on track this weekend in Starkville.
"Most of his outings it has just been an inning or two," Bianco said. "To be honest it has been mostly good fortune or bad fortune, however you want to say it. Not taking anything away from Arkansas, but a couple home runs that aren't usually home runs on this field and a tough first inning where he made a couple bad pitches with two strikes and they get base hits and score a couple runs. Ryan has given us great efforts."
Ole Miss wasn't lacking for confidence going into the daunting stretch it just came out of, but it only grows with each win. Bianco is pleased with how his team has found a multitude of ways to win baseball games and thinks that is evidence of a sense of toughness and maturity good teams in the SEC are equipped with year-in and year-out.
"I don't know if I learned more, but it really hammered home the feeling that we are tough," Bianco said. "They have won a lot of different types of games, games where they have had to score, where they have had to pitch and defend. We have fallen behind where we came back. We've won where we had a lead and held on."
Perhaps the most glaring piece of evidence to Bianco's point is how his team has responded when things haven't gone their way.
"It is not like we've had everything go our way," he said. "Certainly, we have had good fortune like everyone, but we also have had instances the other way, whether it is a call or a 50-50 pitch that maybe didn't go our way, but we have handled it. That is my takeaway. They've shown a lot of maturity and toughness that you need to have in our league."
Ole Miss begins this stretch of rivalry games on Wednesday and doesn't expect any letdown after its grueling late-March schedule. Bianco said his team is well-aware of the importance of each game, particularly when the opponent is in their backyard.
"The thing we want to do is play well," Bianco said. "If we do that everything will take care of itself. It is not foolproof. You can play well and lose, but you have a much better chance of winning. I hope that is the mindset because that is what has gotten us to this point. This week we are playing teams that are our rival. Anytime you play your rival it is a big game."
Houston Roth will get the baseball against Memphis Wednesday. First pitch from Autozone Park is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT.
OXFORD, Miss - Four-innings of offensive infused chaos was extinguished over the final five outs by the right arm of Parker Caracci. A marathon of a baseball game culminated with the sophomore's second multi-inning save in as many nights as Ole Miss was the last one standing in an 11-10 war over one of the best lineups one through nine in college baseball.
"They're definitely one of the best offensive teams we have faced," Caracci said. "You just have to try to hit your spots. If you leave it over the plate they will most likely make you pay for it."
The Rebels secured a series win over Arkansas to cap off a stretch of seven games against top 15 teams at 5-2.
Six innings of grueling from Ole Miss starter James McArthur was largely lost in the haze of the 19 runs scored in the final four and a half innings of the baseball game. The junior right-hander came off the mound in the fifth after retiring his 10th consecutive hitter to a 1-1 tie. Ole Miss plated four runs to give him a cushion and three more in the sixth to hand him an 8-2 advantage. He fought through some errant breaking balls with a heavy dosage of fastballs he kept away from the Razorback barrels and turned in an outing he worked hard for.
"A whole lot of fastballs," McArthur said. "Couldn't really get the breaking ball over. I was able to make some really good pitches with my fastball, get quick outs and have some quick innings."
A solo shot in the seventh inning from Daniel Fletcher ousted McArthur leading 8-3 with nine outs needed to end the baseball game.
"I think you don't understand how good he was until you saw what happened after he left," Clement said. "Now he's out and baseballs start flying all over the yard on a hitter's day to hit. I think that just shows you how good he was. I know it gets lost because it was 11-10, but he was really good."
Chaos ensued over the next three innings as Arkansas plated seven runs off a bullpen that had been dominant all season. The Hogs homered three times to counter a pair of three-run innings from Ole Miss with a couple four spots of their own.
"We owe a lot of our wins to the bullpen this year," Clement said. "If we can pick them up every once in a while we will be fine."
It all led up to Caracci coming in with one out in the eighth inning in an 11-10 game. Aside from a leadoff double in the ninth, Caracci recored five easy outs and sealed a series victory over a top five team.
"Don't let the guy score," Caracci said with a grin when asked about his approach after the double.
Twice this weekend, he put out a fire to seal a pair of wins. He has six saves this season and five of them have come in the last nine days.
"He was spotting up and doing a great job," Olenek said. "He is just a special kid."
Ole Miss needed all hands on deck this weekend, from Olenek's seven-hit weekend with a dislocated finger, to Caracci's back-to-back saves to a quality outings from Brady Feigl and James McArthur against the most dangerous lineup in the conference. Tyler Keenan clubbed a three-run home in the seventh to make it 11-6.
"We just compete," right fielder Olenek said. "The situation doesn't matter. Even if we are up, we had a six-run lead, it is never enough. We keep on scoring."
Ole Miss would need all of those runs.
The Rebels' confidence continues to rise with each win. Ole Miss has shown an advanced sense of maturity that is evident in its 8-2 record in one-run games.
"Toughness is one word," Olenek said. "We know we are a really good team and hard to beat."
Cole Zabowski homered twice this weekend as the Rebels popped 27 hits in an effort to keep pace with the Razorbacks. Ole Miss showed it can win in a variety of ways, salting away a 5-4 win last night and swatting two home runs and ten hits in a slugfest.
"You can start to feel the vibe in the dugout of just how good and tough we are," McArthur said. "We just have to stick together and keep getting better."
The Rebels are 25-4 (6-3) and currently sit at the top the SEC west standings after three weekends. The team took a road series at Texas A&M before taking out the Razorbacks on Easter weekend, two teams widely considered to be the cream of the crop in the western division and in the conference along with Ole Miss. It has back-ended to home series, rebounding after dropping the opening game to Tennessee and the Razorbacks.
"Our confidence was high coming into the year," Olenek said. "We know how good we were and how well we can hit. We have always been pretty confident.
Confidence wasn't lacking before but is continuing to become abundant with each win becomes more tangible evidence.
"Our goal is to keep our head down and keep going," Clement said. "That is the way you have to take it. We just try to keep plowing ahead."
One through nine, there is an argument to be made that Arkansas possesses the most potent lineup in the Southeastern Conference. Seven of its nine hitters are batting .320 or better. Every hitter but one has an OPS of .800 or better.
There is no remission, no place allowing an opposing pitcher to breathe for a moment or skate by on a sailing or elevated mistake.
"They fight and battle," Nick Fortes said. "They don't miss pitches over the plate. You have to be perfect with them. They're a good hitting club and you have to make pitches."
The team is slugging .537 and has clubbed 47 home runs. It had homered in 12 straight games until meeting Ole Miss' Brady Feigl, who scattered seven singles over 5.1 innings in a 5-4 Rebel win to even the series. Feigl moved to 6-1 on the season. He limited hard contact. Three of the singles did not leave the infield.
"You know who you're playing," Feigl said. "Arkansas has one of the best lineups in the SEC. It is one of the best we will face all year. One thing we always preach is that we play ourselves so it doesn't matter who is in the other dugout."
He largely neutralized a group of bats who'd inflicted terror on some of the nation's best pitching thanks to a changeup he leaned on more heavily than he has in any other outing this season, along with a good fastball and slider to complement it.
"That always makes you happy," Feigl said. "The defense was tremendous tonight. That is what helped the most along with the confidence to fill up the zone."
He survived a second inning in which the Hogs tagged him for two runs to take a 2-1 lead on an infield single and a ball that squirted through the left side. The junior righty became more aggressive after that and blanked them in the final three frames he was in the ballgame.
"Coach pulled me aside after the second and told me I wasn't doing anything wrong, I just was kind of passively attacking them," Feigl said. "He said to go after them. Go let your best stuff have it and let the chips fall after that. The biggest thing is to fill it up and use your best stuff in the zone. After he told me that it started working a little better."
The fastballs came more frequently in the later innings. Feigl left to an ovation in the sixth and a bullpen combination of Greer Holston, Dallas Woolfolk and Parker Caracci held off the Razorback offense for the final eleven outs.
"I thought he was terrific," head coach Mike Bianco said. "They're really good, and like us, can put an inning together. I thought it was a good mix of all three pitches. He used his changeup more today than he maybe has all year and went to his fastball later in the game. He was terrific."
This was a back-and-forth game in which each team led in the first three innings. Ole Miss made enough plays on both fronts, like Fortes who clubbed a hanging breaking ball over the left field fence to extend Ole Miss' lead to 5-2, two precious runs the team would need. He also hosed the tying runner going from first to second in the eighth inning that helped Caracci slip out of a jam.
"It had just enough," Fortes said. "I thought I was going to have to leg out a double so I am thankful it went out. I have been struggling a little bit and it helped us get over the top."
Caracci responded from a hectic eighth inning by striking out the side in the ninth in overwhelming fashion to preserve the one-run win. The sophomore fireballer has shown the ability to overpower some of the best hitters in the country with a fastball that creeps up to 97 and a slider with a lot of bite.
"Parker is something special," Ryan Olenek said.
"It just shows his composure," Fortes said. "He knows he has some of the best stuff in the country and the some of the best I have ever seen. That eighth inning he was trying to do a little too much, and in that ninth he was doing what he has done all year: mowing guys down and filling up the zone."
Ole Miss will attempt to take the series with James McArthur on the hill tomorrow against Arkansas' Kacey Murphy. First pitch is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT.
As Southern Miss' left-hander Adam Jackson jogged out of the right field bullpen in the 7th inning in a 5-4 game his team led, Thomas Dillard switched his grip and hopped over to the right side of the plate for the second time in the game.
Golden Eagles' skipper Scott Barry played the numbers game with Dillard once before in the fifth when he called on southpaw Mason Strickland to face Dillard in a two-on, one-out scenario. The Rebel left-fielder came into the ballgame hitting just .179 from the right side, a number due more than anything else to the fact he only had 32 plate appearances and 28 at-bats from the right side compared to 75 and 60 on the left.
"I started off kind of slow right-handed and I have been picking it up lately," Dillard said. "I don't blame them for playing the matchup."
Strickland extinguished Dillard with a whiff on a breaking ball in the fifth. Jackson did not have the same experience. Dillard demolished an 88 mph fastball deep into the left-field seating for a three-run shot. It gave Ole Miss a 7-5 lead and marked the end of a comeback that saw the Rebels score seven unanswered runs to erase a five-run deficit for the first time since May 14, 2016.
"I think people are looking at the numbers," Bianco said. "Especially with (lefty Cole) Zabowski behind him, I think it is sometimes easy to go to the left-hander. I don't know if it is more Thomas or it is the combination of turning him around and going left-handed with Zabowski too. We all know Thomas can hit right-handed. The numbers may not stand out right now, but last year it was the opposite. So it is not one of those things. I think by year's end it will probably even out."
Dillard knew it off the bat as the ball sailed well over over the 365 sign in left field.
"It felt really good," Dillard said. "I think that was the first ball I have hit out of here to left field in my career. It felt good to hit it out there."
The sophomore slugger has clubbed seven home runs this season and has worked hard on hitting from the right side recently. It was his second from the right side this season.
"It is getting a lot better," Dillard said. "That at-bat I was sitting towards the right side of the field and then the first pitch I got a foot down later. I told myself to try to get my foot down and hit it over the batter's eye. I got the head out a little earlier than I wanted but still put a good swing on it."
The swing propelled Ole Miss in front, and after surviving a tight situation in the ninth that Parker Caracci slipped out of with a fly ball to strand men at the corners, the Rebels notched their 10th come-from-behind win of the season with a 7-6 decision over 14th ranked Southern Miss.
Each of the 10 comebacks have had their own anatomy, but each one keeps building toward an attitude and a confidence that's morphing into an identity.
"With this team, we always have that bullet in the gun like Coach B says," sophomore pitcher Houston Roth said. "Seventh inning we put up a four-spot. We are never out of a fight, ever. There is never a moment where we are beaten, down or defeated."
Roth ate up five innings in relief of starter Jordan Fowler who struggled when the Golden Eagles blitzed him for four runs in the first inning. He scattered six hits and gave up just one run.
"Stuff happens," Roth said. "Fowler gave up a few hits. I knew going in I was going to have to go a long way and act like a starter. It wasn't going to be one inning and shut it down. I knew that. I have starts under my belt. I just went out there and did what I did."
He mixed a lot of changeups and breaking balls to keep Southern Miss off balance.
One thing that has delighted Bianco is how these comebacks have come to fruition. It's come from all over and taken a multitude of guys.
"I think we just continue to fight," Bianco said. "They've all been different things. One, you obviously have to have a good offense. Once again, we put a couple of big innings together with three and four-run innings tonight. You also have to be able to pitch out of the bullpen. We have been able to do that with a lot of different guys."
Tonight, Chase Cockrell's two-out, 2-RBI double in the fifth helped spark the three-run fifth Bianco alluded to. Greer Holston then put together 1.2 innings of shutout ball to pave the way for Dallas Woolfolk and Caracci to preserve the game in the eighth and ninth.
The ability of Ole Miss' bullpen to come in and immediately cease further offensive carnage makes it a hard team to put away. It's what has helped breed the air of the confidence this team exudes even when it gets in a hole like the 5-0 deficit on this night.
"Our pitching staff, no matter what they've done early in the game, they will come back and shut it down," Dillard said. "Our hitters have done a great job of keeping with the at-bats no matter what the score is. If you just chip away, chip away you will have that one big inning. We will go ahead eventually and the pitching staff will hold it."
Ole Miss returns to action on Thursday against Arkansas. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT.
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."
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.
Thomas Dillard demolished a pair of fastballs in the second and third innings of Ole Miss' 11-4 win over Austin Peay on Tuesday night and nearly singled handedly gave Houston Roth a 5-1 run lead by collecting those four RBIs.
The first of the two shots was a solo job to the left-center gap that got out of the stadium quickly on a low trajectory. The second was a towering club over the railing and well into the student section in right field. He rebounded from an 0-12 weekend by doing damage to Governor Starter Kyle Wilson's line early.
"It's always nice to bounce back," Dillard said. "You're going to have those weekend sometimes where everything isn't going right for you. You just have to try to focus on the next. Fame and the next pitch to try to help your team out as much as you can."
Dillard was more pleased with the former home run, the shorter one, because of what he tried to improve on in what was a productive offseason for the sophomore outfielder.
"I was a little more proud of the opposite field one because I have been working on that all year," Dillard said. "Hitting it out that way was cool."
Roth waded through the first four inning with relatively little trouble and entered the fifth with a 5-1 lead. Austin Peay strung together four connective two-out hits after a walk and chased Roth from the game after plating three runs. Will Stokes took the baseball from there, escaped a two-on, two-out jam by freezing Malcolm Tripler with a 1-2 breaking ball. He thwarted all Governor momentum and put up two more scoreless frames after that to preserve a one-run lead into the eighth inning.
"Stokes didn't pitch this weekend and I do not know the last time he did not pitch on a weekend," head coach Mike Bianco said. "I knew he could come in and come in early whenever there was a threat. He was as sharp as he has ever been. We needed that."
Ethridge put up another zero in the eighth, setting the table for the offense to blow the game open in the later innings as it seems like has happened quite often this year. Ole Miss hung six runs in the eighth inning to put away the Governors and it came in a variety of different ways. Cole Zabowski started it with an RBI base hit to center field that plated Will Golsan - who had a second consecutive multi-hit game. Chase Cockrell smoked a double down the left field line as part of a 3-3 evening with an RBI. Tyler Keenan then stepped in and launched the Rebels' second three-run homer of the game to open the floodgates.
"Our pitching is always talked about, and rightfully so because I think we have the best pitching staff in the country," Dillard said. "But our hitting has just been awesome. One through 17 or 18 there is not let up. For us to show up every time through 12 games has been great and I think it is going to continue."
He had a two-hit night as well. Ole Miss' offense has come from all over through 12 games, and on this night hit a lot of balls hard as the wind gushed out to right-center.
"That's kind of been us," Bianco said. "I think that's why we have been so good offensively is that it has come from a lot of different sources. It isn't just one guy that is out of this world with six or seven home runs. It just seems like every night there is a different contributor offensively, and in a big way."
Ole Miss hits the second leg of a five-game homestand on Wednesday against Little Rock. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m.
Thomas Dillard turned to Nick Fortes in the dugout in the early innings of Tuesday's game against Murray State with the Rebels trailing 4-0 and had a message for the junior catcher.
"I told him we were going to win this game," Dillard recalled. "It's going to be late and we are going to have to really fight, but we have to win them all. Coach Bianco tells us we have to win games of all kinds."
Dillard certainly did his part, as did his teammates after the Racers put up a four-run first inning with the help of a Davis Sims three-run shot over the left field fence off Houston Roth. It was the first time this team had been in a hole all season, but it settled in. Roth put up three quick zeroes over the next three games as the Rebels felt out Murray State starter Luke Brown.
"He hung in there," head coach Mike Bianco said. "I think he retired 13 of the next 14 or something like that. He showed why he was a freshman All-American. That may have won the game right there."
A Cole Zabowski two-out RBI base knock in the fourth got Ole Miss on the board. An inning later, Dillard dug in with the bases loaded and one out. Chance Carner relived Brown. He took a change up over the plate and Dillard demolished it down the right field line for a bases clearing, three-RBI double that changed tied the game at four and seemingly put some life into the Rebel offense.
"He was throwing a little harder than the other guy," Dillard said. "I took the first pitch and then he threw me a change up and I was able to get my head out and hit it down the line."
Nick Fortes hustled around third base and ran through a stop sign, but beat the tag and capped a momentum-swinging play in the ball game.
"He was being held up and should've stopped," Bianco with a wry grin. "So I am just thankful he made it."
The Rebels plated four in the inning and took a 5-4 lead. Murray State answered with a run in the seventh to tied it a five and another in the eighth to take a 6-5 lead as rain began to fall. But Ole Miss continued to find ways to answer. Grae Kessinger drew a two-out walk in the eighth, stole second base and scored on a Ryan Olenek base hit. The Rebels have had a knack for making things happen with two outs through eight games.
"You need games like this," Dillard said. "It teaches you how to win. They aren't all going to be cake walks. You need to be challenged."
The team loaded the bases in the ninth with the game tied at six. Tyler Anderson threw a wild one to the backstop and Dillard - who was standing on third after starting the inning with a leadoff base hit - raced home and beat the tag on a close, game-deciding play at the plate.
"I knew I was safe," Dillard said. "It was a close play and Coach Clement was telling me to be ready for anything and I was able to get in there."
Dillard sparked Ole Miss each time it needed on on the night. He was 3-4 with 3 RBIs
"The whole game it seemed like everything started and finished offensively with Thomas," Bianco said. "Stealing bases, scoring at the end, three hits. He did it all tonight."
It was admittedly not Ole Miss' cleanest game as Bianco said, but the team found a way to win a wild midweek game to get out to its best start since 2008 at 8-0. It will hit the road this weekend for its toughest test yet at Long Beach State.
"It was just one of those game, a crazy games you see in the midweek," Bianco said. "I am just proud of our guys for hanging in there."
First pitch on Friday in Long Beach is at 8 p.m.
The timely hits just keep coming for No. 9 Ole Miss.
A Thomas Dillard walk loaded the bases one at-bat after Ole Miss had chased Tulane starter Keegan Gillies who had turned in six innings of one-run ball scattering four hits to that point. Senior center fielder Will Golsan dug in and laced a 1-1, 90-mph offering into left field for a two-RBI base hit that gave the Rebels their first lead of the day.
"I was just trying to stick to my approach and keep finding solid contact," Golsan said. "One finally fell. You just have to stay within yourself, tell yourself it is going to come and keep competing up there."
Two batters later Cooper Johnson lifted his second home run of the weekend into the left field bullpen to blow the game open at 6-2. It was the second day in a row Ole Miss put up a five-spot in the sixth inning and let its bullpen seize control of the game the rest of the way. This team has frequently found the timely hit when needed through the first seven games of this season and Sunday was just the latest piece of evidence to back it up.
"I knew I had it off the bat," Johnson said. "The vibe in the dugout is that the offense is going to move runners along, get a bunt down or do something. One through nine there aren't really any holes. It's a pretty safe and reassuring feeling. You don't have to do something special every single time. Someone is going to have your back behind you or in front of you. It is pretty special."
Johnson's first two career home runs both came this weekend as a highlight to what has been a much quicker start at the plate for the gifted sophomore catcher.
"It's just confidence," Johnson said. "Hitting before the game and in the mornings, sticking to the process and not trying to do too much. See the ball and hit the ball. Trying to find a fastball early in counts and adjusting to the breaking ball."
His head coach has seen Johnson hit well the last two fall seasons and seen him rebound from some natural freshman struggles from a year ago.
"Last year was a little tough on him," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He plays with emotion and wants to do so well, to fall off a little offensively last year, that hurt him. But he has gotten off to a great start this year and really looks good."
The first five innings the story was on the mound. James McArthur battled through an early run in the first to put up four scoreless frames to match Gillies, whose lone blemish came in the fourth when Dillard demolished a fastball well over the right field wall. McArthur exited the game in the sixth with the Rebels trailing 2-1. He scattered six hits and yielded a single earned run in an outing stronger than the box score would lead one to believe.
"I thought he was really good today and that is a really good offense over there," Bianco said. "They pressure you in a lot of ways. They get a lot of good swings off and some scary swings. They are very physical in the middle of the lineup. They have six or seven guys in the middle of the lineup that you really have to pitch to. I thought James was excellent."
Jordan Fowler and Greer Holston helped the Rebels strand a pair of runners in two different innings and Dallas Woolfolk's fourth save completed Ole Miss' second consecutive sweep to start the season 7-0 for the second time in as many years.
"I think you have to take it for what it is," Bianco said. "I think last year they didn't know what to expect. They had a lot of success in the first couple weeks and with all the accolades coming in I think people kind of anointed us and we didn't handle the adversity when it came. I think guys are a little more weathered than this year, but we will see. I like the way we are playing."
Ole Miss has played well in all three phases early on this season. The rotation has given up just two earned runs in 32.1 innings so far this season and the bullpen has put the clamp down on offenses to follow them in the late innings. The lineup is hitting well from Grae Kessinger--who has 13 hits in these seven games--at the top all the way down behind him. The middle of the order has proved to be physical and was the driving force behind the pair of five-run sixth innings the last two days.
"I think this has a different feel," Johnson said. "We are a really close team. Just the depth, the defense and offense and with our pitching staff. I have never played on a team like it. It is really special."
Ole Miss returns to action on Tuesday at home against Murray State before hitting the road for the first time this year next weekend with a three-game set at Long Beach State. First pitch on Tuesday is slated for 4 p.m. CT.
It was not quite the typical day at the ballpark for No. 9 Ole Miss, but it was certainly an efficient one as the Rebels put two in the win column over Tulane after Friday night's game was postponed in the fifth inning due to rain.
Game one of this series resumed at noon Saturday with Ole Miss clinging to a 2-1 lead. Will Ethridge replaced Ryan Rolison because of the overnight delay and put up scoreless sixth and seventh innings while Cole Zabowski and Cooper Johnson put a pair of 1-0 offerings in the seats in the bottom of the seventh for some needed insurance. Zabowski sent a fastball over the center field wall and Johnson placed a breaking ball in the Ole Miss bullpen in left field as part of a three-run inning that resulted in a 5-1 lead for the Rebels.
Ethridge ran into some trouble in the eighth when back-to-back doubles turned into a three-run shot from Matt Rowland that made it a 5-4 game, but Will Stokes and Dallas Woolfolk put the clamps on the Green Wave rally and secured the final six outs Ole Miss needed for the win.
After a 45 minute intermission between games, Ole Miss put up arguably its most efficient win of the year in which the offense exploded for nine runs and Brady Feigl turned in six innings of two-hit ball on just 73 pitches. Fiegl overcame an unearned run in a first inning that saw him strike out all three hitters and put together as efficient of an outing as he's had during his career.
"I think efficient is not even fair," Mike Bianco said. "He was super dominant against what I consider to be a good offense. It was a tough day to pitch with the wind gushing out and I thought he was electric, maybe the best outing he has had here and that is saying a lot."
The junior righty found his slider in the early innings and mixed the changeup in during the second and third time through the order. Feigl moved to 2-0 on the season.
"A big part of what they talked to me about is attacking the zone and trying to get ahead because it makes things a lot easier," Feigl said. "I think it definitely helped."
Oddly enough, Feigl's exit was due mostly to a long, five-run sixth inning the offense put together that blew the ballgame open. He certainly did not mind.
"When your offense does that it is hard to complain," Feigl said with a grin.
That's been the story in five of the six games the Rebels have played this season. The offense has backed the pitching staff with ample breathing room to operate, and the most encouraging sign to Bianco is that it is coming from all over. It's started at the top of the order with Grae Kessinger's 11 hits in six games. Kessinger homered in the bottom of the first in game two and sent a double off the left-center wall that brought another run across in the fifth. The sophomore shortstop has been as productive as Bianco could possibly ask for in the leadoff slot through six games.
Kessinger has taken an aggressive approach of jumping on fastballs early in counts and it's paid dividends.
"I am seeing it well and being aggressive," Kessinger said. "My swing feels good and it is all just working right now. Everything is going well and I just want to stick to my approach and keep being aggressive."
He's seeing pitches when he needs to, though. He worked a full count walk in the first game and has only struck out twice in 18 at-bats so far this year.
"I thought him answering in the first inning after we went down was huge," Bianco said. "He has had a lot of big hits for us early on this season."
Zabowski homered for the second time this year and Johnson's was the first of his career. Chase Cockrell went 2-for-3 in game two. He and Zabowski are a couple of batters in the middle of the Ole Miss order that have shown some pop along with Tim Elko and Tyler Keenan, which encouraged the Ole Miss head coach.
"You're expecting that from some of those young guys in Elko and Keenan," Bianco said. "We have some physical hitters in the middle there. He is off to a good start and swinging it well."
Aside from a lapse or two in a couple innings, Ole Miss has defended well this year and particularly this weekend. Thomas Dillard, Will Golsan and Olenek made plays that potentially saved runs in the outfield. Fortes started a huge 3-6-1 double play that got the Rebels out of a slippery spot in a one-run contest in the eighth inning of game one.
"I thought we were outstanding on defense," Bianco said. "One of the things I challenged and we wanted to improve was outfield defense. It's not that we were bad but the great teams have difference makers out there. We have a catcher and two shortstops out there and they make the regular play. Today, they made some great plays with Golsan making a couple of sensational plays as did Olenek, and Thomas made a great play on Friday night. Those change the game."
First pitch for game three is slated for game three is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT on Sunday.
Sitting atop the Ole Miss lineup and the first to dig into the batter's box, a conscious effort to be aggressive early in counts from shortstop Grae Kessinger has led to a productive beginning to his sophomore campaign. And on this day in particular, it netted a 4-for-5 day at the plate with three runs scored in an 8-6 win over Memphis.
"I'm just trying to be aggressive," Kessinger said. "That's really all it is. Let the swings take care of itself. Don't overthink it and just play ball like I have my whole life."
Kessinger tattooed the first pitch he saw in the game to left field. His second at-bat he laced a double early in the count that put Memphis in a second-and-third situation with no one out.
"He's getting a lot of good swings off," head coach Mike Bianco said. "I even said that in the first two games when he didn't necessarily get a ton of hits but was getting good swings off. That has really been the difference this year. Last year, he looked like a freshman at times. This year he is getting a lot of hits like tonights and getting some really good swings off."
It isn't just fastballs either in the leadoff slot. He got inside a breaking ball for the extra-base hit and took it the opposite way down the line in right.
"First-pitch breaking ball he hit well tonight," Bianco said. "He is really seeing it well."
The benefit of Kessinger's production as the leadoff hitter? Nick Fortes for starters. Kessinger's first hit set the table for Fortes to demolish a first-pitch fastball over the left field fence and give starter Houston Roth an early cushion.
"It was a fastball right where I like them," Fortes said. "I knew that one was out."
The junior catcher made Memphis' second-and-third predicament in the third inning prove costly as well when he clubbed a changeup into the Ole Miss bullpen for his second home run of the night. It blew the game open at 5-0 in favor of the Rebels in the third. Fortes was 3-for-4 with six RBI.
"I kind of needed that breakout game," Fortes said. "I needed a night like tonight to get me going."
Ole Miss plated four runs total in the third, and it was enough for Roth to leave the game after four innings with a 6-2 lead. Roth struck out six in his 77-pitch outing, and his lone blemish came in his final inning when he left one up in the zone to Tiger hitter Kevin O'Keefe, whose two-run shot put Memphis on the board. The sophomore righty battled through some long innings when the Rebels were scoring runs and Memphis was changing pitchers to earned the win in his first career start.
"I felt good," Roth said. "I wasn't fatigued as the game wore on."
Memphis slowly clawed its way back into the game to a degree with a run in the fifth to make it 8-3 and one more in eighth to shave the deficit once more. Will Stokes took the ball from Greer Holston in the eighth and inherited a two-on, no-out situation with the Tigers trailing by four. The senior righty whiffed O'Keefe--who had already homered in the game--for a big first out and then induced two fly balls to allow Ole Miss to escape the jam.
"I really thought that was important," Bianco said. "If you're going to have a good bullpen, guys have to come in and put that fire out. Come in with runners on when the fire is hot and deliver some pitches. Will did that."
Memphis threatened with two more in the ninth, but All-American closer Dallas Woolfolk relieved Stokes in his second inning of work and put out the last necessary proverbial fire to preserve the team's fourth win of the year.
It's the third time in four games Ole Miss has recorded double-digit hits. With the well-documented struggles at the plate in 2017, this has certainly been a positive sign for Bianco in the early stages of the season.
"We think we have a good offense," Bianco said. "What I am really proud of is we've done it with a lot of different people. It hasn't been the same guys every night."
Fortes described the early success at the plate best, attributing it to guys getting experience under their belt and growing as hitters as they get deeper into their careers.
"We are a little more mature," Fortes said. "We are not letting at-bats early in the game get to us late. We are learning and adjusting as the game goes on and I think that has been the biggest difference."
OXFORD, Miss - Grae Kessinger got just enough of the bat on a breaking ball on the outside corner from Winthrop's Dalton Whitaker. The ball squirted towards the hole on the left side and grazed the outstretched glove of Eagle shortstop Mitch Spires. Tim Elko scored comfortably from third and Jacob Adams slid his hand onto home plate from second base.
This two-RBI base hit in the seventh inning of the series finale helped the Ole Miss clinch an opening weekend sweep for the third connective season.
"I was just trying to move the ball any way I could," Kessinger said. "A lot of off-speed was coming in as he was trying to get a big strikeout. I was just trying to get a barrel on it, found a hole."
A Whitaker wild pitch earlier in the at-bat moved Elko and Adams up a base, setting Adams up to be aggressive and snag the lead with an insurance run attached too.
"I knew it was going to be a close play," Adams said. "Coach Clement sent me and I just went all out. I knew it was bang-bang and thought I was safe. They looked at it, and sure enough, I was safe."
The play was so close it required a lengthy replay review that confirmed the original call. Head Coach Mike Bianco liked the aggressiveness of his team on the base path.
"My takeaway is how aggressive we were in all phases," Bianco said. "I thought guys took the extra base and were really aggressive."
It was a late breakthrough in what was an otherwise more difficult day at the plate for Ole Miss as it faced Winthrop ace Nate Pawelczyk for the first six innings of the game. The right-hander had good control of his fastball and slider, turned in six innings of one-hit ball and gave his team a chance. Ole Miss stayed patient and cracked the code to the Eagle bullpen upon Pawelczyk's exit.
"It takes all kinds," Bianco said. "They run out their ace today and we knew it would be a challenge. We didn't quite get the swings off that we did in the first two, a lot of check swings and unsure swings today. That shows you how good he really is. We didn't have many opportunities. Grae gets two strikes with their closer in. We talk about winning those little battles and that is one of them."
Conversely, the Rebel bullpen carried the baton after James McArthur exited after the fifth inning and allowed just two Winthrop base runners over the final four frames. McArthur admittedly did not have his best stuff, and his fastball command was not quite as precise as it usually is, but he still managed to give five strong innings and allowed a single unearned run on four hits.
"Coach B is always talking about making a pitch to get out of the inning," McArthur said. "I put myself in some predicaments today, got behind on some guys, but I was proud of the way I battled. Getting my stuff back into the zone was the biggest part."
McArthur stuck out seven and walked three.
"He was able to take their blows," Bianco said. "Sometimes you have to do that. You don't have your best stuff and have to battle and compete. He really did that."
Jordan Fowler turned in two innings of scoreless relief in his Ole Miss debut. Will Ethridge worked around a two-out base hit for a clean eighth inning and Dallas Woolfolk slammed the door in the ninth for his first save of the year.
"When you look back, over 27 innings we only gave up one earned run the whole series," Bianco said. "When you're in game three and have Dallas Woolfolk and Will Ethridge that haven't thrown yet, you get to the seventh inning and it has been a pretty good weekend for us on the mound. There is no one better at the end than Dallas. As a coach, it makes you feel good when you have a lead and you are running him out there in the ninth."
Aside from the fielding mishaps Bianco alluded to, it was a solid weekend on the mound and at the plate for the Rebels. Ole Miss tallied 17 runs on 30 hits, and it came from all over. Thomas Dillard had a three-hit night on Friday that also saw Tim Rowe club a three-run bomb to give some early run support to Ryan Rolison. On Saturday, the three new entrants into the lineup--Cole Zabowski, Tim Elko and Chase Cockrell--went 6-for-10 with four RBIs and five runs scored. Kessinger and Fortes each had a four-hit weekend.
It was an eclectic blend of veterans and newcomers producing at the plate.
"It was really that way the whole weekend," Bianco said. "Every new guy that batted got a hit."
Winthrop recorded four runs on 15 hits and only one was an earned run charged to the Ole Miss staff as Bianco mentioned earlier. Fowler filled up the zone in his first look at game action, as did Parker Caracci, who pitched a scoreless ninth on Saturday night in his first career appearance. Houston Roth and Ethridge looked similar to their productive form in 2017, and it all resulted in Ole Miss sweeping a Winthrop team projected to win the Big South Conference this season.
"I think one of the big takeaways is that so many guys played well and looked like they belong," Bianco said.
Ole Miss returns action on Tuesday against Memphis. Houston Roth will have the baseball for the Rebels. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m. CT.
OXFORD, Miss -
The pitch came out of Winthrop's Colton Rendon's hand at 81 mph with the intention of breaking but hung as it floated towards Cole Zabowski at the plate. The sophomore first baseman turned and crushed it into the right field bullpen for a three-run shot in the second inning to put Ole Miss on the board in its 8-1 win over Winthrop on Saturday night.
"Once the right fielder got close to the wall I knew it had a chance," Zabowski said. "I was just trying to go up there, do some damage and get the job done."
Set up by a pair of two-out base hits from Ryan Olenek and Chase Cockrell, it was the second game in a row that Ole Miss put together a three-run inning with two outs. The Rebels have nine RBIs and 10 runs with two outs in their first two games of the season.
"That is big," head coach Mike Bianco said. "One of the talks we had early this year in the three weeks leading into the season was about getting the timely hit, and we have to win those battles. We have to extend innings. Everyone looks at batting average. That is the easy stat, but what can be misleading is can you put innings together? Can you finish innings off? As an offense it is huge. It is also defeating for the other team because you are an out away from finishing the inning, but you can't. Someone gets a clutch hit. We seem to have done it terrifically tonight and last night."
Six of the Rebels' eight runs came with two outs. They chased Rendon in the sixth inning while charging for two more runs in the process.
"We believe we are a good offensive team," Zabowski said. "We work really hard in the offseason to have nights like this. It is a big confidence boost."
Zabowski was one of three new entrants in the lineup along with freshman third baseman Tim Elko and designated hitter Chase Cockrell. Those three hitters went a combined 6-for-10 with four RBIs and five runs scored. Cockrell went 3-for-3 and Zabowski was responsible for all four RBIs.
"It's nice because it isn't just new guys," Bianco said. "It's Cole Zabowski and Chase Cockrell too that had big nights tonight that didn't start opening day but were here last year. That is neat to see."
Bianco has put out two pretty differing lineups the first two days that saw Ryan Olenek play second base on this night and Tim Rowe play right field. The lineup hasn't missed a beat from an offensive standpoint in either game.
Freshman Michael Spears got in on the fun too when he launched a double into the right field corner in the seventh inning that plated Nick Fortes and served as the Rebels' final two-out RBI of the night.
The early run support was more than enough for junior righty Brady Feigl who turned in six innings of shutout ball while scattering six hits.
"I had a ton of help around me," Feigl said. "The defense was stellar. Fortes behind the plate was a wall. That definitely helps. I was happy with the outing and getting out of there without allowing any damage.
Fiegl worked out of a couple of different jams and used his slider to freeze Cale Gibson to help get out of a two-on, no-out jam in the fifth, and induced a ground ball that turned into a 4-6-3 double play in the fourth. Winthrop had its opportunities, but Feigl thwarted them each time.
"I was happy with it," Feigl said of his slider. "It needs to get a tick more consistent but it is getting there. I thought it was good. It worked for me today."
OXFORD, Miss - A dominant summer in the Cape Cod League brought forth some lofty expectations for Ole Miss' Ryan Rolison, something he's never shied away from.
The sophomore lefty certainly lived up to them on opening day as he put together a dominant 12-strikeout performance in five innings of one-hit ball in a 7-3 win over Winthrop.
"I felt great out of the gate," Rolison said. "I was able to find my fastball out of the gate along with my slider."
Rolison battled his way through a 22-pitch first inning and cruised for the final four frames he was in the game. He filled up the zone and went straight at the Winthrop lineup with 55 strikes in 81 pitches.
"I had a little bit of adrenaline in the first inning with it being opening day," Rolison. "But I was able to battle, found my slider and just filled up the zone."
The Eagles put only three balls in play against Rolison, who faced 18 hitters on the night and walked just two. He kept the Eagles off balance all evening with his fastball, slider and a changeup he's worked hard to develop further in the offseason.
"It was kind of boring in left field honestly," sophomore left fielder Thomas Dillard said jokingly. "He struck out 12 in five innings. A guy like that is fun to play defense behind. He stays in the zone and his stuff is just electric. On a Friday night like this, that is definitely the guy you want on the mound."
Rolison didn't put his defense to work too much, but that was just fine with third baseman Tyler Keenan, who made a dazzling play on a ground ball in the seventh inning with Houston Roth on the mound.
"Ryan is filthy," Keenan said. "That is all I have to say. He's one of the best pitchers in the country, one of the best in this league. He's just nasty."
Rolison exited after a pair of strikeouts in the fifth, which was part of a pitch-count plan, according to head coach Mike Bianco, given that it is early on in the season.
"There are times where he made it look pretty easy," Bianco said. "That's why he has all the accolades. He has great stuff. He pitched well tonight."
Keenan and Dillard had a productive day in their own right. Keenan's first collegiate hit came in his first at-bat. The freshman third baseman crushed a fastball down the right-field line that plated two and gave Rolison an early cushion.
"They were working lefties inside," Keenan said. "I kind of capped it a little bit, got the first two RBIs to get us going it felt good."
Dillard went 3-for-4 and his trio of hits was a nice start to the year for a guy who is expected to be a productive force in the middle of the lineup this season. It certainly helps for confidence early in the season. Dillard said he saw a lot of off-speed pitches hitting in the four-hole and certainly did well by taking what was given to him.
"It felt really good," Dillard said. "Last year didn't go how I wanted it to go. I have just been focusing on forgetting about the past and putting the ball in play to help my team out by not striking out. I think I did a good job of that today, but I need to come back and be even better tomorrow."
Ole Miss got the timely hits on this night. All nine Rebels recorded a hit. Keenan and Cooper Johnson got two apiece. Ole Miss was able to put together at-bats with two outs. A pair of two-out base knocks from Dillard and Nick Fortes in the third set the table for senior designated hitter Tim Rowe to demolish a ball over the fence in right-center for a three-run home run and the team's first long ball of the year.
"We were able to get the timely hit tonight, the two-out hit," Bianco said. "We bunched hits together which we did not do last year. We talk about maxing it out. There are so many in-game battles we didn't win last year. We had opportunities and we didn't finish off innings in the field or at the plate. We did that tonight."
After two quick fly ball outs to start the frame, the Rebels forced Winthrop starter Zach Peek to unravel quickly and blew the game open early on. Peek was chased after five innings. He was charged with six runs on eight hits.
Houston Roth relieved Rolison in the sixth and went three innings in which he let up two runs that were both unearned on two hits. Will Stokes finished the game off in the ninth and the Rebels moved to 1-0.
"We played pretty well tonight," Bianco said. "It was a nice night offensively because it came from some different people."
With the first pitch of the 2018 season just days away, check out the much-anticipated walk out music list. Which song is your favorite? Let us know on Twitter by tagging @OleMissBSB and using the hashtag #RebWalkOuts.
#1 Jacob Adams: "Bar, Guitar, and a Honky Tonk Crowd" by Whiskey Myers
#2 Ryan Olenek: "Danger" by Migos and Marshmello
#3 Anthony Servideo: "Soul Survivor" by Jeezy
#4 Emanuel Fernandez: "Public Service Announcement" by Jay Z
#6 Thomas Dillard: "Blessings" by Lecrae and Ty Dolla Sign
#7 Nick Fortes: "Night Call" by Migos and Steve Aoki
#8 Will Golsan: "Silence" by Marshmello
#9 Michael Spears: "Good Life" by Kanye West ft. T-Pain
#10 Tyler Keenan: "Finesse (Remix)" by Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B
#11 Chase Cockrell: "Kings of Summer" by Ayokay
#12 Greer Holston: "Closer" by Lemaitre
#13 Cooper Johnson: "With My Team" by Creek Boys
#14 Cole Zabowski: "Crew" by Goldlink
#15 Grae Kessinger: "Butterfly Effect" by Travis Scott
#17 Will Stokes: "Icky Thump" by The White Stripes
#18 Connor Green: "Believer" by Imagine Dragons
#20 Will Ethridge: "Godzilla" by Blue Oyster Cult
#21 Jordan Fowler: "Metalingus" byAlter Bridge
#22 Ryan Rolison: "Silence (Codeko Remix)" by Marshmello ft Khalid
#24 Dallas Woolfolk: "Bad Company" by Five Finger Death Punch
#25 Tim Elko: "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC
#26 James McArthur: "Loud and Heavy" by Cody Jinks
#27 Bryan Seamster: "Lose Yourself" by Eminem
#28 Austin Miller: "Shoot to Thrill" by AC/DC
#29 Max Cioffi: "Chicago's Finest" by Yoshi
#31 Colin Coates: "Arsonist's Lullabye" by Hozier
#32 Michael Fitzsimmons: "Great Example" by Kevin Gates
#33 Golston Gillespie: "Changed" by Gucci Mane ft. Big Sean
#39 Brady Feigl: "Ain't No Grave" by Johnny Cash
#40 Houston Roth: "Slow Ride" by Foghat
#41 Pierce Smith: "No Option" by Post Malone
#42 Tim Rowe: "Danza Kuduro" by Don Omar
#44 Carl Gindl: "Whatever It Takes" by Imagine Dragons
#56 Matt Myers: "The Biggest in the World" by Changer
#65 Parker Caracci: "May We All" by Florida Georgia Line
By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com
Mike Bianco spoke with a sense of excitement in his voice as he stood at a podium in the Diamond Club seating area at Swayze Field at media day. Ole Miss opens its 2018 season against Winthrop on Friday afternoon.
The Rebels return seven starters in the field from a young group last season and also return the bulk of their pitching both in the rotation and bullpen.
Bianco gave a preview of a potential starting lineup, starting with the outfield. Thomas Dillard will be the opening day left fielder, Will Golsan will be in center and Ryan Olenek will man right field. Olenek played center field in 2017, but Bianco anticipates the junior to play some infield as well and preferred to have some stability in center field, hence the flip between Golsan and Olenek. Aside from that, it is the same outfield personnel-wise from last year.
With Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman being the only everyday position players Ole Miss needed to replace, both of the open positions are in the infield at second and third base. At third base Bianco said both Tyler Keenan and Tim Elko could see action there this weekend. Both are freshmen and Keenan bats left-handed. Jacob Adams and Anthony Servideo will be the primary candidates to replace Blackman at second base. Servideo is a true freshman out of Miami, Florida, and Adams is a junior by way of Crowder Community College. A healthy Grae Kessinger returns at shortstop and Nick Fortes will play first base after sliding over to that position from catcher last year. Cole Zabowski could also see time at first base as well. Sophomore backstop Cooper Johnson will be behind the plate for the Rebels as well.
Bianco said lefty Tim Rowe and right-hander Chase Cockrell will see time at DH this weekend, giving him two solid bats with some power and a match-up option depending on the opposing pitcher.
"Chase had a great fall, and Tim showed us what he could do last year, and look for him to add to that his senior campaign," Bianco said.
Ryan Rolison will grab the baseball for the Rebels on opening day. The sophomore lefty is coming off of a dominant summer in the Cape Cod League and has plenty of experience pitching in the SEC after sliding in to the rotation early on in SEC play last year.
"Last year, as good as we were on the mound, we weren't good enough to compete on Friday night in the SEC," Bianco said."And if you want to compete in our league, you have to compete on Friday night and I think Ryan gives us the best shot to do that right away."
Rolison's developed his changeup as a formidable third pitch along with a really good breaking ball.
"It has come a long way," Rolison said. "I feel comfortable throwing it for a strike in any count. I have gained a lot of confidence in it."
Junior righty Brady Feigl will start on Saturday and fellow junior right-hander James McArthur will be getting the nod on Sunday. Feigl got a taste of the rotation a year ago, but was mostly an effective option for Bianco out of the bullpen and all 12 of McArthur's outings in 2017 were weekend starts.
"The biggest thing for me going back into the fall was gaining consistency with my slider," Feigl said. "When I was good last year, I had my slider. It bumped up all of my other pitches."
This group has 14 upperclassmen compared to six from a season ago and has a lot of talent on the mound mound in particular.
All-American closer Dallas Woolfolk and senior Will Stokes are experienced pieces on the back end of the Ole Miss bullpen and the team also returns the likes of sophomores Will Ethridge and Houston Roth who were effective for the Rebels out of the pen as freshmen. Bianco said freshman left-hander Jordan Fowler turned some heads in the fall and that fellow freshman Max Cioffi pitched well, too. Throw in an experienced junior in Connor Green and Cal Ripkin Summer League Pitching MVP Parker Caracci, and Bianco will have a number of options to go to in the later innings.
"When you look at the pitching staff, they really did pitch it pretty well last year," Bianco said. "I think we were ranked fourth in the SEC in ERA, and we return seven of the nine best earned run averages from last year. An experienced staff, and experienced position players usually makes for a pretty good team."
Ole Miss tweaked the top of its lineup a good bit last year as it tried to find a natural fit at leadoff hitter. Golsan and Olenek spent time hitting in the leadoff spot, but ideally Bianco would like to slot them behind the leadoff guy and is hoping one of the candidates at second base could assume that role.
"Leadoff is the tough one," Bianco said. "I think there's a good chance that one of those second basemen, maybe Servideo or Adams leads off opening day, but we'll have to play with it. Some of those other guys that run well probably aren't your prototypical leadoff guy, like Olenek and Golsan. They're good hitters, but I think Servideo and Adams did that for us, and I think they're ready for that position."
Bianco is excited with the fact he returns a lot from last year's team as this was not the case this time last year with the number one-ranked recruiting class headlining a slew of newcomers. There's a nice blend of experience and depth on this team.
The bullpen was undoubtedly the backbone of Ole Miss' 2017 team. The Rebels had arguably the strongest bullpen in the SEC, one with a variety of different arms with closer Dallas Woolfolk anchoring the back end as the team's closer.
Mike Bianco had the luxury of being able to choose from a number of different guys to go to. Here is an idea of what his options will be this season.
Will Stokes- The senior has done a little bit of a lot in his Ole Miss career, ranging from stepping in to be the team's Sunday starter in the meat of its SEC schedule as a freshman, to stints at closer his sophomore and junior year. Stokes is a three-pitch guy with a fastball in the lower 90s with a good change up and slider. When he's got command of his fastball and can keep it down in the zone he's really good. Stokes will close games in any scenario in which Woolfolk is not available and will give Bianco a reliable, veteran option as a middle innings reliever whose logged a lot of innings in his career.
Connor Green- The junior right-hander made 12 appearances out of the pen last year, compiling a 5.29 ERA and struck out 20 hitters in 17 innings. His 12 appearances were eight fewer than the 20 he made his freshman season in which he posted a 2.73 ERA and fanned 37 hitters in 33 innings. He's got the ability to eat innings in the event of an early exit from the starter and will likely see his appearances go up this season.
Houston Roth- Roth's role will be an interesting one to monitor this year because he can do a number of different things. He was good for the Rebels out of the bullpen as a freshman, logging 18 relief appearances and compiling a team-low 1.57 ERA in 28.2 innings. Roth only walked eight hitters. He's got an electric fastball and will likely take on an even bigger role this season.
Will Ethridge- Like Roth, Ethridge was another freshman that was really good for Ole Miss last year. He made 19 appearances (4 starts) and logged 41 innings in which he struck out 50 hitters. At one point, he had a string of 9 straight appearances without allowing an earned run over a span of 14 innings. Ethridge pitched in some big spots last year and never showed any signs of wavering, including getting four-straight outs in front of 10,000 at Alex Box stadium in a win over LSU last April.
Ethridge has swing-and-miss stuff. He struck out 10 hitters in each of his first two starts and should be an effective weapon again this year.
Parker Caracci- Another guy that had a good fall and is in the mix for a bullpen role this season. Caracci had a huge summer in the Cal Ripkin League. He put together a 0.70 ERA in 38.2 innings and surrendered just 16 hits. He was named the league's most outstanding pitcher.
Dallas Woolfolk- The All-American closer's performance last year spoke for itself. He led the team with 26 relief appearances and tallied 12 saves, the second most in a single season in school history. He recorded four or more outs in six of those saves and was the Rebels' biggest weapon out of the pen. Woolfolk's got an electric fastball his three-pitch mix as a closer makes him even harder for opponents to hit. The rising junior is poised for another dominant year.
Jordan Fowler- The coaching staff is high on this true freshman lefty, and he'll have an opportunity to have a role this season in a right-hand heavy bullpen. Fowler went 20-2 as a starter in high school with a pair of no hitters. He had a good fall and will be a newcomer to keep an eye on this season.
Austin Miller- A sophomore out of North Liberty, Iowa, Miller pitched at Kirkwood CC last year and joins the Rebels as a sophomore. He faced 78 batters in the fall and posted a 3.54 ERA with 13 strikeouts. Miller's got good command and walked just two of the 78 batters he faced during fall ball.
Colin Coates- Coates is a junior right-hander out of DeSoto Central High School and spent the last two seasons playing for Hinds CC. He faced 75 hitters in the fall, struck out nine and walked just six.
Max Cioffi- The true freshman is a righty out of Chicago, Illinois. He faced 61 hitters in the fall and yielded just 14 hits and struck out seven.
Pierce Smith- Smith's another lefty in a righty-dominant pen and comes to Ole Miss as a junior out of Chattahoochee Valley CC where he went 2-1 in five starts and struck out 19 in 38.2 innings.
Emanuel Fernandez- A true freshman lefty from Lake Worth, Florida, Fernandez struck out 11 of the 66 hitters he faced this fall and walked only six.
Matt Myers- Myers is a Jackson, Mississippi, product and a true freshman. He was named to Mississippi's Dandy Dozen as a senior and was listed at the number one RHP in the state by Perfect Game and the no. 3 overall prospect.
OXFORD, Miss. - In the second leg of our Ole Miss Baseball Season preview, we take a look at the Ole Miss outfield.
The Rebels return all three of their primary starters in the outfield and one of two reserve players that got spot starts in the corner outfield positions. Most notably senior Will Golsan and junior Ryan Olenek return to occupy center and right field respectively. Golsan started all 57 games for the Rebels, 53 of which came in right field, three in center and a lone start at third base. Olenek started 53 games and was the team's primary center fielder a year ago.
Thomas Dillard began the season as the team's primary left fielder, but was platooning with rising sophomore Bryan Seamster and an occasional appearance from the now departed Kyle Watson.
Here's an idea of what the outfield might look like on opening day.
Left Field: Thomas Dillard
As mentioned above, Dillard started 45 games for the Rebels last season, 35 came in left field and he DH'd 10 times. He began the year as the everyday right fielder, but struggled at the plate to begin his college career and was platooned with Seamster. Dillard hit .206 and drove in 12 runs in 2017 but struggled with putting the ball in play at times. His plate discipline was good, drawing 25 walks and he has the ability to switch hit, belting home runs on either side of the plate last year. Dillard came out of high school as a power hitter with a long swing and most of his struggles were natural of a freshman getting acclimated to SEC pitching. I would expect Dillard to have a much improved season at the plate and be one of the Rebels' core run producers in the middle of the lineup.
What was lost in all of the noise surrounding Dillard at the plate was that he developed into a pretty good left fielder. Sure, it took some adjusting early in the season in terms of tracking balls, angles at balls hit in the gap and playing them off the wall. Dillard played the position well for the majority of the year and was charged with only two errors. That's not particularly easy to do considering his natural position is catcher. Assuming he takes a step forward at the plate like most anticipate, he will be a really important piece to the Ole Miss lineup this season.
Center Field: Will Golsan
Olenek occupied this position last year, but most signs point to Golsan being the primary center fielder during his final season in Oxford. Golsan led the team in hits last season with 69, hit .322 in SEC play and tallied a .407 slugging percentage with 20 multi-hit games. He had multiple hits in 35 percent of the Rebels' games last year. Golsan has been the epitome of consistency during his career with the Rebels. He's played third base, second base, first base and all three outfield spots during his time and played them pretty well.
Golsan has done whatever the coaching staff has asked of him while being a steady producer at the plate. He's made 163 starts and played in 172 games in three years and has a solid chance at finishing his time in Oxford as a career .300 hitter with 250 hits. Golsan is by no means slow, but also isn't the speediest outfielder. His ability to track balls off the bat and take efficient angles has made him a good defensive outfielder.
He'll be one of the team's most consistent producers at the plate and a veteran leader in his final collegiate season.
Right field: Ryan Olenek
He was the everyday center fielder last season, so you may be wondering why make a switch? Olenek is a bit of a swiss army knife for the Rebels and a valuable one at that. He's a natural shortstop out of high school and ended up taking the starting job in right field in his freshman season because Mike Bianco couldn't afford to take his bat out of the lineup. Last year he occupied center field and played one game at third base. Olenek is a tremendous athlete that can be placed all over the diamond. With the Rebels needing to replace two key spots in the infield with the departure of Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman, Olenek's services could be needed there.
Olenek was a tremendous center fielder for Ole Miss last year and if he is in the outfield, Bianco can move he and Golsan pretty much wherever because of their versatility. Olenek hit five home runs, drove in 53 runs and led the team in doubles with 17 as well as stolen bases with 10. He struck out just 29 times in 214 plate appearances and hits well to contact. Olenek will likely find himself in the top-to-middle of the Rebels order and is expected to be a consistent hitter this season.
Others in the mix: Bryan Seamster, Michael Spears, Jacob Adams, Tim Rowe. As previously mentioned, Seamster saw some starts in left field platooning with Dillard last year mostly as a match-up move given he's a left-handed bat. Seamster's got pretty good speed and has the ability to play either corner outfield spot. With the loss of Kyle Watson -- an athlete fielder that Bianco could insert anywhere in the outfield -- Seamster could serve as a similar utility piece with the chance to assume an even bigger role if he hits well.
Spears and Adams are newcomers with enough pop in the bat to be able to contribute immediately. Adams is an interesting prospect being a junior college transfer. He put up big numbers at Crowder Community College and did a lot of different things. He can steal a base and hits well to the gaps. Spears is a true freshman that had a big enough fall to give him a chance to be a contributor this season.
Tim Rowe will likely be the team's opening-day DH, but at least has a little experience playing right field. Spears and Adams could also contend for time at DH as well as the corner outfield slots.
OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss opens its 2018 baseball season in 19 days when the Rebels hosts Winthrop for a three-game series Feb. 16-18. Mike Bianco's group enters the year ranked in the preseason top 10 and will want to build on a 2017 season that provided some tough but valuable learning lessons to a relatively young team that boasted 29 freshmen and sophomores headlined by an immensely talented 2016 recruiting class.
Last year, Ole Miss boasted a .970 fielding percentage and will likely want to improve on that mark as it was good for 12th in the SEC. The two biggest voids the team needs to fill are the ones left by Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles at second and third base.
Here, we take a look at what the Rebel infield could look like this season.
First Base: Nick Fortes/Cole Zabowski/Tim Elko
This position was a revolving door of sorts for the Rebels a year ago. Bianco struggled a bit to find consistent defense here for much of the year as well as offense early on. Eventually, Ole Miss found an answer here in Nick Fortes. It happened suddenly. Bianco approached Fortes two days before a late-April midweek game against Arkansas Pine-Bluff and consulted him about slipping on a first baseman's mitt. The primary reason for the move was the ability to keep Fortes' bat in the lineup thanks to his .301 average and .452 slugging mark at the time. Fortes had assumed the bulk of the catching load for the previous month due to Cooper Johnson struggling at the plate. Johnson began to hit better and is a high-level defensive stopper, so the move seemed to make sense.
Fortes made a fairly seamless transition and played the position about as well as anyone could've asked of him on such short notice. Now, he's had the fall and winter to become accustomed to the larger glove and new home. Fortes will still likely catch a decent bit to help alleviate the workload of Johnson's knees throughout the grind of a college season, leaving the opportunity for Cole Zabowski and highly-touted freshman Tim Elko to see action at first base. Zabowski started 22 games at first base for the Rebels a year ago and hit .239 with a home run and 11 RBI in 92 at bats last year. All three of these guys will likely see time here with the possibility of Chase Cockrell too. Fortes will get the bulk of the starts and will ideally add some pop to the Rebels' lineup too.
Second Base: Anthony Servideo/Ryan Olenek
Ole Miss will have to replace the likes of Tate Blackman at this middle infield spot. Blackman had been the everyday second baseman the last two seasons and his presence at the plate will be missed more so than anything else.
Servideo is a true freshman from Miami and has the ability to make an impact for the Rebels immediately. Both a shortstop and a second baseman in high school, Servideo is a speedy and talented defender that could develop into a really good combo with Grae Kessinger in the middle of the Rebel infield.
He's a speedy 6.71 runner with good hands and an accurate arm. If he hits well enough, Servideo could be a really attractive option for Ole Miss in a leadoff slot the team didn't really have a natural fit for a year ago.
"I am not really a middle of the lineup guy," Servideo said. "My role is to get hits and get on base and do my thing. Let the bigger guys drive me in."
Bianco has said more than once before that Olenek is one of the best athletes on the team. He's invaluable to the Rebels because he can be placed quite literally all across the diamond. He was a natural shortstop coming out of high school, played right field his freshman year and was an aggressive center fielder that went and got the ball for Ole Miss last season. His late-inning catch in Baton Rouge against that knifed spike marks into the wall and preserved a Friday night Ole Miss win immediately comes to mind. Ideally, Bianco would probably prefer to keep his speed and athleticism in the outfield if he can, but Olenek is a more than capable infielder if needed and his versatility will surely help this team more than once this season.
Shortstop: Grae Kessinger
This position belongs to the rising sophomore who started 53 games for Ole Miss up the middle last year. Kessinger's season ended prematurely when he broke his foot at the SEC Tournament. He is a sure-handed defender with great range and a strong arm. There were times where he made incredibly difficult plays, particularly going toward the hole to his right, look routine. He struggled some at the plate as most freshmen do when adjusting to the learning curve that comes with handling SEC pitching, but is confident he can improve on this season.
"Last year I learned a lot," Kessinger said. "One thing was to be consistent and aggressive with your swing and in your approach. As long as you're swinging like that good things will happen."
Kessinger only struck out 30 times in 154 at bats. He was a good contact hitter, put the ball in play and at times just got unlucky. He had a .202 average on balls he put in play.
He says his foot feels completely healthy and returned to baseball-related activities by the end of the summer.
With the way he hit to contact and a year's serving of SEC pitching under his belt, most signs would point to the Rebels' infield anchor taking it to another level at the plate this season.
Third Base: Tyler Keenan/Tim Elko
Here lies the second hole Ole Miss must fill off last year's team. Senior captain Colby Bortles departed and took 10 home runs, 42 RBI and a .482 slugging percentage with him. Bortles was also a sneakily good defender even with his larger frame, especially on balls in foul territory. Bortles was a solid option at third base for Bianco the last two seasons.
A couple of guys could be tasked with replacing him, the first being Tyler Keenan. The true freshman played third, first, catcher and outfield and was ranked as the number one third baseman in the state of North Carolina out of high school. He's like Bortles in the sense that he shows pretty good range and athleticism even with a 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame. He's a left-handed hitter that possesses good power and could add some balance to a right-hand heavy Ole Miss lineup. Keenan had a strong fall and will certainly get a hard look at being the Rebels' primary guy at the hot corner.
Elko could also see time here. He's another large frame at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds with power and the ability to hit the baseball to the opposite field. Elko tallied 117 hits and 93 RBI in his high school career and has the chance to find his way into the lineup in some form consistently if he can produce at the plate.
Catcher: Cooper Johnson/Nick Fortes
One of the more interesting storylines of the 2017 season was the evolution of catcher Cooper Johnson. The rising sophomore entered his first college season with an incredibly strong arm, quick pop time and a sense of maturity that disguised the fact he was just an 18-year-old freshman. The defense was never a question with Johnson. He was an athletic defensive stopper that threw out 17 runners and made opponents think carefully whether they wanted to run on Ole Miss.
But Johnson hit a brutal 7-for-51 slump at the plate to begin his college career and began to see his time behind the plate shrink in favor of the more consistent bat in Nick Fortes. He spent a couple of weeks out of the lineup in early April and retooled his approach at the plate. The uncanny maturity he possesses showed during that time and Johnson worked his way back into the lineup during the last month and a half of the season. He recorded a hit in 12 of his final 17 games and raised his average as high as .218, a remarkable feat considering the averaged absorbed such a slow start. Johnson was a core piece of the 2016 recruiting class and his early struggle at the plate was really just a natural part of being a freshman with a significant role on an SEC ball club. Johnson turned it around quicker that most in his shoes would've been able to do.
As mentioned earlier, Fortes will also catch a decent bit to alleviate the stress on Johnson that comes with a 60-game season. But Johnson will surely be a solid and improved hitter in Ole Miss' everyday lineup this season.
Ole Miss battled and manufactured runs at the plate on Sunday, and that would be enough for the Rebel pitching staff that allowed the Aggies just three runs. Ole Miss scored in some less traditional ways to get the lead, with the first three runs coming off of a sac fly, rundown play, and safety squeeze. Ole Miss had plenty of chances to increase the lead but couldn't get the hit to bring guys home. David Parkinson's performance on the mound made up for the runners left on base, however. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the team captains put the game away with home runs in the final home game of the season. Both Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles sent deep shots over the left field fall to stretch the Rebel lead out.
Key Moment: With Ole Miss leading 2-0, the Aggies had their biggest opportunity to put a big number on the scoreboard in the top of the third. Four of the first five A&M batters reached to bring in a run and keep the bases loaded with one out against Rebel leftie David Parkinson. Instead of letting the game get away from Ole Miss, Parkinson battled back in impressive fashion. He fanned the next two batters to leave them loaded with just the one run crossing the plate. Ole Miss would never trail in the game.
Player of the Game: David Parkinson. Parkinson had struggled in is last three starts, but on Sunday he returned to the form Ole Miss fans are accustomed to. He worked around some base runners to work six strong innings of one-run baseball. Since he battled the way he did, he mitigated the effect of Ole Miss' offense struggling to get the hit with runners in scoring position.
Quotable: "Today, (Parkinson) was terrific," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "He had a big inning where he comes and gets a couple big strikeouts of (Braden) Shewmake and (Joel) Davis. That was probably the biggest turning point in the game. It was early. People forget that, but those are the pitches that win games."
Ole Miss desperately needed a win on a Saturday. The Rebels are on the NCAA Tournament bubble, so each remaining game is precious. Through seven innings, it didn't appear like Ole Miss was going to get the win it needed. Ole Miss hung around throughout the game, but it seemed like A&M's hits just found holes when the Aggies needed it while Ole Miss' found gloves. However, things changed for the better in the eighth for the Rebels. A four-run eighth inning pushed the Rebels past the Aggies to even up the series.
Key Moment: It would take just three batters for Ole Miss to erase the A&M lead. Ole Miss was in business quickly in the eighth inning after back-to-back singles from Nick Fortes and Ryan Olenek to open the frame. Things began to shift Ole Miss' way after an A&M pickoff attempt led to Olenek taking second base by sliding around the tag. Tim Rowe bounced a grounder to the shortstop, but it was misplayed. Both runners would score on that grounder to tie it up, but the Rebels weren't stopping with a tie game. After two strikeouts, Grae Kessinger stepped up and delivered. The freshman smoked one into the left-center gap for a double to bring home Rowe and give Ole Miss its first lead. Two batters later, Will Golsan provided Rebel closer Dallas Woolfolk an extra run of insurance with an RBI single. Woolfolk would secure the win for the Rebels in the top of the ninth.
Player of the Game: Grae Kessinger. Ole Miss needed someone to step up to give the Rebels a much needed win. That player turned out to be Kessinger. With a 2-2 count in a tie game, the freshman produced one of his best swings of the year as he crushed the pitch into the left-center gap. Outside of the late-inning heroics, the Ole Miss shortstop was on base all night as he walked in two other plate appearances.
Quotable: "It was great," Kessinger said. "You dream about stuff like that, getting the big hit and everybody going crazy. It was a big win for all of us to give us momentum going into tomorrow. Games like this can turn everything around in a heartbeat. Baseball is a great game for that reason. You can struggle for a little bit then come out and play a great game and everything is fixed."
Today, that's what Ole Miss' offense did as they outslugged Missouri to win 9-6. The Rebels were gifted with seven walks from the Mizzou pitching staff, and Ole Miss took advantage by hitting .353 with runners on base and .364 with runners in scoring position.The win gave Ole Miss a vital series win against Missouri to keep pace in the SEC with a 9-9 conference record.
Player of the Game: Nick Fortes. Fortes had been one of Ole Miss' most consistent hitters leading up to this series, but Missouri held him hitless over the first two games. On Sunday, he changed that. He doubled twice in three plate appearance to drive in three runs for the Rebels.
Key Moment: In the top of the fourth, Missouri chipped away at the Ole Miss lead, cutting the deficit to 4-1. The Rebels stretched that lead back out in the bottom half of the inning by throwing up a five-spot on the scoreboard in response. After singles from Grae Kessinger and Will Golsan, Colby Bortles hammered an 0-1 pitch into the Ole Miss bullpen for a three-run home run. The Rebels weren't finished either. Ryan Olenek and Tim Rowe both singled to bring up Fortes. Fortes would put the cherry on top of the inning with a shot into left field for a double to drive in both runners. Ole Miss took a 9-1 lead into the next inning. Missouri would shrink the lead, but the eight-run cushion Ole Miss created in the fourth was large enough to withstand it for the series win.
Today's game was played on a Saturday, but it had the vibe of a Friday night contest between two high-quality arms. Opportunities were limited for both sides, but Ole Miss freshman Ryan Rolison won the showdown against Missouri ace Tanner Houck for Ole Miss to grab the game two victory, 3-1. Despite not finding out he was starting today until 8:30 this morning, the freshman worked six one-hit innings to lead Ole Miss to the game two victory.
Player of the Game: Ryan Rolison. What a gutty performance from the Ole Miss freshman. Moved up a day with David Parkinson being under the weather, Rolison came through for Ole Miss with a spectacular performance in a game Ole Miss really needed to win. Despite struggling at times with finding the strike zone, the freshman struck out a career-high nine batters while limiting Mizzou to just one hit over six strong innings. Rolison allowed 0 hits in the seven at bats where a Missouri batter came to the plate with a runner on base.
Key Moment: Ole Miss led from the first inning, but a one-run lead isn't the most comfortable. Against potential first rounder Tanner Houck, baserunners were difficult to come by. In the fifth inning, Ole Miss was able to add to the one-run lead with a two-out rally jumpstarted by a walk. Tate Blackman drew a four-pitch walk and advanced to third on a single by Will Golsan. Smart baserunning by Golsan led to him taking second on the throw, giving the Rebels 2nd and 3rd for three-hole batter Colby Bortles. Bortles shot an 0-1 pitch back up the middle to drive in both Rebels and give Ole Miss the 3-0 lead. That would be enough runs for Rolison and the Ole Miss bullpen. Missouri threatened in the ninth, but only could get the one run across for the Ole Miss victory.
Quotable: "(Rolison) had a big fastball today," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "In the first couple innings, he struggled to get it down into the zone. Usually when they're up in the first inning, it's not so much overthrowing as adrenaline taking over and mechanics rushing a little bit. He was able to fix that up. He had a dominant fastball. Not many breaking balls, a few curveballs, a few changeups, but a lot of good fastballs today."
Both teams put up 10 hits, but Ole Miss made much more from its contact to sweep Alabama with an 8-2 win in game three. In general, 20 runs scored, eight runs allowed, and three wins is a very nice weekend weekend in the SEC. Ole Miss is back on track with a .500 record in conference play.
Player of the Game: Will Golsan. Ole Miss has needed an offensive spark, and Golsan provided that on Sunday. He went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored. More importantly, his hits came when the Rebels really needed them. In the bottom of the seventh, his two-run home run pushed the Ole Miss lead out to 4-1. He followed that by putting an exclamation point on Ole Miss' three-run eighth with an RBI double.
Key Moment: After adding three insurance runs in the seventh inning for a 5-1 lead, Ole Miss turned to Dallas Woolfolk. Woolfolk is normally an automatic three outs, but he ran into some issues today. With one run already in, Alabama had the bases loaded and just one out in a 5-2 game. It was a huge opportunity for the Tide to get right back in the game, but Woolfolk wasn't having any of it. A fly out where the runner couldn't tag up resulted in the second out of the inning. Woolfolk escaped the jam with a full count strikeout to keep the three-run lead intact. In the bottom of the inning, Ole Miss ended things for good by adding three more runs.
Number of the Game: A theme of the weekend was Alabama would get guys on base but be unable to get the hit to move them around. Alabama hit .152 (7-for-46) with runners on base in the series.
Ole Miss didn't play its cleanest game, but sometimes wins like on Saturday are the most important. They battled back from a three run deficit and won a game despite committing four errors. The pitching staff found a way to strand runners on base and keep Alabama from breaking the game open. Alabama never managed more than one run in any frame because of the way the staff stemmed the bleeding when Alabama had chances. Obviously, that led to Tate Blackman coming to bat in a tie game in the ninth inning and launching one into the seats for the series win.
Player of the Game: Will Stokes. After back-to-back singles to open the seventh inning, Alabama looked primed to take back the lead after Ole Miss had tied it up in the bottom half of the sixth. Mike Bianco turned to Stokes to navigate out of the jam. A sacrifice bunt followed by an intentional walk loaded the bases up for the Crimson Tide with one out. Ole Miss really couldn't afford to give the lead immediately back to Alabama, and Stokes delivered in a big way. He struck out the next two Tide batters and the game stayed deadlocked. After some struggles this year, getting out of that jam in the dominant fashion that he did has to be good for confidence moving forward. He gave way to Dallas Woolfolk after allowing a hit with an out in the eighth, but his escape in the seventh was a game changer.
Number of the Game: .125. Alabama had no shortage of chances to break the game open, but that never happened. In 16 plate appearances with a runner on base, Alabama managed just two hits for a .125 average. That includes a 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Through the first two games of the series, Alabama is hitting .115 (3-for-26) with runners on base.
Quotable: "The inning before he started me off with a slider in," Tate Blackman said. "I was looking for something middle-in. I picked a zone. He brought one in. That was the zone I was looking for. I stuck to my plan and went after it."
Tonight, everything clicked for Ole Miss. The bats provided plenty of runs while the pitching staff, led by the strong start of James McArthur, was dominant to give Ole Miss the strong game one win against Alabama. The most encouraging sign was at the plate, five different Rebels drove in a run. That shows there was timely hitting up and down the order.
Player of the Game: James McArthur. In the top of the first, it didn't looked like McArthur was on top of his game. Alabama's run was gifted by way of a walk, back-to-back wild pitches, and a ground out. After walking two in the first, he found his groove. McArthur from that point forward baffled the Crimson Tide batters. He struck out seven in his seven innings while allowing only two hits. In his final five innings of work, Alabama managed just one baserunner.
Key Moment: Alabama struck first by getting a run across before McArthur had settled in, but Ole Miss took control of the game for good in the fourth inning. Ole Miss broke out the extra-base hits in the inning by racking up three doubles. Will Golsan led off the inning with a single and was followed by RBI doubles from Colby Bortles and Ryan Olenek that gave Ole Miss a 2-1 lead. After back-to-back outs, Thomas Dillard gave the Rebels some more cushion with an RBI double and a 3-0 changeup. Two wild pitches later, Dillard was score. Ole Miss would add on from there, but the four runs in the fourth was enough on its own.
Number of the Game: 1. When Alabama managed to get a player on base, Ole Miss gave the Tide next to nothing. Alabama recorded only one hit (1-for-10) when a runner was aboard, and that single hit came in the ninth inning when the game was already decided.
Ole Miss had been struggled at the plate lately. On a day where the pitching wasn't as dominant as it's been for nearly all of this season, the bats came to life to put up eight runs over the final four frames and take the series with a 10-8 win against Vanderbilt. When the Rebels fell behind 5-2, and then 6-3, it felt like a lead that would be too much to overcome. Ole Miss would cut into the lead, but then Vandy would add back to the lead. After allowing Vandy to answer in the sixth and seventh inning with runs of their own, Ole Miss finally put up a zero in the top half of the eight. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Ole Miss put up the runs that would complete the comeback.
Player of the Game: Colby Bortles. Bortles has been making good swing after good swing, but the hits haven't been falling in. It seemed like he was consistently hitting the ball hard, but right at fielders. Well, if you hit it over the wall, they can't catch it. He was 2-for-3 on the day with two RBIs, but his no-doubt solo home run tied the game up for Ole Miss in the eighth and set the table for the three-run Ole Miss inning that secured the victory.
Key Moment: Obviously after the Bortles home run, there was still work to do. The game was only tied. Might as well win it at that point. Will Golsan drew a full-count walk to reach, but Ole Miss needed to move him around the bases. The very last position player to come off the bench in the game, Chase Cockrell, gave the hit that would do just that. A hot shot into the right field corner on a 2-1 pitch gave Ole Miss the lead as Golsan went from first to home to score. From there, Nick Fortes gave Dallas Woolfolk an extra run to play with by driving in Cockrell with a single. Woolfolk sat Vandy down in order in the ninth for the win.
Number of the Game: 15. Ole Miss dressed 15 position players for Sunday's game. All 15 entered the four hour marathon of a rubber match. In total, 20 players entered the game for the Rebels on Sunday. It took nearly the entire team to get the series-clinching win.
Ole Miss pitches and pitches. The Rebels have put together five-straight shutouts, and this time Vanderbilt fell victim to the Rebel staff. Ole Miss allowed just three hits, and Tim Rowe came through in a big way in the sixth inning to give Ole Miss the 1-0 victory.
Player of the Game: David Parkinson. He didn't have his best stuff tonight, but he battled through six innings of scoreless baseball. The leadoff man reached in four of his five innings, but the junior showed why he's the Friday night starter for Ole Miss. He found his way out of jams, none bigger in the third inning. Vanderbilt loaded them up with no outs, but Parkinson got the first out via batter's interference. He got the next batter to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to keep the game tied at 0 in a big momentum-shifting escape.
Key Moment: The first two batters of the sixth were retired for Ole Miss, and it seemed like Kyle Wright might have an easy inning. An opportunity was presented after Bortles and Dillard both reached with two outs. Mike Bianco went to the bench for Tim Rowe to pinch hit and break the 0-0 deadlock. With a 1-1 count, he did just that. He sent a ball on a line into left field to score Bortles and drive in the only run of the contest.
Number of the Game: 1-for-13. Vanderbilt had baserunners for most of the game. The leadoff man reached in four of the nine innings, so there were opportunities. However, Ole Miss' pitching was fantastic when a Commodore reached base. Vanderbilt managed just one hit with a runner on, going 1-for-13. That 1-for-13 includes a hitless 0-for-6 with a RISP.
Runs were at a premium this weekend, due in large part to Ole Miss' dominance on the mound. Furman couldn't manage a run in any of the three games this weekend as the Rebel staff combined for three shutouts for the series sweep. Today, it was Greer Holston that delivered a spectacular start with his seven innings of two-hit baseball. Ole Miss' offense racked up nine hits through the game but couldn't string hits together to bring home the run. The game stayed deadlocked at zero until Michael Fitzsimmons came off the bench in the eighth for the deciding pinch-hit RBI single.
Player of the Game: Greer Holston. The freshman was awarded the weekend start, and he definitely made the most of it. He went seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts and two hits in extremely impressive fashion. Adding to that, both of the six hits were infield singles. Furman never got solid contact off of the right-hander. The Rebel pitching this weekend overwhelmed the Furman bats.
Key Moment: Ole Miss needed just one run to win with the way the pitchers were operating on the mound, but that run didn't come until the eighth inning. Ole Miss tallied hits throughout the game but couldn't put them together. Kyle Watson started off the inning with a leadoff single followed by Cooper Johnson getting the sacrifice bunt down. Coming off the bench cold, Michael Fitzsimmons worked the count to 2-2 before roping one into left for the RBI single. From there, Dallas Woolfolk closed it out.
Number of the Game: 0. Three games, three shutouts. Furman didn't score a run all weekend against Ole Miss' staff. It's the first time since 2004 against Nicholls that the Rebels held an opponent scoreless all weekend.
Quotable: "We held them to 10 hits on the weekend, and they didn't have an extra base hit," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "That's about as dominant as you can be on the mound to a team I think can hit. They came in with really good numbers offensively. One through nine in their lineup, their lowest batting average was .279 on Friday night. You're talking about a team that's hitting above .300 that has success. They were averaging about eight runs a game coming in. Our guys answered it. We pitched it really well all week."
For the second game in a row, Ole Miss got a dominant outing from its starting pitcher. Working a day earlier than usual, Brady Feigl was masterful in his eight scoreless innings to give the Rebels the series-clinching 5-0 win. Between Feigl and David Parkinson's performance last night, Ole Miss starters have worked 16 scoreless innings while allowing just four hits against Furman in this series.
Player of the Game: Brady Feigl. The right-hander was dominant in his eight innings of work. He struck out 10 while allowing just one walk and three hits. He consistently was ahead in counts and didn't allow Furman many opportunities at any point. While the wind was blowing in, that had nothing to do with Feigl's great outing. Furman was rolling over most pitches that led to 11 ground outs against just three fly outs. When 21 of the 24 outs recorded are via strikeout or groundout, it's obvious the pitcher was on top of his game.
Key Moment: When a pitcher is having a day like Feigl, it doesn't take much run support. Ole Miss supplied him with enough runs for the win with one swing of the bat in the second inning. Michael Fitzsimmons drove a 3-1 fastball through the teeth of the wind and into the left field bullpen for a two-run home run. From there, Ole Miss never looked back.
Quotable: "When you look at the box score, it was all about Brady Feigl," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "I don't think he pitched well because of the weather. I don't think he pitched well because they hit a lot of balls and the wind stopped it. He could have pitched if the wind was gushing out. He would have pitched very similar to this. I don't think they hit a ball deep and long where the wind caught it. I'm pleased with that and the way we played defense. We can do that; we can pitch and play defense."
In what turned into a pitchers' duel between two extremely talented pitchers that were dealing, Ole Miss behind the dominant performance from Friday ace David Parkinson squeaked by Furman for the series opening win. The Rebel offense battled all night at the plate against the Paladin's top-of-the-line starter Will Gaddis to scratch across the two runs for the 2-0 shutout victory.
Player of the Game: David Parkinson. When you take a no-hitter into the eight inning, you're going to be the player of the game. The Rebels only supplied him with two runs, but that was plenty for the left-hander. He allowed only two baserunners all night and faced the minimum while never allowing a runner to reach second base. He had every pitch working and completely overpowered Furman batters for eight innings. He struck out nine and retired eight more on groundouts as Furman didn't even manage much solid contact against him.
Key Moment: After Parkinson excited, the Paladins mounted their biggest rally of the game. The first two batters of the ninth reached against Rebel closer Will Stokes. However, Stokes was able to work out of it unscathed. The next Furman batter failed to get a sacrifice bunt down for the first out of the inning. The next lined out to third, leading to the runner on second being doubled off for the third out of the inning and an Ole Miss victory.
Number of the Game: 0. Furman never managed to advance a baserunner to third base all night as Parkinson dominated. The runner reaching second in the ninth was the only time a runner was in scoring position, and that was as far as he advanced before Stokes worked out of the inning.
Quotable: "David was terrific," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "His curveball was really good tonight, and he was able to throw it in the strike zone. The changeup was terrific tonight. That's what he didn't have last week at Minute Maid. He struggled with his offspeed. We talked a lot this week about making some first pitch strikes, whatever it is. I thought he did that tonight, especially with the offspeed. He was able to own the inside part of the plate to those right handers and make it tough on them."
The Rebels just keep winning. Another top-25 team leaves Oxford with three losses after a weekend with Ole Miss. Ole Miss was dominant throughout the weekend, spending 21 innings of the 27 with a lead. The only time Ole Miss trailed was in the top half of the 8th inning of Saturday's game. Of course, that was followed by Ole Miss' big rally to grab the lead right back in the bottom half. Needless to say, it was a very impressive weekend for Ole Miss.
Key Moment: Ole Miss grabbed the lead with a five-run third inning and spent most of the game in control. Both teams added a run in the fifth, but UNCW's opportunity to make it a game came in the sixth inning. A single and a walk surrendered by Brady Feigl led to Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco going to reliever Andy Pagnozzi. Pagnozzi escaped the inning by leaving the bases loaded, but it was the second out that was the most remarkable. Grae Kessinger saved a run by using all of his vertical jump to snag a line drive. Getting out of that jam kept the Rebel lead at five runs. UNCW didn't go down without a fight in the ninth inning, but the Ole Miss lead was too large to completely overcome.
Player of the Game: Grae Kessinger. In particular, Kessinger's glove. The freshman was making plays all day at shortstop. In the fourth, he kept the lead off man from reaching by making an incredible play going into the hole to his right. Then in the sixth, he changed the complexion of the inning by going way up when he took away a line drive RBI base hit. If that ball gets over his head - like it would for most shortstops - the Seahawks' ninth inning rally may have been enough to change the outcome of the game.
Number of the Game: 7. Ole Miss is 7-0 on the young season. This is the fourth time under Mike Bianco that the Rebels have started 7-0. What's most impressive about these seven though is that six of them were against nationally ranked teams. Wins like that plus the brutal SEC slate makes it almost a certainty that Ole Miss will have one of the top RPIs in the nation.
Quotable: "When it was hit, I thought 'I better jump really high,' Grae Kessinger said about grabbing the line drive. "It all worked out. Pitchers are throwing well. I was just trying my best to make a play."
Sure, this season is only six games old. However, it's apparent that it's not easy to put this Ole Miss baseball team away. They're young, but they have a knack for winning like a much older team. Just ask ECU and UNCW. Today, the Rebels had opportunities to swell their lead throughout the game but just couldn't get the hit to do so. It seemed like that would cost Ole Miss the game when the Seahawks took the lead for the first time this weekend with a three-run home run in the eighth. The bottom of the eighth proved that was not the case. The Rebels had another rally in them.
Key Moment: Nick Feight lifted a pitched over the left field wall for a three-run home run to give the Seahawks a 4-3 lead in the eighth inning. No big deal. Ole Miss would just answer right back. Ole Miss placed a five-spot on the board in the bottom of the eighth. Kessinger walked, was bunted over, and scored on a Tate Blackman single. The Rebels weren't settling for a tie game. They were going to do what they had failed to do earlier. Break the game open. Freshman Bryan Seamster barreled up a 3-2 pitch for a two-run homer to break that tie and bring on showers in right field. From there, the Rebels added two more runs of insurance. That's how you answer a three-run homer by an opponent. By throwing up a five spot in the bottom half of the same inning.
Player of the Game: James McArthur. The win stat for pitchers isn't a good stat. Just look at what McArthur did today. He threw a brilliant six innings, keeping a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He struck out a career-high 11 batters in a dominating performance. He didn't get the win because the bullpen lost the slim lead, but that won't be the case most times he pitches like that.
Number of the Game: 2. Seamster had one plate appearance and one hit coming into Saturday. You could say the second hit of his career was in a little bigger moment than his single against Arkansas State. It was the huge hit that clinched the series and kept the Rebels undefeated.
Last weekend, Ole Miss had to come from behind for all three wins in the series sweep. Tonight against UNC Wilmington, the Rebels jumped ahead in the second inning and never looked back. Ole Miss used four in the second while adding another run in the fifth and two more in the eighth to open the series with a 7-2 Friday night win. UNCW threatened in the seventh by adding two runs, but Dallas Woolfolk entered and shut the door on a bigger inning. Ole Miss' pitching was dominant throughout the game, allowing just three hits while fanning 10 batters against a very good Seahawk offense.
Player of the Game: David Parkinson. The junior sat down the first 12 batters he faced and by that time, the offense had supplied five runs. He had all four of his pitches working for him for most of the game, working six innings and allowing just one run. Outside of the seventh inning where he was pulled and allowed the one earned run, UNCW managed only one runner in scoring position. He once again pounded the strike zone, throwing 60 of his 95 pitches for strikes.
Key Moment: UNCW's starting pitcher Alex Royalty walked three batters in the second inning. Ole Miss made him pay for it. An RBI-walk from Cooper Johnson, an RBI-single from Grae Kessinger, a Ryan Olenek sac fly, and a Will Golsan RBI-single supplied the Rebels with a 4-0 lead that would never be relinquished.
Number of the Game: 3. On Friday nights against quality opponents, taking advantage of opportunities is obviously key. The Rebels had a runner reach third with less than two outs three times Friday night. All three times, Ole Miss brought him home. On the other hand, UNCW never managed a hit with runners on base (0-for-10).
Quotable: "David (Parkinson) was terrific, especially early," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "He got some help with them chasing his fastball, but his fastball had a lot of life tonight. He mixed four pitches into the strike zone much like he did last weekend and worked both sides of the plate. He looked like he was in control."
For the second-consecutive game, ECU held a lead in the late stages of the game. ECU scored four runs in the top of sixth and appeared to be on its way to salvaging the third game of the series. Ole Miss had other plans, answering immediately with five runs in the bottom half. Ole Miss had to hang on but did so for the opening weekend sweep of a top-10 ranked team. Dallas Woolfolk was dominant out of the pen to get out of a bases loaded jam, striking out five of the six batters he faced. Through the first three games of the season, the Rebels have shown that they are a very difficult team to put away and have a knack for escaping jams.
Player of the Game: Dallas Woolfolk. Cole Zabowski had a great day at the plate, driving in half of Ole Miss' runs and homering in the second inning. However, Woolfolk gets the nod for closing out the game with his Houdini-like escape of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the eighth and scoreless ninth inning. He struck out five of the six batters he faced in the teeth of a very talented ECU order to get the save and secure the series sweep. He was dominant.
Key Moment: Ole Miss had increased the lead to two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but ECU wasn't going to go quietly. A defensive miscue by Ole Miss in the outfield gave ECU a spark of life, and the bottom of the Pirates' order would load up the bases with the top of the order coming to the plate with no outs. Ole Miss turned to Woolfork out of the bullpen. Strike out. Strike out. Strike out. Crisis averted and series swept.
Quotable: "I don't know if I've ever seen a more dominant performance," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "I don't know if there can be. The situation, the talented team he's facing, and to strike out five out of six in the middle of their lineup is just terrific."
Ole Miss rallied from a two-run deficit in the late innings to knock off ECU 3-2 and clinch the series. Ole Miss was able to get baserunners on throughout the day, but it wasn't until the seventh inning before the Rebels go the big hit to get runners home. Ole Miss escaped a huge jam in the fifth to keep the score 2-0 and the runs finally came shortly afterwards.
Player of the Game: Andy Pagnozzi. This could have easily been Colby Bortles, as he was responsible for two of Ole Miss' three runs at the plate, but Pagnozzi gets the nod for his stellar 2.2 innings of one-hit baseball out of the bullpen. He entered the game with Ole Miss in dire straights and on the verge of letting the game slip away. He escaped the jam and kept the score at 2-0.
Key Moment: Speaking of getting out of that jam, it was the turning point of the game. If ECU's lead was extended past 2-0, it would have been difficult for Ole Miss to make up the deficit. Pagnozzi needed only two pitches to escape the bases loaded, one out jam in the fifth inning. He forced ECU's three-hole batter Eric Tyler to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. There was some miscommunication on the pitch selection, as a fast ball was called from the dugout. Pagnozzi threw a curveball, but it worked out perfectly for the Rebels. Ole Miss rallied past ECU by putting up three runs over the sixth and seventh innings for the win because Pagnozzi was able to keep the score manageable.
Quotable: "You feel good when you're going to a guy like Andy (Pagnozzi)," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "Freshman All-American and had been in that situation plenty of times last year. That was the big play of the day, come in with bases loaded, one out and get a big double play ball to get us out of the inning. At that point, you're feeling pretty bad. You've missed some opportunities with the walk. We don't cover on a bunt defense and two HBPs give them another run. You're a single away from them really busting the game open. That was huge."
In a game that had the feel of an SEC Friday night showdown, baserunners were difficult to come by for both teams for most of the game. Ole Miss was able to make a little more of its opportunities for the 5-4 Opening Day win.
Player of the Game: Ryan Olenek. On a typical Friday night where hits were difficult to come by, Olenek was responsible for three of the Rebels' eight hits. He was a one-man wrecking crew in the first inning to tie the game up at 1 for Ole Miss, doubling to left, stealing third, and scoring when the catcher sailed the throw into left field. He was a tone-setter and a catalyst for the Rebels all night.
Key Moment: With Ole Miss holding on to a 4-3 lead, David Parkinson was over 90 pitches and allowed the leadoff man to reach for just the second time in the game in the seventh inning. Mike Bianco elected to stick with his Friday ace, and Parkinson delivered without allowing the runner to ever reach scoring position. He stuck out T.J. Riles looking for the first out and the Rebels followed it by doubling off the runner on a line drive by Turner Brown. Ole Miss would extend the lead to two runs in the 8th, and Will Stokes would close it out from there. Parkinson faced a tough ECU lineup, but pounded the strike zone and didn't give up much for free. He allowed three runs in seven strong innings while striking out six and walking just one. Of his 99 pitches, 75 were in the zone.
Quotable: "On both sides, all the pitching was terrific against two very good offenses," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "(ECU) makes it hard on you. They're terrific, as you know a Cliff Godwin team would be, with two strikes. They just make it so hard. In that big inning with get the first two outs on two pitches and get two strikes on (Spencer) Brickhouse. He hits a double and they got two more two-strike base hits. Tonight it seemed all their damage was with two strikes. They're terrific. We have our work cut out for us."
Rebel greats Jake Gibbs and Joe Gibbon will take part in a World Series viewing party hosted by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on the opening night of the Fall Classic.
Gibbs and Gibbon will be joined by other current and former MLB players and coaches. The lineup includes Jay Powell, Jeff Brantley, Chris Maloney, Stan Cliburn, Chad Bradford, and Barry Lyons.
The doors will open at 5:30 with a reception and a dinner. At 6:30 the players will come on stage and answer questions about their experiences. At game-time everyone is invited to stay and watch Game 1 on the big screens throughout the museum. All proceeds go to support the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are available at the Museum office or online at www.msfame.com.
The Ole Miss coaches knew they had signed a special class last year. However, the MLB Draft has a way of eating into those classes. Ole Miss Baseball in the past has been unlucky with losing some recruits to the draft. This year, they couldn't have been more fortunate.
The Rebels have brought in 18 talented newcomers for the 2017 season. That includes seven high-school All-Americans and one junior college All-American. Five were listed in Perfect Game's top-100 high school players.
"When we signed this class back in November and a couple guys in the spring, in this talented of a class it's not likely they will all show up," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "Some days start to pass and you realized that you're going to get them all. It's going to be a special class. We're really young but very talented."
The freshman class started a group text around two years ago to keep up with each other, but even the individual members didn't know how the draft was going to go for their fellow signees.
"We kept a group text going steady, checking on each other and see how everybody was doing," freshman pitcher Ryan Rolison said. "Right around the draft, we let everyone have their personal space. We didn't really talk about it. After the draft was over, we found out everyone was going to show up. We started getting pumped and chatting a little more."
One player in particular that Rolison did not expect to make it to campus is his now roommate Cooper Johnson. Johnson was ranked the No. 39 draft prospect by Perfect Game.
"We talked to each other on draft day," Rolison said. "We were going to see how it played out. After that first night, we called each other and said, 'Let's go to Ole Miss and do something big there.'"
The freshmen have been on campus since the summer, but they've already experienced some of the difference between high school baseball and major college baseball. In particular, they've learned what strength coach Ben Fleming's workouts are all about.
"It's a big change from high school," Rolison said. "I talked to some of the players here, and they tried to explain Strength Ben's workouts. You can't really explain them until you actually do it. That first week adjusting to his workouts we were sore all the time."
While Ole Miss will be extremely talented, the team consists of only eight juniors or seniors.
"We have a lot of new faces out there, so we will have to be patient," Bianco said. "It's one of those falls where we'll probably have to take an extra day when we do bunt defenses and things like that. There are a lot of new guys at different positions."
However, Ole Miss was fortunate to return two experienced bats in Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles. They'll be leaned upon to be steady hands in the batting order as well as being leaders.
"Last year at this time and into the spring, we didn't expect Colby or Tate to return," Bianco said. "To get them both back is huge, and maybe more so this year. You have so many young guys, there aren't many veterans. Those guys are significant guys that bat in the middle of the lineup and are leaders. When you return middle of the lineup guys, you feel better about your offense."
A trimmed-up Blackman is excited to see what the freshmen are all about during the intrasquads in their first fall on campus.
"We're going to challenge them," Blackman said. "Everybody is good when they get here. We're all studs when we come. We're going to test their mental toughness and see how tough they are. Strength Ben definitely challenges them in the weight room. We're going to challenge them on the field."
Bianco hopes that the freshmen continue to do what they've done all their lives, play baseball very well.
"A lot of times, the freshmen put a little too much pressure on themselves," Bianco said. "That's one of the goals, to get them to play just like they did in high school when they played with that same mindset."
By Tate Hawkins, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
In case you missed it, or you've been focused on the winter sports, Ole Miss Baseball is already five weeks into the 2016 season. After an 8-2 win over UT Martin on Tuesday, the Diamond Rebels are 20-2, tying its best 22-game start in program history.
The Rebels roll into the second weekend of SEC play and the
first at Swayze after winning nine of their last 10 ballgames. Ole Miss sits in
the top 10 of all six major college baseball rankings across the country,
sitting as high as sixth in the Collegiate Baseball national poll and making
them one of four SEC teams in the top 10.
Ole Miss got off to its hot start early by winning seven of the
first eight games in Oxford, including a sweep over Florida International, taking
two-of-three against then-No. 2 Louisville, as well as midweek wins against
Arkansas State and Memphis. Then, the Rebels went to Myrtle Beach, South
Carolina to participate in the 2016 Chanticleer Classic, winning all 3 of their
games. Ole Miss posted victories over Ball State, then-No. 18 Coastal Carolina,
and Cincinnati outscoring the three opponents a combined 22-6.
Following the weekend road trip, it was back home to Swayze
where the Rebs would continue their winning ways by picking up sweeps over
Southeast Missouri and Grambling State, taking a 12-game win streak into the
first weekend of SEC play.
Ole Miss opened conference play by taking two-of-three from
the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, winning on Saturday and Sunday and
bringing their record to 19-2. The Rebels followed the victorious weekend with a
midweek win over UT Martin.
The impressive start has been accredited to masterful
pitching and hot hitting. The Ole Miss pitching staff boasts a club ERA of 2.42
led by weekend starters Brady Bramlett (2.03), Chad Smith (3.91), and Sean
Johnson (1.96). The bullpen features relievers David Parkinson (1.35), Dallas
Woolfolk (0.00) and Andy Pagnozzi (2.42), and closer Wyatt Short (0.87) who has
five saves. The Rebel hitters are led by Tate Blackman (.347, 2 HR, 21 RBI),
Henri Lartigue (.339, 1 HR, 9 RBI), Colby Bortles (.329, 3 HR, 19 RBI) and J.B.
Woodman (.325, 4 HR, 21 RBI). The Rebels have put 20 baseballs over the walls for
homers, led by J.B. Woodman and Cameron Dishon who both have hit four dingers
of their own.
This weekend, the Rebels host the 20-2 South Carolina
Gamecocks, who are ranked as high as No. 10, for their first home SEC series of
the year. The three-game slate is set for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in
observance of the Easter Sunday holiday. So dye your Easter Eggs fast and
postpone the egg hunt to Sunday because the baseball needs the support of Rebel
Nation for this weekend's big top-10 matchup. Pack Swayze and be ready for the bottom of the fifth...
By Tate Hawkins, Student Assistant, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
it all over athletics and campus. From jerseys, hats, helmets, and even to T-shirts
that get tossed into the crowd. Fans have clung to this over the past few years
with their attire. Now, what are you thinking about? If you're thinking of a
color, then you are absolutely correct. Over the past few years, the Rebels'
alternate color of powder blue has become a fan favorite. Now, the beloved
color will be featured by the Ole Miss baseball team throughout the 2016
was first donned by an Ole Miss sports team during the 1948 football season
when the color was on the football helmet. Worn up until 1977, then again from
1983-1994 the powder blue was beloved by Rebel fans. The color made a surprise
comeback in 2014 when the Ole Miss football team wore powder blue helmets
identical to the ones worn in 1989 to honor the late Chucky Mullins who lost
his life after battling being paralyzed from a hit in a game against the
Vanderbilt Commodores on October 28, 1989. Mullins received a wide outpouring
of support from the Oxford community and Rebel fans nationwide, symbolizing the
family aspect that Rebels of all ages love to this day.
blue helmets were worn four times during the 2015 football season. They were
featured when the Rebels went to Tuscaloosa to beat Alabama, followed by games
against Vanderbilt, Memphis, and in the Sugar Bowl victory against Oklahoma
State. Then in last week's series finale against FIU, a 16-5 win, the Rebel
baseball team warmed up in its traditional white with navy pinstripes before
making the switch into all powder blues before taking the field. Coach Mike
Bianco said that the jerseys "were something we've been planning for a while,
and we're glad to see that they turned out well." Players loved them as well. J.B.
Woodman described them as "the coolest uniforms in college baseball," while
Wyatt Short said that he didn't "have words to describe my feelings," when the
jerseys were unveiled. The powder blues were broken out again in the rubber
game against No. 2 Louisville, who wore a red uniform combination that resembled
the Houston Astros' jerseys during the Nolan Ryan era. Now, fans have had their
own opinions of the jerseys: some love the idea, and some are not so fond of
it. However, the history and tradition behind the color means more to Rebel
fans than the idea of just having a cool uniform.
If you haven't seen the jerseys I'm
talking about, you have a few options to get a look for yourself. You can come
out to a home game this season; the powder blues have been worn on Sunday of
the first two weekend series. You can check out the pictures on the Ole Miss
Baseball's social media accounts (Twitter: @OleMissBSB, Facebook: Ole Miss Baseball and
Instagram: olemissbsb.). If
neither of those are your forte, think Stan Musial-era St. Louis Cardinals.
By Tate Hawkins, Student Assistant, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to one of the best times of the year. After a wonderful fall for Ole Miss sports it's time to grab your gloves, caps, and your lawn chairs (if you're heading to the outfield). The grass has been cut, and the dirt has been dragged, oh and 10,000 of your closest friends are going to be with you: it's baseball season in Oxford!
Baseball can only begin with one of the most memorable days of the season, Opening Day. The gates of Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field opened for it's 28th Opening Day and saw its beloved Rebels get a 9-2 win over the Florida International University Panthers. Besides the play on the field, Opening Day comes with its own special set of emotions and events. This year, Opening Day fell on February 19, marking exactly 28 years to the day that the first baseball game was played at O-U Stadium.
Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field became the host of Ole Miss Baseball February 19 1989 when the Rebels swept a doubleheader against Cumberland University in front of a crowd of 1,016 fans who braved the bitter cold weather conditions. On that day, George H.W. Bush was President, a gallon of gas cost $1.12, Darrell Waltrip won his only Daytona 500 while racing on gas fumes, and you could get a hot dog at the ballpark for under a dollar (don't forget $1 hot dog nights during midweek games this season). For this year's opener, scenarios were a little different. The first pitch of the season was thrown on a sunny 70-degree day, and there were 3,000 students in right field to accompany the total attendance of 10,129, the largest Opening Day crowd in school history. Donald Trump's running for President, we race solo cups in the fourth inning, a gallon of gas will cost you $1.53, and a hot dog will cost you $5 (excluding Dollar Dog nights of course). Buy hey, it's still Opening Day.
However, some things are better left unchanged. David Kellum is still the voice of Ole Miss Baseball on the radio after 37 seasons and describes the event as "one of the best days of the year." He and his wife Mary spend their weekends in the ballpark broadcast booth together and "love it." The Kellums love Opening Day because it's the chance to "get back in the saddle" after a long offseason.
Junior Brady Bramlett described being the Opening Day starter as "an awesome experience, especially with the crowd today - you felt the energy as soon as you stepped on the field." Head coach Mike Bianco said he was "proud and excited" of the team's play on Opening Day due to the "heightened excitement" behind the day. That excitement can be accredited to the chance to see new talent, see the veterans show their experience, have the for Rebel greats return, and even possibly the fact that 10,000 people were in attendance. "That number's crazy," said Bianco regarding the attendance.
Aside from all the excitement, we can be hopeful from last year. The Rebels finished last season after being eliminated from postseason play in the Regional round and hope to return to Omaha and College World Series glory just like they did in 2014. With a lot of those team members being in the junior/senior years of eligibility, and a 3-game sweep over FIU on opening weekend, the season looks bright. So clear your schedules, rally the family, order your tickets and get to Swayze a few times this season. Here's to Rebel Baseball being back, and here's to 2016.
With the 2016 Ole Miss Baseball season beginning today at Swayze Field (4 p.m. CT vs. FIU), check out the always much-anticipated walk out music list. Which song is your favorite?
#1 DJ Miller: "Go DJ" by Lil Wayne
#2 Ryan Olenek: "My Kinda Party" by Jason Aldean (Batting), "Bring Em Out" by T.I. (Pitching)
#3 Chad Smith: "Welcome To Yhe Jungle" by Guns N' Roses
#4 Tate Blackman: "Out Here" by Mike Stud
#6 Errol Robinson: "The Sweet Escape" by Gwen Stefani
#7 Nick Fortes: "Gasolina" by Daddy Yankee
#8 Will Golsan: "The Show Goes On" by Lupe FIasco
#9 Kyle Watson: "Buy Me A Boat" by Chris Jansen
#10 David Parkinson: When The Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin
#11 Nic Perkins: "Slow Loud and Banging" by Chamillionaire
#12 J.B. Woodman: "Traveller" by Chris Stapleton
#14 Cameron Dishon: "Sorry" by Justin Bieber
#16 Matt Denny: "My House" by Flo Rida
#17 Will Stokes: "Hell Of A Night" by Dustin Lynch
#18 Connor Green: "Hell On Wheels" by Brantley Gilbert
#19 Andy Pagnozzi: "Peanut Butter Jelly" by Galantis
#21 Brady Bramlett: "Plush" by Stone Temple Pilots
#22 Henri Lartigue: "Jesus And Jones" by Trace Adkins
#24 Dallas Woolfolk: "Hells Bells" by AC/DC
#25 Colby Bortles: "Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift
#26 James McArthur: Confession" by Florida Georgia Line
#27 Connor Cloyd: "Keep Their Heads Ringin" Dr. Dre
#28 Ray Alejo: "Let The Drummer Kick" by Citizen Cope
#29 Andrew Lowe: "Bad To The Bone" by George Thorogood
#32 Michael Fitzsimmons: "Number One Spot" by Ludacris
#33 Sean Johnson: "The Hum" by Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike vs. Ummet Ozcan
#34 Brian Browning: "Lean On" by Major Lazer and DJ Snake
#35 Micah McHugh: "Great I Am" by Phillips, Craig & Dean
#38 Wyatt Short: "Slow Down" by Clyde Carson
#39 Brady Feigl: "Roots" by Imagine Dragons
#40 John Creel: "Seven Nation Army" by White Stripes
#42 Holt Perdzock: "Ms. Jackson" by Outkast
#43 Carson Klepzig: "Lift Your Head Weary Sinner" by Crowder
#65 Parker Caracci: "Pickin' Wildflowers" by Keith Anderson
Ole Miss swept a doubleheader Saturday, defeating Alabama 10-2 in Game One and 4-0 in Game Two. As a pitching staff, the Rebels allowed just one earned run and scattered a combined 12 hits with 17 strikeouts compared to just one walk, including 11 strikeouts to zero walks in the second game.
Junior left-hander Christian Trent worked a season-long 8.0 innings and then sophomore right-hander Brady Bramlett went a career-long 7.1 innings, not only pitching Ole Miss past Alabama, but putting the Rebels in a good position with the bullpen going into the series finale Sunday, where they look to complete their first weekend sweep of the season.
Bramlett and senior right-hander Scott Weathersby combined for the shutout in Game Two, the Rebels' first shutout of the season. Bramlett held Alabama to just four hits and also struck out nine batters compared to zero walks. He was one strikeout shy of becoming the first Ole Miss player since Drew Pomeranz to record three double-digit strikeout games in a season.
"I felt great tonight," Bramlett said. "My fastball was working. I was throwing a new breaking that we had been working hard on in the bullpen this week. Everything felt great. After my last couple of outings, I wanted to pound the zone and make sure everything felt good."
Bramlett had thrown a curveball and slider, but dropped the curveball in favor of just the slider this past fall. He worked on the curveball in the short work and bullpen this past week and brought it back Saturday, and it proved to be a resounding success.
"I thought the curve ball, not that it was the difference-maker, but it helped him today where he didn't have to lead everybody off with a fast ball, and he was able to dump some curve balls in there and kind of keep them off balance," Bianco said. "Alabama is a really good fastball-hitting team. He was tremendous."
For Bramlett, it was his sixth quality start of the season, but his first since March 21 against Florida. He boasts the best ERA (2.18) and opponents' batting average (.216) among the weekend starters and the third-best among all the regular pitchers, behind only Wyatt Short and Scott Weathersby.
His ERA is also third-best among qualified pitchers in the Southeastern Conference, while his 68 strikeouts rank sixth and his opponents' batting average ranks ninth. Just as impressive, he has allowed just 50 hits and issued just 17 walks in 62.0 innings, good for a 1.08 WHIP on the season.
"Even though we have had our struggles, it would be hard to imagine the season without him," Bianco said. "He's really kind of held it together and been maybe the surprise of all the arms. Not that we didn't we had it in him, but to go from Tuesday starter, to the dominance he has shown on Saturday for us has been a shot in the arm for us."
Six former Rebels begin the 2015 Major League Baseball on opening day rosters. Chris Coghlan, Zack Cozart and Seth Smith all started or are slated to start on opening day for their respective teams. Lance Lynn and Drew Pomeranz will begin the season in the starting rotation for their respective teams, while Aaron Barrett will play a key role in the bullpen for the Washington Nationals.
30 | Aaron Barrett | RHP | Washington Nationals
Barrett made his MLB debut on opening day last season with the Washington Nationals. And for the second straight year, he made the Nationals' opening day roster. In his rookie season, he appeared in 50 games as reliever, going 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA in 40.2 innings of work. He also made the Nationals' postseason roster. He returns to a similar late-inning relief role for the Nationals this season.
Barrett makes most most of each opportunity with Nats, writes Bill Ladson from MLB.com
8 | Chris Coghlan | OF | Chicago Cubs
The 2009 NL Rookie of the Year and a 7th-year veteran, Coghlan is in his second year with the Chicago Cubs. In his first season with the Cubs, he hit .283 with 28 doubles, five triples, nine home runs and 41 RBI, his best marks since his rookie season with the Florida Marlins. The Cubs played the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day, and Coghlan started in left and batted fifth, where he went 1-for-4 with a double in a 3-0 loss.
Another new skipper, but Coghlan finds familiarity in Cubs camp, writes Carrie Muskat from MLB.com
2 | Zack Cozart | SS | Cincinnati Reds
Cozart has been a fixture as the Reds' everyday shortstop for the last three years. Defensively, Cozart ranked near the top of the majors in several metrics and helped save the team some runs. At the plate, he looks to bounce back from one of the worst years of his career. He is slated to start at shortstop and bat eighth for the Reds in their season opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Frustration fuels Cozart's motivation for 2015, writes Mark Sheldon from MLB.com
31 | Lance Lynn | RHP | St. Louis Cardinals
Lynn won 15 or more games for the third straight season, going 15-10 with a 2.74 ERA. He also recorded 181 strikeouts compared to just 72 walks in 203.2 innings. His 15 wins were tied for 15th among major league pitchers. He was also one of just 11 pitchers with 15 wins and 180 strikeouts for the season. Lynn will begin this season as the Cardinals' No. 2 starter and he will start their home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 13, the first home-opening assignment of his career.
Lynn returns to mound in impressive form, writes Andrew Simon from MLB.com
13 | Drew Pomeranz | LHP | Oakland Athletics
For the second time in his career, and the second straight season, Pomeranz made an opening day roster. After making the Athletics' opening day roster as a reliever this past season, he will begin this season as their No. 5 starter and he is slated to get his first start against the Seattle Mariners on April 10. Pomeranz posted a 2.35 ERA in 69 innings over 20 appearances (10 starts) last season, but he missed more than two months due to injury.
A's name Pomeranz as fifth starter; Chavez to bullpen, writes Alex Espinoza for MLB.com
7 | Seth Smith | OF | Seattle Mariners
The most veteran member of the Ole Miss contingent in the major leagues, Smith is in his eighth major league season. It's his first season as a member of the Mariners, his fourth different major league team, after being traded rom the San Diego Padres during the offseason. He's coming off of one his better offensive seasons, hitting at a .266 clip with 31 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs and 48 RBI. He is slated to start in right field and bat second for the Mariners in their season opener against the Los Angeles Angels.
Smith brings quiet approach to first Mariners camp, writes Greg Johns from MLB.com
Junior left-hander Christian Trent and sophomore right-hander Brady Bramlett picked up quality starts on the mound, and the offensive provided some timely hits, which proved to be a winning formula as Ole Miss claimed the weekend series over No. 1 Florida, the Rebels' fourth straight home series win over a top-ranked team.
Ole Miss has gone through a gauntlet, playing eight of its last nine games against top-10 team, posting a 5-4 record, including a 4-4 record against the top-10 teams in No. 8 Louisville, No. 1 LSU, and No. 1 Florida.
"We're getting better," Bianco said. "We've shown that the last couple weeks. It's about being consistent and being able to perform. Certainly, the first two games we pitched well, and we're starting to get some timely hits. On Friday night, we didn't get a ton, but we got two that counted. That's really what we lacked."
Offensively, the Rebels had six hits in the 4-1 win in the series opener on Friday and nine hits in the 5-2 in in the series clincher in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, but as Bianco said, they were timely hits.
All the run support Trent and Bramlett needed came in the first innings, a two-run home run by sophomore center fielder J.B. Woodman in the opener and a three-run blast by senior first baseman Sikes Orvis in the clincher.
Trent retired the first eight batters he faced and went 4.1 innings before allowing his first hit. He said he struggled to locate his slider for a strike and leaned on his fast ball and change-up, and that was enough, as he allowed just one run on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work.
"He struggled to get the slider into the strike zone today, but that was kind of him last year," Bianco said. "Sometimes, he had the slider. Sometimes, he had the change-up."
Bramlett went six innings strong, giving up two runs -- one earned -- on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Through his first two career SEC starts, both against a top-ranked team, Bramlett has allowed just two earned runs in 13.0 innings of work.
He allowed the leadoff man to reach in each of the first four innings, but he worked around them in the first three innings and limited the fourth-inning damage to two runs, stranding runners at first and second with an inning-ending groundout to short.
"They made it tough on him," Bianco said. "They're a good offense. And even though he was putting up some zeros, his pitch count was running up. He was working for them.
"He was pitching with men on base and the innings are forever. It's raining, and it's damp and chilly, and at one point, I wasn't sure if he'd get past 75 pitches, but then he found another gear there and was able to give us a couple more innings."
After missing the end of the 2013 season and the entire 2014 season due to recovery from a torn labrum, sophomore right-hander Brady Bramlett has been brilliant in his first two outings back in 2015, fanning 19 batters through 12.0 innings, including a career-high 11 against Wright State on Sunday.
"I knew coming back, I had a lot to prove and self-imposed pressure, but I also knew that this would be a special year for not only myself, but also the team," Bramlett said. "I'm always working to keep my spot and improve myself."
In his return to the mound, Bramlett helped the Rebels clinch the season-opening series against William & Mary this past weekend, as worked a career-long 6.0 innings, giving up two runs on four hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.
Bramlett followed that outing with perhaps the best pitching performance of his short Ole Miss career. He left with a 1-0 lead after six complete and took a no-decision, as he worked six shutout innings and set a career high with 11 strikeouts. He faced three over the minimum, giving up just one hit with a walk and two hit batsmen.
He also became the first Rebel to record double-digit strikeouts since Bobby Wahl struck out 10 in a win over Houston in 2012, and his 11 strikeouts were the most by a Rebel since Matt Tracy struck out 11 in a win over Jackson State in 2011.
"He misses a lot of bats," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He has a heavy, sneaky-fast fastball. He really locates it well. It's another really good day for him. He gave us everything he could for six innings."
That heavy, sneaky-fast fastball, Bramlett said, was his key to success. A fastball pitcher, Bramlett said the game plan going into every game is working off that pitch, and Sunday was no different.
"It's heavy when you hit, it's heavy when you catch it," Bianco said. "It doesn't seem like everybody else's ball. It's like a shot put coming in there. When people do hit it, they don't seem to make good contact with it. It's similar to Lance Lynn's ball. When look at the radar gun, it's not in the mid-90's, but yet, it looks like it to other hitters."
After advancing to the College World Series in 2014, the Ole Miss baseball team is set to open the 2015 season with a three-game series at home against William & Mary, starting Friday at 4 p.m. CT.
Here's a look at the opening day lineup via @CoachMikeBianco
Ole Miss enters the 2015 season ranked in three of the six major national polls, coming in at No. 18 in D1Baseball.com and USA Today Coaches' polls and No. 19 in the NCBWA poll.
More From OleMissSports.com and Ole Miss Blog:
Previewing the Batting Lineup and Pitching Staff
Ole Miss Baseball 2015 Walk Out Music
Blackman Embraces Preseason Expectations
Knight Ready to write his Own Story
More Big-Picture Stories:
Closer look at opening day lineup, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com
How will Ole Miss baseball look in 2015?, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Deep, talented SEC looks for another run at CWS, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press
Ole Miss baseball has talent to keep good times rolling, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Rebels not sitting on last year's success, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal
More Player Feature Stories:
Bramlett recovered and ready to start, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com
Knight Time, writes Jeff Roberson from the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
Freshman Blackman expected to make impact, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com
More from D1Baseball.com:
D1Baseball.com's breakdown of No. 18 Ole Miss from Kendall Rogers
Ole Miss is picked to finish third in the SEC West and second baseman Tate Blackman was named preseason SEC Freshman of the Year in D1Baseball.com's SEC preview from Kendall Rogers
Ole Miss is projected as a No. 2 seed in the TCU (Fort Worth) Regional in D1Baseball.com's Preseason Field of 64
D1Baseball.com's survey of head coaches on the new lower-seamed baseballs and their impact on college baseball from Aaron Fitt
More from Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com:
Pre-SEC Ole Miss opponent capsules, looking at the nonconference schedule prior to SEC play
Bjork clarifies baseball student guidelines, talking about the new student guidelines for right field at baseball games
Freshman Kyle Watson vying for time in left field and other notes
The much anticipated list of walk-out songs is here. A tradition unlike any other. Click on the song to listen to it. Viewer discretion advised. Songs played in venue will be edited. My personal favorites are "No Diggity" and "Danger Zone."
#2 Jacob Waguespack: Let It Whip by Dazz Band
#4 Tate Blackman: Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison
#6 Errol Robinson: Here I Go by Mystikal
#8 Will Golsan: Without Me by Eminem
#9 Kyle Watson: Cum On Feel The Noize by Quiet Riot
#10 John Wesley Ray: Black Skinhead by Kanye West
#11 Nic Perkins: Blow by Ke$ha
#12 J.B. Woodman: Public Service Announcement by Jay-Z
#13 Austin Knight: No Diggity by Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre, Queen Pen
#14 Cameron Dishon: Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
#16 Matt Denny: The Stroke by Billy Squier
#17 Will Stokes: Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams
#20 Joe Wainhouse: Ol' Red by Blake Shelton
#21 Brady Bramlett: Plush by Stone Temple Pilots
#22 Henri Lartigue: I Feel Good by James Brown
#23 Moises Castro: Gasolina by Daddy Yankee
#24 Sikes Orvis: Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard
#25 Colby Bortles: Shake It Off by Taylor Swift
#26 Blake Bennett: Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins
#27 Connor Cloyd: Keep Their Heads Ringin' by Dr. Dre
#28 Calder Mikell: Show Me How To Live by Audioslave
#29 Sam Smith: Louisiana Saturday Night by Benjy Davis Project
#32 Michael Fitzsimmons: Going Down For Real (GDFR) by Flo Rida
#33 Sean Johnson: Burning Love by Elvis Presley
#34 Drake Robison: You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC
#35 Jack Kaiser: Keepin' It Country by Jake Owen
#36 Josh Watkins: Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
#37 Mitchel Babb: Jungle by X Ambassadors
#38 Wyatt Short: Slow Down by Clyde Carson
#40 Scott Weathersby: Ole Miss Rebels by K Zoe (Christian Rap original mix)
#42 Holt Perdzock: The Joker by Steve Miller Band
#45 Scott Ashford: Stranglehold by Ted Nugent
#47 Christian Trent: Rompe by Daddy Yankee
#55 Evan Anderson: Can't Stop by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Ole Miss held its annual media day on Monday inside the Diamond Club at Oxford-Unversity Stadium, ahead of the Rebels' season opener Friday at 4 p.m. against William & Mary, the opening game of a three-game series.
Here are some notes and quotes from the media opportunity with head coach Mike Bianco and selected players, looking at the batting lineup and the pitching staff heading into the start of the 2015 season.
"As we start this spring, I in a way struggled to explain to the team, something different and something exciting for you to write about," Bianco said. "But, it seems that I come back to the same sentence, it seems very similar to last year. What I mean by that is we return some big pieces on the field.
"When you look around the field on Friday, you will see Sikes Orvis, Errol Robinson, J.B. Woodman, Austin Knight, Colby Bortles. These are some guys who certainly played big roles for us last year in getting to the College World Series. And like last year, there is certainly going to be room for some new guys to step in and help us."
Projected Defensive Lineup:
C Austin Knight
1B Sikes Orvis
2B Tate Blackman
3B Colby Bortles
SS Errol Robinson
LF Connor Cloyd/Josh Watkins/Kyle Watson
CF J.B. Woodman
RF Cameron Dishon
Speaking to the batting order, Bianco said Woodman will likely lead off, followed by Robinson, Orvis, Bortles and Henri Lartigue, who will back up Knight at catcher and be a possible designated hitter. After those five in the order, Bianco said a lot of it will be determined by lefty-righty matchups.
More on Austin Knight:
Knight has appeared in 74 games over the last three year, drawing the start in 16 games, including two games behind the plate in the College World Series as senior Will Allen moved to designated hitter due to injury. During his career, Knight has played behind two Johnny Bench Award finalists in Allen and Stuart Turner, who won the award in 2013.
Knight: "I'm very confident going into the season. I'm looking forward to getting out there and competing against somebody else. I got to play behind two very good catchers and very good people (Stuart Turner and Will Allen). Being able to learn from those guys has been great."
Bianco, on Knight: "To catch in our system, every coach on the staff was a catcher, it's tough to catch here. We're very hard on the catchers. There is a high expectation, not only for your performance, but also your leadership, getting the signals, being able to handle the staff, body language and all these other things we talk about. That's one of the reasons why Austin will be starting on Friday night. Not only can he handle it behind the plate and catch the ball and hit for us, but he's our best option as far as leadership and doing all the things we need from that position."
LHP Christian Trent, on Knight: "I was close to him last year, but Will caught the majority of my games. He's going to be fine. He's going to step up and take the place of Will. He has a good arm. He's really good at receiving the ball. As a pitcher, I'm already comfortable with him."
More on Tate Blackman:
Sikes Orvis and Errol Robinson return at their respective spots in the infield. They are joined by Colby Bortles, who played in 40 games, drawing the start in 14 games, nine at designated hitter and five at first baseman, as well as Tate Blackman, the preseason SEC Freshman of the Year by D1Baseball.com, who will start at second base for the Rebels.
Blackman: "It's a blessing to get the opportunity. I came in here as a freshman, trying to work hard on and off the field. My goal was to come in here and making a big impact my freshman year, and hopefully Friday will be a good day for me and for my team."
Bianco, on Blackman: "We think he is our best option at second. We saw a kid that didn't play like a freshman, not just with his ability, but with the way he carries himself. Tate looks like the guy that is most ready to play. He is an outstanding hitter, runs well and is a good defender. I am excited about all of the freshman.
Orvis, on Blackman: "He has a lot of talent, a lot of power, a lot of juice, and he's not afraid to mess up. He gets right in there. He's a hard-nosed player. He's going to be really good. The game speeds up on him as it does for all freshmen, but he has all the confidence in the world in himself, so he'll be fine."
More on the corner outfielders:
J.B. Woodman, the Rebels' leading returning hitter by batting average (.298), returns to the outfield, as he moves to center field, having played mostly right field and designated hitter this past season. Cameron Dishon will step into a bigger role as the start right fielder, having played mostly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement over the last two years.
At the other corner outfield spot, what Bianco called the big question mark, as they open the season, Bianco said they will probably play a lot of guys to start with, mentioning junior college transfers Connor Cloyd and Josh Watkins, as well as freshman Kyle Watson by name. Another freshman, Will Golsan, might also figure in the mix.
Bianco, on left field: "I don't know if you need to have two games in a row or three games in a row," Bianco said. I don't know if there's a number. It's more feel. The goal over the first four weeks is to find the best lineup by the time we get to LSU on the opening weekend of SEC play. One of those guys can DH, somebody can play left, one of the other outfielders could sit a game and we can play two of those guys, so a lot of it just depends."
The Pitching Staff:
"On the mound, we are a little different than last year in the sense that last year at this time I think that was the big talk and most of the questions in the preseason press conference were about the pitching and the starting pitching, maybe for the lack of experience in the projected starters," Bianco said.
"This year we return two of the SEC starters (Christian Trent and Sam Smith) from last year, along with some guys who have tons of experience like Scott Weathersby, Wyatt Short and Matt Denny. These are guys who gained some valuable experience for us last year."
Friday: LHP Christian Trent
Saturday: RHP Sam Smith
Sunday: RHP Brady Bramlett
Trent, on the move from Saturday starter to Friday starter: "My routine is not going to change. You're still coming to the field and do everything pregame I did last year. The role is different. Pitching on Saturday, the mindset was to win the series or push the series to a third game. I like the role of Friday because you can start the series off with a win and give your team a chance to get ahead in the series early."
More on Bramlett and Johnson:
Earlier in the spring, Bianco said Sean Johnson, a 6-foot-7 right-hander from the junior college ranks, would be a weekend, but he's been dealing with tendinitis and will be limited to bullpen work in the first weekend. In his place, Smith will move up to Saturday, and Bramlett will get the start on Sunday. Bramlett, himself, missed the last part of the 2013 season and the entire 2014 season due to recovery from a torn labrum.
Bianco, on Bramlett: "You don't know when they come off an injury where they are going to be or how they are going to be that first year back. When they are released and able to pitch you have to see how they are.
"Brady had a really good fall. Once we got back, his three starts were probably better than any of the starters. He was pretty spotless here this January and early February. We are excited. He is a guy when we recruited him a couple years ago we knew would have a big time fastball. His slider keep coming, and he has improved his change-up. We really think he is going to have a big year."
Bianco, on Johnson: "We mentioned earlier to some of you that Sean Johnson would be a weekend starter. He came up a few days before our first intersquad game with some tendonitis in his shoulder. He is fine and he threw a bullpen on Friday. Sean will throw another bullpen tomorrow. He will not pitch in the first weekend, he just isn't in shape enough to start and log that many innings. Look for him to, at some point, get back into that starting role."
More on the bullpen:
After the graduation of Brett Huber two seasons ago, the program's all-time saves leader with 38, five different players recorded saves for the Rebels this past season, two of whom return in left-hander Wyatt Short and right-hander Scott Weathersby. Bianco also mentioned left-hander Matt Denny and right-hander Will Stokes, a freshman, as arms out of the bullpen.
As far as the closer situation, Bianco said it will be a combination of guys, at least to start the season, similar to last season.
More from Bianco: "At the beginning, we'll go with a handful of guys and see if somebody emerges. Last year, we tried to force that a little bit. I think that guy has to just emerge. If that's the case after a certain period of time, if there's one guy we are better if he's pitching at the end of the game, then certainly we will do that.
"We have shown an ability to do that in the past, when you look back at guys like Brett Huber, Jake Morgan, Scott Bittle or Stephen Head. If not, you can certainly win the other way, where you put the best guy out there on that particular day, much like we did last year, especially at the end of the year."
On the transition as new hitting coach:
The transition has been really good. The coaching staff has made it a lot easier on me than what it could be. It's definitely been a whirlwind.
On what he knew about Ole Miss before taking the job:
I definitely had a lot of respect from afar for Coach Bianco and his program. I knew more than I thought I would because Ben Fleming, the strength and conditioning coach, was with me at Kansas State and we overlapped by a year for the 2013 season, and I kept in touch with him, so it was nice to know him through the process. Mike Bianco's work speaks for itself with 14 years and what he's done, continuing to build and getting to Omaha last year. I got to see them play quite a few times. They were a lot of fun to watch and played with a blue-collar mentality and a chip on their shoulder, and that's something I want to be a part of.
On what he looks to add and what he brings from his previous coaching experience:
It's a good fit because I pride myself on the mentality part of coaching. I want a bunch of guys who are going to blue collar and play with a chip on their shoulder, really play the game and outwork their opponent. I pride myself on that as a coach, and I hope our offense is going to pride themselves on that as well. I bring that dynamic to the staff. We have a bunch of good players and a bunch of good recruits, and I feel really good about where the program is right now.
On the reception on the road from fans and recruits:
Things are different when you put the script "Ole Miss" across your chest. That's no disrespect to Kansas State. I was in Atlanta last week recruiting, and I had to call back to the office and ask Andrew Case, our director of operations, what Hotty Toddy meant because I got six or eight Hotty Toddy's the first day I had the shirt on. To be honest, I wasn't sure what they were saying, if they cursing at me, or they were happy, or what they were, so I had to get an education on that. The response has been unbelievable. It's been overwhelmingly positive. People have been very supportive around town for the little bit that I have been here. It's really exciting to get going. It's going to be a great experience for my wife and I.
On summer workouts and talking to current players about the upcoming season:
I have talked to them quite a bit. I have been able to reach out to quite a few of our position players, especially the older guys. The coaching staff and the returning players are really excited about hopefully taking that next step. We want to be the last team standing in Omaha, not one of the last four teams. That's our goal, and that's the goal for a lot of teams, especially in this league. It's a dogfight, and you can't get to that goal without doing your job in the summer and fall. It's an exciting time, and the confidence is at an all-time high, probably, for his program, and that can be attributed to last year's team.
On what's needed to take Ole Miss to the next level:
We're on the right track. We're in a very good spot. It goes back to recruiting and getting the most talented players that you can find. But more so than the talent part of it, the best teams are the teams who can match the talent part of it with guys who are willing to give up a little something of themselves for something greater. That's why it was fun to watch Ole Miss baseball from afar because you could tell it was team and those guys loved playing with one another. If we can keep on that track, the sky is the limit, not only for this team this year, but the program and the future.
On being a former catcher on staff with two other former catchers in Mike Bianco and Carl Lafferty:
When you're a catcher, you're at the only position on the field, where everyone is looking to you. That's important. You're supposed to be a leader. I was not an elite baseball player. I was a pretty average player, and that's OK. One of the good things about that was I had to work pretty hard for everything I got and that helped me in my coaching career. They would say the same thing about being a former catcher. If you look around at the managers in the major leagues and minor leagues, there are a lot of former catchers because of the responsibility placed on that position.
On his younger brother, Jeff, and what he has learned from him and his major league baseball experience:
He's my best friend and we talk a couple of times a week. He had a whole different experience than what I did as an average player. He saw the other end of the spectrum. We talk often and he has a perspective of the Stephen Head's and Seth Smith's of the world, those types of people. He had an unbelievable college career, and he was an All-American and a high draft pick, and he was fortunate and blessed enough to play in the big leagues for parts of four seasons. He provides some valuable advice from his experience, but more than anything, he's really excited that I have this opportunity.
On his relationship and previous work experience with Ben Fleming:
It's important for me in the transition because I can bounce a lot off of him. The one year we worked together, we had a pretty special year at Kansas State and made it to the Super Regional and had the best year in school history. I trust his opinion. He's relentless in the way he works with kids. Coach Bianco really values him and what he does. It's good to have some familiarity with someone in this program getting here. I can't help but have a good relationship with Carl Lafferty. It didn't take long to build that because we were the two guys out on the road and recruiting.
On recruiting and how Carl Lafferty has helped in the transition:
It's a tough transition when you go from one part of the country to another part of the country and trying to land on your feet and hit the ground running. What's made it an easy transition is Carl. He's very gifted on the road. He has an unbelievable ability to know players and know everything about them. He knows who they are, who they play for, and where they're from. When you have someone as gifted as Carl is from a recruiting standpoint, it makes the transition a lot easier, that's for sure.
On the plan for the rest of the summer and preparation for fall practice:
The important thing, as we move forward before school starts, is to build relationships with players. That's what I believe most of coaching is. If I can start to build relationships and get these guys to trust me and what I'm all about and help them understand that I'm willing to work with them, everything will take off from there. I'm confident that will happen. Outside of recruiting, which is the life blood of the program, I want to build relationships with our current players and hit the ground running once school starts in late August.
On what fans should expect from the offense:
We want be aggressive in a lot of different ways. It can be driving the ball out of the yard, driving the ball in the gaps and stealing bases. I want to be really sound in every aspect of our offense, whether that's the ability to hit and run, steal bases and get down bunts. We want to hit the ball in the gaps because if you can do that, balls will go out of the yard and you will be able to do some things offensively. We're going to be uptempo and really aggressive and take the fight to the other team from the offensive side of things.
On the new ball and how it changes the game:
I don't know if it will change my philosophy as a hitting coach, but it will change the game. I trust what the NCAA is doing and there needed to be a change. I think the new ball is going to make a difference. Hopefully, in our ballpark, it makes the difference with a lot more beer showers for our team.
Former Ole Miss player Zack Cozart, now a member of the Cincinnati Reds, was named the best defensive shortstop in baseball for the first half of the 2014 season. ESPN Insider Scott Spratt selected one player from either league at each position.
Here is what Spratt had to say about Cozart:
"Cozart is the hottest fielder in the sport. He has saved 12 runs since the start of June, the most in baseball over that time frame. He has increased his overall Runs Saved total to 17, tied for second-most at any position. Where Pedroia stands out by making unexpected plays, Cozart excels by rarely making mistakes. He has just 10 Defensive Misplays/Errors (DMEs) in 757 innings, which is the lowest rate among middle infielders with a minimum of 400 innings this season."
Here's a sampling of Cozart's glove work in the first half of the 2014 season:
For ESPN Insider subscribers, here's the link to the full article: First-half Defensive All-Stars
OMAHA, Neb. -- The long and winding road reached its end Saturday, as Ole Miss was eliminated from the College World Series with a 4-1 loss to Virginia, two wins shy of reaching the National Championship Series.
"It was the best team I have ever played on," senior co-captain Will Allen said. "All the teams in the country except one are going to finish up with a loss. Unfortunately, we did that. If you're going to end on a loss, you might as well do it in Omaha. We ran into a really good team and fought until the end."
But what a run.
Picked to finish sixth in the SEC West, the 2014 Rebels exceeded all expectations, except perhaps their own, as they matched the 2005 team with a school-record 48 wins and became just the second team in school history to win two games at the College World Series, joining the 1956 team.
"You don't want to ever to come up short, especially when you're this close to winning the national championship, but this is a special group of guys, a special group of older guys," head coach Mike Bianco said. "They provided great leadership and were such great mentors to the younger group that is so talented.
"It's sad that it ends but more importantly sad because these 35 guys that wore the uniform this year for Ole Miss were such great representatives of the university and will go down as the best team that ever played Ole Miss and we won't ever be together again. That's what makes it sad."
After near misses in recent Super Regionals, this was the team that broke through and advanced to Omaha and the College World Series for the fifth time in school history and the first time since 1972.
"It was a great run," Allen said. "We played really well throughout the season just to get to Omaha. Not many people do that. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm glad that I got to play here and had the opportunity to play with this team. We had a great team this year. I'm proud of the way we finished."
Allen and senior co-captain Austin Anderson leave behind a lasting legacy, as do their fellow senior and the other members of the 2014 team who may have played their last games in an Ole Miss uniform.
"They had been through a lot the last few years," Bianco said. "They stuck together and trusted myself and the coaches and the system and what we do. They were great mentors to a very talented younger group and they deserve all of this. I know it won't fade away. They are more deserving than any group I can remember."
OMAHA, Neb. -- Will Allen and Sikes Orvis, previously hitless in Omaha, led the hit parade with three hits each, as Ole Miss avoided elimination and advanced to play Virginia in a rematch on Friday at 7 p.m.
After going 6-for-57 and scoring just three runs through its first two games at the College World Series, the Ole Miss exploded, relatively speaking for TD Ameritrade Park, for six runs on 11 hits.
The six runs matched Vanderbilt's six runs from it's 6-4 win over UC Irvine on Monday and the 11 hits matched Vanderbilt's 11 hits, also from it's win over UC Irvine, and Virginia's 11 hits from it's 3-2 win over TCU on Tuesday
"We had some better at-bats today, and it shows you when the wind is not blowing in 20 miles an hour," head coach Mike Bianco said. "It's a little different here. But we were able to barrel some balls up and get some hits."
"We knew coming into this game that we couldn't win a ball game scoring one or two runs," Orvis said. "We knew we had to come out as an offense and swing the bat early and get some pressure off our pitching staff and put some runs on the board. Once we get this offense going, we can be pretty good and pretty scary."
After a couple of one-spots against Virginia and Texas, Ole Miss put together the big inning with three runs in the third, which started with a double from J.B. Woodman and also included an RBI single from Braxton Lee and Allen's two-RBI double.
"To come out and put a crooked spot up, it's crucial no matter what, especially with the offense being kind of stagnant the past couple of games," Orvis said. "It was awesome to get the monkey off the back early and get going."
Allen gave the Rebels the lead for good, 5-4, with an RBI single to center in the seventh, his third RBI of the game after knocking in a pair of runs with a double to right-center in the third.
TCU with the game-tying and game-winning runs in scoring position with two outs in the eighth, but Aaron Greenwood got a chopper to shortstop, which Errol Robinson charged and threw to first for the last out of the inning.
"He really attacked and was super aggressive going after it," Bianco said. "As soon as the ball was hit, I looked up at him and he was flying across the infield. It was a great play, and he was dripping with a lot of confidence as he ran off the field."
"I knew he was a burner at the plate, so it was about going and getting it and cutting down the hops," Robinson said. "It was fairly routine. You're a shortstop and you're supposed to make those plays. It was a crucial play late in the game that you need, so it was a big play in the game."
Allen and Orvis combined to add an insurance run in the ninth with a two-out single from Allen, followed by a two-out, RBI double from Orvis to stretch the lead to 6-4. Allen finished the game 3-for-5 with a double and three RBI, while Orvis was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI.
"We had some good barrels tonight," Allen said. "We found some gaps, found some holes, and then just getting people on base. You saw (Auston) Bous(field) running and just putting pressure on the opposing team. It definitely helps. Once we got going, one through nine, there is not an easy out. It's a really tough lineup to face. And luckily we scored some runs tonight."
With the win, Ole Miss improved to 4-0 in elimination games in the NCAA Tournament and will face at least one more elimination game, needing to defeat top-ranked Virginia twice to advance to the national championship series.
"We play our best baseball with our backs against the wall," Orvis said. "This is a very tough team. It's a very mature team. We know what's on the line. We have nothing to lose; just play. Win or go home."
OMAHA, Neb. -- Through two games at the College World Series, Ole Miss has just six hits in 57 at-bats and scored three runs.
Part of the offensive outage has been expansive TD Ameritrade Park, part of it has been the howling wind that has been blowing in from center field and part of it has been two terrific pitching performances from Virginia's Nathan Kirby and Texas Tech's Ryan Moseley.
Besides Vanderbilt, which has scored a combined 11 runs in wins over Louisville and UC Irvine, no team has scored more than five runs in Omaha, as all eight teams have combined to average just 2.7 runs through eight games.
"We knew it was big, but we have been having a hurricane coming in straight from center field, so it's been tough," said junior first baseman Sikes Orvis, who is second in the Southeastern Conference and seventh nationally with 14 home runs on the season.
"Personally, it's knocking me off my game a little bit. When I get in hitter's counts, I usually try to pull something or drive something, but if I do that, it's just going to get knocked down, so I have been trying to go the other way and hit line drives. We'll adjust. Everybody has to deal with this; it's not just us. It's made for a lot of low-scoring games, so I'm sure the fans are ready for some offense."
The park and the wind has been good for pitchers, particularly for those who have filled up the strike zone, as junior right-hander Sam Smith looks to do in his start Thursday against TCU. As a pitching staff, Ole Miss has allowed just three runs on 15 hits with six walks and 11 strikeouts over 17.2 innings in Omaha.
"Use the ballpark to your advantage and fill up the zone," Smith said. "Guys are going to hit balls hard, but somehow they get caught in the wind. We have a really fast outfield, so they get caught a lot of times."
Same Spot, Different Week for Smith
Like sophomore left-hander Christian Trent, who has helped extend the Rebels' season in each of his last two starts, junior right-hander Sam Smith looks to do the same for the second straight week in Thursday's elimination game against TCU.
Smith has not pitched past the fifth inning in each of his last two starts, but he has given his team an opportunity, limiting Washington to two runs (both unearned) on six hits through 4.2 innings, and limiting Louisiana-Lafayette to three runs (two unearned) on six hits through 3.2 innings.
It has been a nice bounce-back for Smith after a tough stretch of outings against Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Arkansas again at the SEC Tournament.
"He's a guy who always gives us an opportunity to win," head coach Mike Bianco said. "It seems like he always goes out there and does a great job for us. Sometimes it's in the middle innings but that's because the game that he pitches is so important.
"When he pitches on Sunday, that's usually to win the weekend. And depending on how much we have in the bullpen, sometimes we make the move in the fourth, fifth or sixth inning. He's been great for us in this role."
Earlier this season, Smith had another stretch of eight quality starts, but if he's not able to pitch deep, he will have a fresh bullpen behind him, thanks to a light workload through two games and the day off Wednesday.
"We had a healthy bullpen my last few starts, so coach had no hesitation to take me out and get someone else in," Smith said. "We have a lot of guys in the bullpen who are capable. My mindset is to go as far and as hard as I can to give us a shot to win."
More Familiarity than Rivalry
For Ole Miss and TCU, it's their ninth meeting in three years and their fourth meeting in the NCAA Tournament.
The schools played twice in the regular season in 2012, splitting the games in Fort Worth, Texas.
They met again in the 2012 NCAA College Station Regional, with Ole Miss winning the opening game, and then TCU winning two elimination games to advance to the Super Regional.
They met once again to open the 2013 season with Ole Miss sweeping the three-game weekend series in Oxford.
"We played them in the regional my freshman year, and then we opened up with them last year, and now we're playing them again, so we can't seem to get away from these guys," junior first baseman Sikes Orvis said. "It's exciting. You see guys who were freshmen when you were a freshman, and you see them grow and get older. It's cool. We have built a little rivalry, so it will be cool to play them on this stage."
There's also familiarity between Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco and TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle from when Bianco was an assistant coach at LSU (1993-97) and Schlossnagle was associate head coach at Tulane (1994-2001).
Their relationship has continued over the years, including the 2013 summer with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, where Bianco was the pitching coach and Schlossnagle was the head coach.
"We have played them through the years," head coach Mike Bianco said. "You play them a lot in postseason because they're very good. It's certainly a team that we have a tremendous amount of respect for. It's a team that can really pitch. The difference this year for them is they're more offensive than they have been in the last couple of years."
More on TD Ameritrade Park Debate: Why is it so difficult to score runs at the CWS?, writes Jon Nyatawa from the Omaha World-Herald
OMAHA, Neb. -- Ole Miss has scored three runs over its first two games at the College World Series. All three came in pinch-hitting opportunities.
The first was an RBI groundout from sophomore Holt Perdzock in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Virginia. The second and third came from Perdzock and senior John Gatlin, the latter of which lifted the Rebels to a 2-1 win over Texas Tech in walk-off fashion.
"Yeah, we've done that throughout the entire season," Gatlin said. "One through 27 contributes each week in some form or fashion. And Coach Bianco does a great job making sure late in the game when it's getting tight like that, be swinging, get your legs loose and be ready to go. Like I said, we're expected to get it done, and we've been pretty successful at it."
Perdzock delivered the big hit in a 10-4 win over Louisiana-Lafayette to send Ole Miss to the College World Series, as he cleared the bases with a double to right to score two run while a fielding error allowed a third run to score. Against Texas Tech, his two-out, RBI single in the seventh looked to be game-winning run before the Red Raiders tied the game in the ninth.
He has perfected his role as a pinch-hitter this season with 12 hits in 35 at-bats with six RBI, including three hits in five at-bats with four RBI in the NCAA Tournament.
"I have been doing it all year, so I'm used to it," Perdzock said. "I try to stay clam and do what I do. When I was up there, I tried to hit one the other way because the ball was tailing a little bit. He ended up throwing it, but it sneaked through, so I'm happy about it."
For Gatlin, it was his second walk-off hit of the season. He lifted Ole Miss to a 4-3 win over UCF in 13 innings back on Feb. 28, but Tuesday's walk-off takes on a special meaning, not only because of the stage in the College World Series but also the recent passing of his grandmother.
"You saw he was tearing up afterwards," fellow senior Will Allen said. "That's every kid's dream, to hit a walk-off in Omaha. He did it. He's been a huge part of this on the bench and in the locker room. I was proud for him."
"I wouldn't think of anything else that she could be more proud of," said Gatlin of his deceased grandmother. "And Coach (Cliff) Godwin asked me if I needed to go home. And I said, 'Are you kidding me? She'd kill me if I came home right now.' But, yeah, game's on the line like that, so much going through your head, she was definitely part of it."
OMAHA, Neb. -- With runs at a premium at cavernous TD Ameritrade Park, every pitch takes on added importance, and you could feel it with sophomore left-hander Christian Trent, as he kept making pitches to get out of innings.
Looking to match Bobby Wahl's perfect 10-0 mark from last season, he took an unlucky no-decision, but he went eight strong innings to help set up a dramatic 2-1 walk-off win over Texas Tech.
"He's done that all year long," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He's undefeated. He hasn't had a bad outing all year long even in the games he hasn't won. He's gotten no-decisions. He's been terrific. Our guys have that confidence. Even though we lose the first game, I don't know if there's another better guy in the country to run out there in game two than Christian."
"It's another awesome performance by him," senior catcher Will Allen said. "He did a great job, especially with the offense taking a while to get going and scoring him some runs. Staying out there for as long as he did and really keeping them off-balance. Even when they got on base, he shut it down. We got a couple of clutch double plays that helped out. He's done that all year. He's like a second ace out there. He's very composed and very competitive and just goes about his business."
Trent credited his fastball command and making good use of his slider and changeup, as he scattered six hits with one walk and six strikeouts over eight innings. He was especially dominant with runners on base, stranding six runners on the base paths and holding Texas Tech hitless with runners on base (0-for-12) and runners in scoring position (0-for-6).
"It's more of a mindset that you have to lock things down when they get runners on, especially in scoring position," Trent said. "It's time to make the pitches and focus a lot harder on what you're doing. It's a little bit of a tighter window when you're throwing into the glove, and I just felt like I was able to use all three pitches, like I said, when I needed to. I think it worked out well for me."
With eight shutout innings against Texas Tech, he has allowed just two runs -- one earned -- on 15 hits with four walks and 19 strikeouts over 21.1 innings in NCAA Tournament play.
OMAHA, Neb. -- Head football coach Hugh Freeze and head men's basketball coach Andy Kennedy, two former baseball players in their own right, were among the Ole Miss fans in attendance for Tuesday's College World Series game against Texas Tech.
"Watching it on TV the other night, it seemed like our Rebels showed up," Freeze said. "Getting to see it live, my assumptions were correct. Our fans have traveled well again, as they always do. They're so supportive of everything we do. The atmosphere is great."
In his 14th season at Ole Miss, head baseball coach Mike Bianco is the dean of coaches among the big-three sports, with Freeze entering his third season and Kennedy entering his ninth season.
"Mike's the dean of us, most especially, having been here a number of years," Kennedy said. "For him to take that next step and get to Omaha, to me, when I was watching the game against (Louisiana)-Lafayette, it felt like I was playing. I'm thinking to myself, 'This is too stressful. I'm supposed to be just watching the game.' I was really pulling for Mike and I was really proud for him and for his team."
"When you see somebody who has gotten so close and then does that, you certainly want to rejoice, particularly when he's part of our family," Freeze said.
Like they share in the success of Bianco and the baseball team, they also share in the benefits of Ole Miss playing on one of the biggest stages in college athletics: The College World Series.
"Any time you can get our university, our brand on the national stage, it is helpful to all of us," Freeze said. "The job that Mike, his staff and his team have done, we're indebted to them because it certainly helps the whole university and every program we have in athletics."
OMAHA, Neb. --Ole Miss faced the same situation just eight days ago: Win or go home.
And like game two of the super regional against UL Lafayette, sophomore left-hander Christian Trent will get the ball looking to give his team an opportunity extend their season.
"He's been the guy all year in that No. 2 spot," head coach Mike Bianco said. "You feel good with him obviously. He's undefeated and he's a guy who's always answered the bell in that Saturday game, where either you needed to win the series, or after a tough Friday night loss the guy who's been able to give us a great opportunity to get back into it. He's the right man for the job for sure."
Trent is 9-0 with a 2.21 ERA in 102.0 innings entering Tuesday's elimination game against Texas Tech. In that game against UL Lafayette, Trent allowed only an unearned run on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts through 7.0 innings of work, as the Rebels won 5-2.
"It's like another ace," senior catcher Will Allen said. "He's unbelievable. He's done a great job the whole year. You see in those big games he steps up and brings it. He was lights out at ULL and that's one of the best offenses in the country. That gives us a tremendous chance to win because we know that he's going to hold them pretty good for the majority of the game."
He is expected to start opposite left-hander Dylan Dusek, a Freshman All-American selection for the Red Raiders. Dusek is 8-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 74.1 innings pitched.
Dusek also carries a 23.2 scoreless innings streak dating back to April 27 against Oklahoma, which included 8.0 scoreless against Miami (Fla.) and 5.0 scoreless against College of Charleston in the NCAA Tournament.
Virginia pitching held Ole Miss to one run on one hit, its lowest hit total of the season. The Rebels had just four base runners, manufacturing its only run on back-to-back walks, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI groundout.
"We try to concentrate on doing what we do," Bianco said. "That doesn't mean that we won't tweak a few things. We're going to be aggressive and try to make things happen. We tried to do that last night, but we just didn't have any base runners. We tried to hit and run and got a terrible pitch for Preston (Overbey). We didn't have a lot of opportunities. Hopefully, we'll have a lot more opportunities on Tuesday."
"We need to be aggressive and keep doing what we have been doing the whole year," Allen said. "We're a really good team and we're a really good offense, but we ran into a good pitcher, who kept us off balance last night... We hit some balls hard right at people. That's baseball. We have to keep doing what we have been doing the whole year. We're a tough team. We have bounced back before."
Allen said they remain a loose, relaxed group and are ready to get back after it on Tuesday against Texas Tech. Bianco shares a similar confidence in the Rebels.
"I would be very surprised if they haven't been like they have been all year," Bianco said. "They have always answered the bell."
More on Texas Tech probable starting pitcher Dylan Dusek: Dusek already survived to advance, writes Mitch Sherman from ESPN.com
OMAHA, Neb. -- Ole Miss entered the game with a .303 team batting average, tops in the College World Series field, but it was limited to just one run on one hit in a 2-1, walk-off loss to Virginia. It was the lowest hit total of the season for the Rebels.
Virginia left-hander Nathan Kirby allowed one run in seven innings, and Virginia right-hander Artie Lewicki worked a perfect eighth and ninth to set up the dramatics in the bottom of the ninth.
"Kirby was tremendous," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "We could not solve him. We could not catch up to the fastball. It seemed like we would get to it and then he would mix in a breaking ball or change-up, but we really couldn't get to his fastball."
"He's a great pitcher," said shortstop Errol Robinson, who had the only hit for the Rebels. "He stayed away. He dominated the zone. He kept us off balance for most of the game. He did all the things you expect a great pitcher to do."
Kirby, the Atlantic Coast Conference Co-Pitcher of the Year and a first team All-American, did not allow a runner to advance into scoring position until the eighth, when Ole Miss manufactured its only run with two walks, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI ground out.
"My plan was to just make them beat me," Kirby said. "I did a good job at that. In the eighth, I missed a couple of pitches, and you can't do that."
He took the no-decision, as did Ole Miss right-hander Chris Ellis, who bounced back from his second-shortest outing of the season in the super regional against UL Lafayette. Ellis allowed six hits with four walks and three strikeouts but limited the damage to one run.
"Their pitcher (Kirby) did a tremendous job," Ellis said. "It was one of the best games thrown I have seen in a long time. They deserved to win that game. They played a little bit better than we did."
After a leadoff walk and a successful sacrifice bunt, Virginia had a runner at second with one out in the ninth. Ole Miss right-hander Aaron Greenwood struck out the next batter for the second out.
Greenwood got two strikes on Virginia first baseman Mike Papi, before ball three, and then the walk-off hit, a double to deep right-center over the head of Ole Miss center fielder Auston Bousfield.
"Aaron was close," Bianco said. "He was a pitch away from getting out of it. Mike (Papi) did a good job of staying on that ball."
"We kept getting opportunities and just couldn't get that big hit to tack on some more runs," said Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor, whose Cavaliers left 11 runners on base. "We saved it for the dramatics there in the ninth."
Virginia advances to a winner's bracket game against TCU at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday, while Ole Miss moves into an elimination game against Texas Tech at 2 p.m. CT, also on Tuesday.
"It's not as big an uphill battle because you have the rest," Bianco said. "The bullpen guys that threw tonight will be able to throw for sure back on Tuesday. But you have to play well. That's what we have preached all week. You have to make pitches, you have to have good at-bats and you have to play good defense."
Picked to finish sixth in the SEC Western Division, junior right-hander Chris Ellis knew it was possible to advance to the College World Series and be in position to play for a national championship during intersaquad scrimmages early in the year.
Ellis said they didn't know if they were struggling to pitch, or they could hit really well, and it turned out they could hit really well, so they figured out pretty early in the season they were going to be a special team.
It turned out they could pitch it pretty well too.
The pitching staff holds a 2.72 ERA, which is fourth-best among College World Series teams and 16th best nationally, led by the one-two punch of junior right-hander Chris Ellis (10-2, 2.45) and sophomore left-hander Christian Trent (9-0, 2.21).
"It's definitely surprising," senior third baseman Austin Anderson said. "We knew they were good. Up until this season, Ellis was a great pitcher and he had a great stuff, but he never defined himself, and this spring, he was a third-round draft pick and he's been dominant all year.
"We knew Trent was good and at LSU previously, but he was new, and we didn't know how good he would really be. They have made key contributions and they are one of the main reasons we're here."
Ellis and Trent are the latest in a long line of ace starting pitchers, having stepped into weekend rotation spots vacated by Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers, who were selected in last year's MLB First-Year Player Draft.
"At first, it was intimidating. I didn't know what to expect," said Ellis, a third-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels. "After I got the first SEC win out of the way at South Carolina and figured out that my offense could help me and I didn't have to do it by myself. It was exciting from then out because I knew I could trust people behind me to make plays and score runs."
"It was exciting," said Trent, a 20th-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers. "You know coming you have spots to fill. When I got recruited, Coach (Carl) Lafferty said we needed weekend guys, and we want you to be a weekend guy. It's fun coming in and stepping in and be given such a role. It's an honor."
Pitching and command, more than velocity, head coach Mike Bianco said, separates this year's pitching staff from previous teams. Ellis has a power arm, Bianco continued, but he has success because he pitches with command and throws three different pitches in the strike zone, while Trent has had success with his fastball, change-up and slider, depending on the start.
More than anything, confidence has gotten them to this point.
"The confidence in my defense, our hitting and coach's pitch-calling," said Trent, who admitted he has never shaken Bianco off. "He told me before I went out there in the Supers that we were going to throw straight fast balls. I didn't disagree with it. That's what I did, and it worked. I have complete trust in Coach B calling pitches and Will (Allen) behind the plate. It's great to have that kind of confidence in your team."
More on Bianco's pitch-calling system: Trust, track record important in pitch selection, writes Chase Parham from Rebel Grove/Rivals.com
After breaking through to Omaha and the College World Series, Ole Miss will lean on its structure and routine to battle the complacency of just being happy to be there and remain focused on its last team goal: Winning a national championship.
"We're going to practice today and meet right after practice and talk more about the College World Series and what will happen the next few days," head coach Mike Bianco said. "You want to stay to the same routine and what we do year in and year out. Yes, it hasn't been in Omaha, Nebraska, but we have a lot of structure to our program and a lot of structure when we go on the road. There are times for players to lock in for meetings or pregame meals. There are also times where it's time for them to escape, to go to dinner with their parents or go to a game."
"This team is very mature," junior first baseman Sikes Orvis said. "This team has been able to handle its business on and off the field. We know we still have games to play. We still have a job to finish. Omaha is one of our goals, but our ultimate goal is winning a national championship. We're going to treat this like any other business trip and do what we do."
For Bianco, it's his fifth trip to the College World Series, having gone as a player at LSU in 1988 and as an assistant coach at LSU in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997, winning a national championship in 1993, 1996 and 1997. Now, he has returned with his own program after 17 years away from LSU, including the last 14 at Ole Miss.
"Coach (Skip) Bertman made it look so easy and those teams made it look so easy, and we went so often that you did at times take it for granted," Bianco said. "I didn't know it would take this long. I always saw ourselves going there and competing for national championship. When you get a taste of the reality and how difficult it is to get there, you have more of an appreciation for it."
Bianco draws on that experience for the structure and routine that is a key for playing well and having success at the College World Series, referencing "the blueprint" for success from when he was an assistant coach at LSU.
"I told (director of baseball operation) Andrew Case driving out, 'It's a shame it's taken this long because 14 years ago when I got here, I had the blueprint,'" Bianco said. "We went to Omaha four times when I was an assistant at LSU. I stayed in the exact same room. We used the exact same rooming list. It's amazing how much we had the routine down of the College World Series and what to expect.
"But it's not even the same stadium anymore, so things have changed. I have made some calls to (Louisville head coach) Dan McDonnell and (TCU head coach) Jim Schlossnagle and tried to update that blueprint a little bit."
More on Bianco: Ole Miss' Bianco silences doubters, writes Kendall Rogers from Perfect Game
It was 42 years in the making.
After four previous trips to the Super Regional and knocking on the door of the College World Series, only to come up short, the 2014 Rebels kicked the door down.
They punched their ticket to Omaha rallying to win games two and three of the Super Regional against top-ranked and national No. 6 seed Louisiana-Lafayette. It will be their fifth trip to the College World Series in school history and the first since 1972.
"The road to Omaha is bumpy and windy, and to be honest with you, I didn't think it would take this long," head coach Mike Bianco said. "When you go, you have to have a special group, and this is group is certainly all of that. When we got them together in August, you could start to see the great mix of older guys and younger guys. They have played so terrific from week one to this point. I'm super proud of all of them."
"It's an unbelievable feeling," senior co-captain Will Allen said. "Coming in here with Austin Anderson and being here for four year and knowing our history, having the ups and down as teammates and on different teams. We wanted this year to be special and leave a legacy. It's a tremendous group of guys. All year, we have have fought through adversity. You can see that in our regional and this Super Regional, starting off with a loss and coming back and winning two straight games against a really good ULL team. They were a national seed for a reason."
When asked what makes this team special, Bianco referenced their toughness, as he has all season, but also specific instances of this toughness.
After squandering a 5-2 lead at Mississippi State, Ole Miss came back and won 12-2 the next day.
After being swept at Alabama, Ole Miss returned home and swept Auburn.
After losing two of three at home against LSU, including 2-0 in the rubber game, Ole Miss swept nationally ranked Kentucky on the road two weeks later.
"The mantra from the beginning is to have that toughness and be resilient and be tough enough to handle what this game deals you day in and day out," Bianco said. "This team is really tough, and they have a lot of belief in one another. The amazing thing is it's been from so many different guy. There's a different star every night."
As was the case Monday.
Despite being out-hit, 10-9, and committing four errors, the Rebels took the third and decisive game in decisive fashion, 10-4, scoring four runs in the top of the ninth before Josh Laxer closed out his 10-out save.
"This is one of those where you look at the box score, they out-hit us 10-9, and we had four errors," Bianco said. "You don't usually win those games, especially with a six-run spread. We made the most of the opportunities and got some big clutch hits and made some great pitches to get out of some jams."
In addition to special players, it also took special moments, and no play was more special than the perfectly executed relay play from Braxton Lee to Errol Robinson to Will Allen to keep the game-tying run off the board in the seventh.
"We saw the ball go down the line, similar play to last night," said Allen of the play. "Braxton (Lee), being as quick as he is, did a tremendous job to get to the ball and got it into the relay guy. And then Errol Robinson had a good throw to give me an opportunity to put a tag on the guy. It was a huge momentum swing for us to preserve the lead. We were really pumped up about that, and Josh Laxer shut it down from there."
Ole Miss had scored the would-be game-winning run on an RBI double from Auston Bousfield the previous inning, but Holt Perdzock dealt a decisive blow in the ninth. With the bases loaded and nobody out, he cleared the bases with a double to right to stretch the lead to 9-4 in favor of the Rebels.
And the countdown was on in the ninth.
Two outs away after a strikeout.
One out away after a fly out to center.
The 27th and final out on a ground out to short.
And then the celebratory dog pile on the mound.
"Getting that last out is every college baseball player's dream," Laxer said. "It's very hard to put into words right now. It's all sinking in. It's a great feeling."
"It was an awesome feeling," Allen said. "And then it was a little stressful toward the end when you can't breathe and bodies are getting bent up in different way. I feel bad for Josh Laxer who started off with me on top off of him, and then the rest of the guys coming in and tackling him and stuff like that. It's an unbelievable feeling and a reward for the season we have had so far."
Now Omaha and the College World Series awaits Bianco, his team and Rebel Nation.
"It's been a great run," Bianco said. "We have had several great teams. We have had teams that should have been in Omaha. I'm very thankful but I'm very happy for this group, this university and this fan base. They are are unbelievable and second to none. The support has been constant from fans and administration. This is really for everyone. As a university, we deserve this. They deserve to go to Omaha."
The Rebels got a terrific outing from Christian Trent, followed by some timely hitting in the seventh and eighth innings to lift the Rebels to 5-2 win over UL Lafayette and force a third and decisive game Monday at 6 p.m.
With his team's back against the wall, Trent stayed in the moment and gave his team a much-needed lift on the mound, as he allowed only an unearned run on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts over seven innings.
"It was pretty normal," said Trent of his approach with Ole Miss facing elimination. "It's a different kind of pressure, knowing that you have to do it for your team and this could be the last game. My routine stayed the same. I felt the same going out there. I had nerves with the first couple of pitches but that's every game I pitch. Nothing really changed that much."
"He was terrific. The whole game he went head to head with him," said Bianco of Trent matching UL Lafayette starting pitcher Carson Baranik. "Both guys pitched terrific. He had great fast ball command. He was able to locate the fast ball in and out. I'm proud of him. After last night, we needed that. It was one of those nights where we needed lifts from different people, and certainly for seven innings, Christian was terrific. Not a ton of offense tonight because their guy was just as good. The few chances that we had, we were able to put some runs across."
He left with the game tied 1-1, before Preston Overbey gave him a 2-1 lead with a two-out, solo home in the bottom of the seventh. UL Lafayette tied the game with a two-out RBI single in the eighth, but the Rebels had another answer, a decisive one, in the bottom of the inning.
Auston Bousfield led off the inning with a single. After a pitching change for ULL, Austin Anderson worked a full count and drew a walk. Ole Miss went ahead for good on a fielding error in center field, which allowed Bousfield to come around and score. And then pinch-hitter Colby Bortles delivered the big hit of the inning, a 2-RBI single, to push the lead to 5-2.
"We have been in that situation many times," Overbey said. "We knew it was a matter of time before we exploded. We came back in the dugout and told everyone to stay up and stay positive. Get a guy on and see what happens."
The win sets up a date with history, as Ole Miss looks to get back to the College World Series for the fifth time in school history and the first time since 1972. Sam Smith will get the start on the mound, and Bianco said the bullpen is about as fresh as it can be for a third game.
"We were a little tight yesterday for whatever reason," Bianco said. "I don't know if it was nerves. We didn't take a good pregame in and out. We didn't take a good pregame batting practice. Today, we seemed more like ourselves, a little more relaxed. Hopefully, we'll be like that tomorrow."
UL Lafayette took full advantage of its opportunities.
The Ragin' Cajuns, which led the nation in runs scored (515) and ranked second in batting average (.319), did so by way of small ball and the long ball in a 9-5 win over Ole Miss in Saturday's Super Regional opener.
"They got 11 hits, but I felt like we gave them too many opportunities, and that's what we talked about all week," head coach Mike Bianco said. "If you limit their opportunities, you have a much better shot."
Ole Miss had the momentum. The Rebels had scored three runs in the second to take a 3-0 lead. Chris Ellis had retired five of the first six batters he faced. The game then appeared to turn on a two-out fielding error, which UL Lafayette turned into its first run of the game.
"I went up," said Auston Bousfield of the play. "I was under it. It hit my glove and bounced out. I just didn't catch. I have do a better job."
"It didn't really affect me at all," Ellis said. "Some things happen. That will probably never happen again in his career. They scored one run there, and it was a two-run lead at that point. I struck the next guy out. It seemed like it was fine. It didn't affect me in any way."
UL Lafayette starting pitcher Austin Robichaux carried that momentum into the next half-inning, retiring the Ole Miss side in order, as he appeared to settle in from that point forward.
In the bottom of the inning, the Ragin' Cajuns exploded for four runs on just one hit, the one hit being a three-run home run from Tyler Giroaurd to take a 6-3 lead.
"We drop a fly ball, they score a run," Bianco said. "We walk a guy, we hit a guy, we walk a guy to start the next inning, those guys scored. Then we walked a guy in; that was the next run. Then we don't field a bunt and give them an extra base runner; so not only does that give them a base runner, but it's one less out when that home run was hit.
"You can't do that against most teams, but certainly not against that offense."
That home run also ended the game for Ellis, who allowed five runs -- four earned -- on one hit with three walks, one hit by pitch and two strikeouts in 2.1 innings, his second-shortest outing of the season.
"He lost command there," Bianco said. "He lost a little bit of his composure. It happens, but it hasn't happened to him all year. You see it a lot from guys that sometimes all of a sudden lose their rhythm, but fortunately one of the reason we're at where we're at is our three guys don't do that.
"The last time that happened to him was at Alabama, and that seemed forever ago. He lost his rhythm and he couldn't get the ball back into the strike zone."
UL Lafayette stretched the lead to 9-4 with three runs in the fifth, including its second home run of the game. Ole Miss threatened again in the seventh, cutting the lead to 9-5 on an RBI single from Will Allen, but Sikes Orvis was later robbed of extra bases with a leaping catch at the left-field wall.
Looking to stay alive and even the series with a win, sophomore left-hander Christian Trent gets the ball in game two for Ole Miss.
"I would be surprised if we weren't ready tomorrow," Bianco said. "We have done that all year. It's baseball, and sometimes you get kicked in the mouth, and you have to get back and ready to play. We have to do that tomorrow."
"We've bounced back all year, and I don't expect anything less from us," Bousfield said. "We'll be ready to go tomorrow."
The sixth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels practiced at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field Friday afternoon as they prepare to open Super Regional play Saturday night against top-ranked and national No. 6 seed Louisiana-Lafayette.
It marks the fifth time Ole Miss has played in a Super Regional since 2005, with previous appearances in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.
The goal of advancing to Omaha and the College World Series remains the same as with those previous teams, but like during the preparation for the start of regional play, the coaches and players notice a different mindset with this year's team.
"We have been pretty consistent," head coach Mike Bianco said. "That's why we're at where we're at. There haven't been a lot of peaks and valleys, hot streaks and slumps. This team has been able to handle the bad stuff that this game and the conference deals you week in and week out. You hope that by doing that the entire season it pays off when you get to this point."
"All I hear about is some kind of curse that we can't get to Omaha, or whatever," junior right-hander Chris Ellis said. "We have a special team. We have a great offense and we have a great pitching staff and we have great coaching. We'll get it done this year."
Rebels Prep For Synthetic Turf
The most obvious difference at "The Tigue" is the synthetic turf that was installed in January 2010. The only dirt is on the pitcher's mound. With the different surface, the Rebels took extra infield and also had sliding practice Friday.
"The ground balls are a little slower, and they certainly bounce true," Bianco said. "One of the things that you saw at the end of practice is you slide a little further. You certainly don't want to hit a double and slide past the base, or steal a base and slide past it. I wanted to make sure that the guys who have never played on it were conscious of it."
"We don't usually do sliding practice, but because this is the first time we have been on a turf field all year, it seems like whenever you slide on turf you go further and it's easier to slide past the bag," senior third baseman Austin Anderson said. "You have to start your slide earlier, but it shouldn't be that big of a factor this weekend."
"The Tigue" has similar dimensions to Swayze Field, with 330 feet down the lines, 375 feet to the power alleys and 400 feet to center field, but Anderson said the ball carried pretty well there in battle practice, a little better than at home.
The sixth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels hit the road to take on top-ranked and national No. 6 seed Louisiana-Lafayette in an NCAA Super Regional starting Saturday night. UL Lafayette is scheduled to practice from 1-2:30 p.m. Friday, followed by Ole Miss from 2:45-4:15 Friday. Both are open to the public. Here are a few Super Regional related links to videos and stories:
2014 Super Regional Breakdown: Mississippi-Louisiana-Lafayette, writes Aaron Fitt of Baseball America
Cajuns take regional, bragging rights, writes David Ching of ESPN.com
Ex-LSU pitchers Christian Trent, Carson Baranik ready to square off, writes Chase Parham of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com for The Advocate
Ole Miss' Sam Smith relishes chance to be near Lake Charles again, writes Chase Parham of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com for The Advocate
Out of the shadow: Colby Bortles breaks out in Oxford Regional, writes Parrish Alford of The Daily Journal
What makes UL baseball team so special?, writes Tim Buckley of The Daily Advertiser
Lead-off hitter Lee playing to expectations, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger
Will Allen keeps Ole Miss strong at catcher, writes Chase Parham of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com for The Advocate
Final push: Rebels look to get over Super Regional hump, writes Parrish Alford of The Daily Journal
For Ole Miss Fans Traveling To Lafayette:
Join the Ole Miss Alumni Association & Ole Miss Athletics at the Rebels' Super Regional Meet & Greet, from The Ole Miss Alumni Association
Viewing Party For Tailgaters And Fans Without Tickets, from UL Lafayette Athletics
A Look Back At The NCAA Oxford Regional:
VIDEO: Ole Miss Baseball....The greatest atmosphere in all of college baseball, from Scott Burton
Unleashed: Proud, "Absolute Class" Huskies Wow The South, writes Gregg Bell, UW Athletics Director of Writing
Coaches and players alike had high praise for the atmosphere at the NCAA Oxford Regional this past weekend. Fans flocked to the regional, creating an electric atmosphere and an average attendance of 8,219 fans per game. The total for the weekend pushed Ole Miss into third nationally in attendance with 271,920 fans packing Swayze Field this season. The three Ole Miss games averaged 9,796 fans, including 10,394 for the regional opener, which was the largest NCAA crowd in stadium history and fifth largest all-time.
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco:
"They have been unbelievable. I told the players in our meeting that I haven't seen them like this since 2009, in that Monday winner-take-all game when (Drew) Pomeranz struck out the 16 guys against Western Kentucky, where you could feel the fans on the field, you could feel the fans in the dugout, you could feel the energy every time a pitch was made, not just a play or a hit. Every time, especially the last few innings, you watch Scott (Weathersby), and the fans knew it.
"We're fortunate that we have such a great fan base that cares so much about baseball. We're fortunate we have an administration here at Ole Miss that cares so much about baseball. It's a special place. It's a special place, especially in June."
Jacksonville State outfielder Griff Gordon:
"Playing right field with the student section out there, they're definitely in your ear the whole game. I try to not really let that affect me that much, but it's pretty tough not to."
Jacksonville State first baseman Paschal Petrongolo:
"This is definitely the largest crowd I've ever played in front of. It was definitely an experience. One I'm never going to forget. It was enjoyable, even with what happened. It was something that I'll carry with me for a while."
Washington head coach Lindsay Meggs:
"I want to congratulate Ole Miss and its staff and all its players; what a great team. They are great competitors that understand how to play the game. They can win a one-run game or pile it on you. Best of luck to them. It was fun to play those guys.
Washington first baseman Branden Berry:
"It was the best atmosphere I've ever played in. It was a blessing to be able to go out there and take the field; it was unreal. The fans here have been great to us. The town has been great. We're thankful we got to come out here and play."
Washington pitcher Alex Nesbitt:
"It was an amazing experience being down here. We couldn't have asked for a better regional to come to. It was a great atmosphere to play in and everyone competed. I had never played in front of that many people before. Even as the opposing team, you could feel the energy coming from the stands."
Colby Bortles and Sikes Orvis delivered some big hits, including the go-ahead RBI triple in the 10th, but it was hard to top the heroics of Scott Weathersby.
"He's a good kid, and good things happen to good people," said head coach Mike Bianco of Weathersby. "He's a great teammate. When he goes in the game, there's not one guy on the bench who's not hoping that he's going to have success, and that helps you a lot when you're out there, when people are pulling for you, when teammates are pulling for you, when the fans are pulling for you. He's one of those kids that you hope that your kid grows up to be like."
Weathersby began his day by taking the ball from starter Sam Smith in the fifth and got an inning-ending groundout, stranding runners at first and second. Bortles tied the game in the bottom of the inning, and then the rain and nearly two-hour delay followed in the seventh.
Washington shut down its closer, Troy Rallings, after the delay, but Bianco stayed with Weathersby through the delay.
"If anybody could do it, certainly Scott could do it," Bianco said. "He had only thrown 10 pitches, and he wasn't in the bullpen very long before he came into the game. We asked him how he felt as the delay went on. He was with Josh (Porter), and he put heat on his arm and played catch. It also helped that he was rested."
"It wasn't that bad," Weathersby said. "Josh Porter, our trainer, did an awesome job. He had a heat pad on me. He was with me the whole time, stretching me and talking me through it. It really wasn't that bad."
In his first inning after the delay, Weathersby retired the Washington side in order, including a pair of strikeouts. Washington threatened in the eighth, but he stranded two more runners with a foul out to Will Allen. The Huskies got the game-winning run to second in the ninth, and Weathersby once again got out of it, with a flyout to right, to send the game to extras.
It set up Orvis to be the the regional MVP in the 10th.
Allen drew a two-out walk, which ended the day for Washington reliever Alex Nesbitt, who worked a season-long 3.1 innings, giving up just one run on one hit with two walks and two strikeouts.
Orvis then delivered an RBI triple down the right-field line, aided by a friendly bounce off the wall in the corner, to allow Allen to score from first and give the Rebels a 3-2 lead headed to the bottom of the 10th.
"Coach (Cliff) Godwin told they had a big right-handed guy that was going to come out with fast balls," Orvis said. "I was trying to drive something, try to get the game going. He threw something over the plate, and I kind of rolled over it, but it swept down the line. It couldn't have been a better time for my first triple of the year. I had one last year. Something has to happen for me to get a triple."
With Josh Laxer standing at the ready in the Ole Miss bullpen, it was Weathersby's game. He got a ground out for the first out, then a walk, a fly out for the second out, and then worked a full count before striking out his sixth batter of the game, which tied a career.
It was a career game for the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native, as he allowed just two hits with two walks in 5.1 scoreless innings. He also extended his scoreless streak to 16 innings, dating back to a scoreless inning of relief on April 30.
"I don't know if I thought I would, but I had always dreamed of it, when you're a little kid coming to these game," said Weathersby of getting the last out of the regional. "I came to the 2009 regional and I saw these guys play, and it was always a dream of mine to play here. To get the last out to win a regional, it's more than I can ask for."
With Louisiana-Lafayette defeating Mississippi State 5-3 to win the Lafayette Regional, Ole Miss will be on the road this weekend against the national No. 6 seed and top-ranked Ragin' Cajuns.
So ends baseball at Swayze Field this season, which provided so many special moments, none more special than Monday's regional championship game.
"I told the players in our meeting that I haven't seen them like this since 2009, in that Monday winner-take-all game when (Drew) Pomeranz struck out the 16 guys against Western Kentucky, where you could feel the fans on the field, you could feel the fans in the dugout, you could feel the energy every time a pitch was made, not just a play or a hit," Bianco said. "Every time, especially the last few innings, you watch Scott (Weathersby), and the fans knew it.
"We're fortunate that we have such a great fan base that cares so much about baseball. We're fortunate we have an administration here at Ole Miss that cares so much about baseball. It's a special place. It's a special place, especially in June."
With a 4-2 win over Georgia Tech, Washington advances to Monday's Oxford Regional Championship game against Ole Miss (2 p.m.). It was the Huskies' second game of the day Sunday, having lost to the Rebels 2-1 earlier in the day, and they will need to beat Ole Miss twice Monday.
"It's been a long day obviously," head coach Lindsay Meggs said. "It's not the way we hoped it would go. But as I told our guys after the game, the Georgia Tech win was not the prettiest thing in the world. But at this point in time, it's about finding a way to win and getting a chance to play the next day.
"We're tired. We're a little disappointed that we weren't able to win the first game, but we do get to play tomorrow. A little bit of sleep, a little bit of rest, a little bit of energy, when we wake up in the morning, be ready to get back here and find a way to put some runs on the board early and try to put some pressure on them."
In the first meeting, Ole Miss got big-time pitching performances from Christian Trent and Aaron Greenwood. The duo combined to strand seven Washington runners on base, including two each in the 7th and 8th.
"We were an at-bat or two away from being locked up in a 2-2 tie," Meggs said. "This is not an easy environment to come in and execute in... We didn't get that hit. Minus a good at-bat or two with runners in scoring position, we were right there."
"We were right there," said Andrew Ely, who hit a two-run home run to tie the game with Georgia Tech at 2-2 in the third inning. "If we can play defense like we have all year and pitch like we have all year and get that one knock that we didn't get earlier today, we can beat these guys."
Sam Smith will get the start for Ole Miss in Monday's rematch, and the Rebels have used just Greenwood (2.2 IP, 47 pitches) out of the bullpen. Meggs did not announce a starter for Washington, and the Huskies have used each of its three regular starters and Will Ballowe (1.0 IP, 9 pitches), Brandon Choate (0.2 IP, 8 pitches) and Trevor Dunlap (4.0 IP, 50 pitches) out of the bullpen.
"We're going to talk about that back at the hotel and piece it together by the morning," Meggs said. "The key is to try to get a few innings out of whoever starts and try to get us to the fourth, and if we can score some run, we can mix and match a little bit. If we can get to that second game, which is going to be tough for us, anything can happen. You will see everybody at some point in time. We will run them all out there."
As evidenced by the first meeting Sunday, with nearly 10,000 in attendance, the Huskies won't be fazed by the stage or the environment Monday.
"Last year, we traveled down to LSU," Ely said. "That experience has given us experience for something like this. This is not the first time that a lot of our guys have played in front of over 10,000 guys screaming at you. That helps a bit. It's an awesome atmosphere."
As he has so often this season, senior right-hander Aaron Greenwood rose to the occasion and made big pitches in big spots, working the final 2.2 innings to close out a 2-1 win over Washington in the winners' bracket at the NCAA Oxford Regional.
Sophomore left-hander Christian Trent tossed a gem in his own right, having not pitched in 16 days after he was scratched from his start in the SEC Tournament last week. He left with a 2-1 lead in the seventh before turning things over to Greenwood. With the win, Trent improved to 9-0, giving up just one run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
"It was definitely nice having the rest," Trent said. "I was definitely ready to get out there after being off for a start and plus my last start was seven days before that. It felt really good to get back out there and help my team win."
Greenwood inherited runners at second and third with one out after Washington cut the lead to 2-1 on an RBI single from junior outfielder Robert Pehl.
"When we got to the point with the guy at third, Aaron's done that so much in his career," head coach Mike Bianco said. "Not just this year, but so much, coming in with a guy at third base and getting the big strikeout. Although statistically he may look like a strikeout guy, he's a command guy. And he can raise his game. He gets that adrenaline and the fastball gets harder and the slider gets harder and sharper, and that's what we needed."
He struck out the first batter and got a lineout to second base for the third out, stranding the runners at second and third to preserve a 2-1 lead.
"On the mound visit, Coach B told us we really needed a strikeout to hold the guy at third base and not let them put the ball in play to give them a chance to score," Greenwood said. "I was thinking, 'Nothing good to hit. Low in the zone. Get ahead early.' I threw a slider away to strike him out. The next guy, when you get two, you're thinking the same thing: keep pounding the zone. Finally I got the line out to Preston (Overbey), and Preston made a great play."
Washington mounted a two-out rally in the eighth with a walk, followed by a bloop single to shallow center field before Greenwood shut the door again on the Huskies with an inning-ending strikeout.
Greenwood closed things out with a perfect ninth, including a pair of strikeouts, for his fourth save of the season. The Byhalia, Mississippi, native allowed just one hit and one walk in 2.2 scoreless innings.
"The crowd was terrific today, even in a pitchers' duel," Bianco said. "They really sense that and sense every play and pulled Aaron through."
"I had to calm myself down at times, especially playing in front of these great fans, 10,000 people," Greenwood said. "They're awesome. They were unbelievable today. It's amazing, especially being a hometown guy to go out there and play for the team I always grew up loving. It was awesome."
Through two games in regional play, Ole Miss has used just three pitchers, ahead of the regional championship game against the Washington-Georgia Tech winner at 2 p.m. on Monday and a potential if necessary game at 7 p.m. on Monday. Junior right-hander Sam Smith is expected to get the start for the Rebels.
"We have the pitching depth, but the disappointing thing is, if you don't win this game, you are looking at 27 more innings to get through without extra innings just to win it," Bianco said. "It's nice that you can stay in line with a normal weekend. It's all about winning the next game, and the players know that."
Behind a three-run, two-out rally in the ninth, Georgia Tech defeated Jacksonville State by a score of 4-2 in an elimination game at the NCAA Oxford Regional. Georgia Tech will play in another elimination game later Sunday at 7 p.m. against the loser of Ole Miss-Washington.
With runners at the corners and two outs in the eighth, Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall turned to senior right-hander Dusty Isaacs out of the bullpen. He struck out Ryan Sebra to send the game to the ninth with the game tied 1-1.
In the ninth, Georgia Tech had runners at the corners with two outs after back-to-back singles from junior outfielder Daniel Spingola and senior second baseman Mott Hyde. Sophomore outfielder Matt Gonzalez delivered with a two-RBI double to right-center, and junior first baseman Thomas Smith added an insurance run with an RBI single.
Jacksonville State threatened in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with nobody out. Isaacs got a fielder's choice groundout, followed by a foul out and fly out to limit the damage to one run and close out the 4-2 win.
Junior right-hander Matthew Grimes is expected to get the start in the late game for the Yellow Jackets. In the win over Jacksonville State, Georgia Tech used two of its top relievers, Isaacs (1.1 IP, 24 pitches) and sophomore left-hander Sam Clay (2.2 IP, 43 pitches).
"We were seeing how the game went," Hall said. "In an ideal world, we didn't want to pitch either one, but that didn't work out. I'm kind of glad we didn't totally extend Sam. Dusty, I would have liked to see him have about a three-pitch or four-pitch ninth inning. Dusty will be fine in the second game, but I'm not sure about Sam. Sam should be fine for tomorrow if we get there. We will have to beat a very good team to get there."
Georgia Tech is now 4-1 in its last five NCAA Regional elimination games and has advanced to the regional championship game in six straight years.
Freshman shortstop Errol Robinson made a great play moving to his right to start a 6-4-3 double play to help junior right-hander Chris Ellis get out of the first, limiting the damage to one run.
Ole Miss answered with five runs in the bottom of the inning and that's all Ellis needed, as he tossed his second career complete game and the Rebels defeated Jacksonville State by a score of 12-2 in the second game of the NCAA Oxford Regional.
"I'm really proud of the way we came out," head coach Mike Bianco said. "One of the goals was to be locked into this moment and play this game. Chris was terrific. The complete game was something we needed with the shortened regional to save the bullpen. He gave us that today."
The Rebels plated all five runs in the first inning with two outs, as they went on score nine of their 12 runs with two outs. The two-out rally started with a 2-RBI double down the right-field line from junior first baseman Sikes Orvis. The first team All-SEC selection had a career day, going 3-for-4 with two runs, five RBI, a double and a home run.
"After the first inning, I was kind of disappointed that I gave up a run," Ellis said. "There's nothing bigger than when you go out there and give up a run in the early innings, and the offense puts up five runs right after that. There's really no better feeling than having guys like Sikes (Orvis) ripping an RBI double down the line."
After the first, Ellis faced three batters over the minimum through the seventh, while the offense extended the lead to 12-2 with two runs in the fourth, two in the sixth and three in the seventh. He gave up a run in the eighth but came back and worked a scoreless ninth to close out the win.
Ellis was efficient, throwing just 112 pitches, as he scattered eight hits with three walks and a career-high eight strikeouts.
"When you see 10,000 people out there and beer showers going everywhere, it's a little bit different than regular SEC weekends," Ellis said. "I was fired up. The defense helped me out like usual. The offense every time I have given up a run this season, they have gone and put up four or five runs right after that."
"It was his best fast ball-curve ball combination he's had in quite some time," Bianco said. "He showed good command with the fast ball. I'm proud of him. Once we started to roll there and got a lead, you knew that you would like your guy to finish if he can, that way you save the bullpen."
With the win, Ole Miss advances to the winners' bracket game against Washington, which is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday. The Huskies defeated Georgia Tech by a score of 8-0 in game one of the NCAA Oxford Regional.
After the game, Bianco announced that sophomore left-hander Christian Trent (8-0, 2.44 ERA) would get the start for Ole Miss, while Washington is expected to counter with junior right-hander Jeff Brigham (7-3, 2.93 ERA).
"They're very good," said Bianco of Washington. "From all the information that we gathered and the stuff that we looked at all week, it's probably what we expected. It's a team that's certainly very well-coached and puts a lot of pressure on you. We will do some different things offensively. Their guy today, (Tyler) Davis, was tremendous and made it look really easy out there. You can see why they came in second in one of the best baseball conferences in the country."
More on Washington: Davis Is Divine: UW's 1st NCAA Tourney Shutout, writes Gregg Bell, UW Athletic Director of Writing
Behind the first shutout in the program's postseason history from junior right-hander Tyler Davis, Washington defeated Georgia Tech by a score of 8-0 in the opening game of the NCAA Oxford Regional. With the win, the Huskies move into the winner's bracket, where they will play the winner of Ole Miss-Jacksonville State at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Washington took a 1-0 lead in the first and extended the lead to 5-0 with four two-out RBI in the fourth, and it was all Davis from there. The Golden Spikes award semifinalist allowed just four hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.
"He did exactly what we had hoped he would do," head coach Lindsay Meggs said. "Nobody got to see anybody out of the bullpen. It's not just that we didn't have to use anybody; no one saw our closer or our set-up guys. The first time they take the mound will be the first time they see them. That's important."
"We had a pretty good idea about what we wanted to do," Davis said. "We wanted to make sure that they put the ball in play and force them to get three hits in an inning. Not a lot of people are able to do that. As long we don't walk guys or hit guys, we're pretty confident."
Sophomore outfielder Braden Bishop was the star offensively, as he went 3-for-3 with two runs scored, two RBI and two stolen bases. He has also become a fan favorite among Ole Miss fans at the regional, throwing the ball back and forth with fans in between innings.
"Yesterday was an interesting experience with them chanting, 'Let's go Huskies," Bishop said. "I had fun with it. These people are amazing. The fans are unbelievable. It's a first-class school. We're excited to be here and play in front of those guys."
With the loss, Georgia Tech moves into the loser's bracket where it will play the loser of Ole Miss-Jacksonville State at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
"We didn't pitch too many guys today," Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall said. "I told the team this afternoon, 'We have plenty of pitchers to get through the tournament.' Now, we have to win the next game, or we're headed back to Atlanta. That's the challenge. We have to play our best baseball tomorrow morning."
Jacksonville State enters the regional riding a season-long six-game winning streak, having won the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship by winning six straight elimination games in the tournament after losing their tournament opener.
"We hit .331 in the tournament and that was after going 2-for-31 in the first game," Jacksonville State head coach Jim Case said. "We got shut down pretty good in the first game. We came back and swung the bats extremely well. We might have played our best baseball that week of the whole year."
"They played a good schedule and have beaten a lot of people," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "You look at their numbers offensively, and they mirror ours. They are very similar in they have an explosive offensive and have a good mix of power and speed. They have 70-plus stolen bases and 38 home runs, which is similar to us. It's going to be a good challenge for Chris on Friday. They're not your typical No. 4 seed."
Over the seven tournament games, the Gamecocks batted .331 and held a team ERA of 2.14. Junior right-hander Zachary Fowler will get the start against Ole Miss on Friday. He has a team-high seven wins, posting a 7-7 record with a 3.58 ERA.
"He's a guy who didn't have a lot of experience before this year on the mound," said Case of Fowler. "He played junior college and was a first baseman. He has a really nice arm. He's pitched well late in the season. He's had some stretches of brilliance, so hopefully tomorrow night he throws the way he can. If he does, we'll have a chance."
"It's their ace and the guy who's pitched in that game for them," Bianco said. "To me, we have to do what we do, especially being at home and especially being in a regional. We will lean on Chris (Ellis) to give us a great opportunity to win. Offensively, it's important that we do some things early to push the envelope and try to do some things offensively to get on the board."
Fowler started two games in the conference tournament, including a championship game victory over Tennessee Tech, where he allowed two runs on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 7.2 innings. Junior right-hander Travis Stout, who has 15 saves and a team-best 1.17 ERA, worked six perfect innings of relief over five tournament games.
"We had some guys that threw more than what's normal last week, and we had to," Case said. "If we don't, we're not going to advance. The question is how do they come back from that. We're OK. It's not ideal. It's not how you would set it up."
The Gamecocks, ranked No. 91 in the final official RPI rankings, have played three teams from the RPI top 50, all from the SEC, with a win against Mississippi State and a pair of losses to Alabama.
"There's a big difference in playing a team on a Tuesday night and playing a team in the first game of a regional," Case said. "We played that game for a reason, and then we played Alabama the next and played Alabama the next week. We wanted to do that in case we advanced to this tournament so that we would have experience against some very good teams."
But about that tournament JSU just won, writes Joe Medley from The Anniston Star
Washington makes its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2004, when Tim Lincecum was a freshman and the Huskies made the same trip to Oxford. It was also the first time Ole Miss hosted an NCAA regional.
The Huskies (39-15), picked to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the Pac-12, finished in second-place with a 21-9 conference record. With their record and conference standing, as well as a No. 18 RPI, they were one of five candidates for the final two hosting spots, but ended up on the road as a No. 2 seed.
"We were not picked in the beginning to do well in our league," UW head coach Lindsay Meggs said. "We have had to prove it and prove it again everywhere we have been, and this is no different. Based on some of the things people said about us in the beginning, I'm not so sure people really expect us to do really well in the postseason, and that is one of the reasons we weren't given a regional. That's all the more reason to keep that chip on our shoulder and try to shock the world. That's been our mindset from the beginning."
Junior right-hander Tyler Davis, the Huskies' regular Saturday starter and a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, gets the ball for Friday's regional opener against No. 3 seed Georgia Tech. He finished the regular season 10-2 with a 1.75 ERA.
"We feel like on the road in a different environment for us, it's important for us to get off on the right foot, and he gives us the best chance to throw strikes early and keep us in the game, and not use our bullpen on the first day as much as we might have to otherwise. (He) gives us the best chance to have some rested arms for the rest of the weekend," Meggs said.
Washington was ranked in the top 10 for much of the season, but lost each of its last two series, on the road at national No. 1 seed Oregon State and at home against UCLA. Meggs sees the postseason as a fresh start for his team, which has been ranked as high as a school-record fifth in Baseball America's poll this season.
"We're starting over," Meggs said. "Everybody is starting over. For some guys, it's good. For some guys, it's bad. For us, we have talked about all year long it's a 56-game season to prepare for this. Every weekend, you're auditioning and working on the things you want to be ready to do in the postseason, so it was almost a sense of relief to get it over with and get here and we expect to play our best baseball from here on out."
Huskies enjoying experience, Southern hospitality of 1st NCAA tournament in 10 years, writes Gregg Bell, UW Athletics Director of Writing
Picked to finish sixth in the SEC Western Division prior to the start of the season, Ole Miss has played with a chip on its shoulder, and it has paid off with a division title and selection as a regional host for the first time since 2009.
"Everybody coming into this year, we knew we weren't projected as high as people said we could be," senior catcher Will Allen said. "We played with a chip on our shoulder the whole season, and that's had some success. It's a good group of guys and the way we mesh and play together. We have been pretty consistent all year."
Compared to previous years, the players notice a better approach and energy with this year's team.
"Last year, it was pretty tight," said junior right-hander Chris Ellis, who will get the start Friday. "A couple of days before the regional, you knew how it was. This year, it's been a lot better and it's a lot nicer and easier on us to play at home."
Ellis credited the leadership of senior co-captains Will Allen and Austin Anderson for the change, as the Rebels look to advance out of a regional for the first time since 2009. Allen said it's simply letting everybody do their own thing.
"The group of older guys that came back, the juniors and seniors that have been here, wanted to make sure everyone had their own thing," Allen said. "If you're relaxed, go out there and play relaxed. If you're one of those guys who gets pumped and intense, do that. We didn't want to force anything on anybody. Everybody has their own personality and own methods to doing everything. We're letting them do that.
"We wanted everyone to feel comfortable playing with everybody, and they have done a great job. You see Chris Ellis go out there, and he's a very relaxed, chill kind of person, but when he's out there, he's going about his business and he gets the job done."
With no classes and no midweek games, it's been a balancing act for coaches and players to prepare for the regional, from the bracket reveal on Monday, through the week of practice, to the regional opener on Friday.
"During the season, we get off-days and we're playing every other day, so we're not used to coming out here and practicing every day," Allen said. "Our coaching staff has done a great job helping us get the method behind everything. We're not out here for two-three hours every day. Sometimes, we just hit in the cage to stay sharp.
"Everybody's fired up and ready to go. In years past, we have been a little worn down and tired. Everybody is ready to go and excited for the opportunity."
Chris Ellis, one of 21 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award honoring the nation's top player, will get the start for Friday's NCAA regional opener against Jacksonville State, head coach Mike Bianco said Tuesday.
Despite suffering his first loss of the season against Arkansas at the SEC Tournament, Ellis has turned in a quality start in each of his last seven outings. Ellis has formed a strong 1-2 punch on the mound with Christian Trent, as they have combined for a 17-1 record through the regular season and SEC Tournament.
Ellis ranks eighth in the SEC in ERA (2.17), while Trent ranks 13th (2.44). Trent also ranks 10th in strikeouts (67) and third in fewest walks allowed (16).
Trent was scratched from an SEC Tournament start against Vanderbilt last Thursday due to arm stiffness but is healthy and scheduled to pitch in the regional this weekend.
"He was fine," head coach Mike Bianco said. "We didn't want to make a big deal of it. On short rest, we didn't want to push him and get him to a point where maybe he wasn't at his best this week. We wanted him to throw, but we weren't willing to push it at that point. When we got to Friday before the Arkansas game, he did his throwing and felt great. He would have started that Saturday and I would have put him on normal rest for this week. He threw a bullpen, felt great and is ready to go."
"I'm good," Trent said. "It was a little bit of fatigue but I threw a pen on Saturday and everything is great. There are no worries there. I'm ready to throw. There was no arm pain, just fatigue and after talking to coach (Bianco), obviously regional play is most important."
In Trent's place, Jeremy Massie got the spot start against Vanderbilt, his eighth start of the season, and worked 4.1 innings with one run on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts, as the Rebels went on to defeat the Commodores by a score of 7-2. Massie holds a 2.34 ERA over 53.1 innings this season, having split time as a starter and in the bullpen.
"It gives you flexibility, but you don't know how you're going to use him," Bianco said. "He's certainly one of our main guys out of the bullpen. Can he start? Sure. A lot of it will depend on the weekend and where you go to how you use him."
Before the SEC Tournament, Bianco talked about the team's pitching depth, particularly in the bullpen. That depth played itself out over the three games in Hoover, Alabama with five different relievers seeing action, including two appearances by Josh Laxer. Including Massie, seven different relievers have appeared in at least 15 games, and they hold a combined 2.32 ERA over 209.1 innings.
"The good thing about the SEC Tournament was we got just about everybody in, just short of a couple of guys that we were saving for the next day in (Evan) Anderson and (Matt) Denny, but all the other relievers got in, and everyone pitched well," Bianco said. "Over the past few weeks with no midweek games, it's been tough with guys like (Josh) Laxer and (Wyatt) Short, who have seemed to not pitch as much. Laxer got in twice, and although it was a little tougher for Short in his outing, at least he got out there.
"You want to win the tournament, but one of the biggest things is how it prepares you for this tournament. I was happy with how we used the pitching and how much everyone got in."
For the sixth time in program history, Ole Miss was selected to host an NCAA Baseball Regional. The Rebels (41-18) open regional play Friday with No. 4 seed Jacksonville State (36-25), with No. 2 seed Washington (39-15-1) and No. 3 seed Georgia Tech (36-25) in the other matchup.
The Gamecocks have a top-100 RPI with a 1-2 record against SEC teams this season (win over Mississippi State, two losses to Alabama). The Huskies finished second in the Pac-12 conference and narrowly missed a regional hosting spot, while the Yellow Jackets finished ninth in the ACC and won the tournament championship this past week.
The Oxford Regional is paired with the Lafayette Regional, hosted by No. 6 national seed Louisiana-Lafayette (53-7), as well as No. 2 seed Mississippi State (37-22), No. 3 seed San Diego State (42-19) and No. 4 seed Jackson State (31-23).
Head coach Mike Bianco
Sophomore left-hander Christian Trent
Junior outfielder Auston Bousfield
Amid regional host and national seed discussion, 10th-ranked and second-seeded Ole Miss opens Southeastern Conference Tournament play Wednesday against seventh-seeded Arkansas. The Rebels are squarely on the national seed bubble after finishing the regular season 40-16 overall and 19-11 in SEC play.
Ole Miss will start junior right-hander Chris Ellis Wednesday against Arkansas, followed by sophomore left-hander Christian Trent on Thursday against third-seeded LSU or sixth-seeded Vanderbilt.
Ellis enters Wednesday with a 9-0 record and 2.12 earned run average with 52 strikeouts and 28 walks in 89.0 innings. He has also posted six consecutive quality starts, including a win over Arkansas on May 2.
"It definitely wouldn't hurt to win a couple of games," senior catcher Will Allen said. "Obviously, we're not going to go down there and not try to win. As long as we're playing baseball, we're going to do the best we can. If we play well and do what we can and make a run in the tournament that would definitely help. It's up in the air, and we'll see."
With a series win at Texas A&M, Ole Miss moved up two spots to No. 13 in this week's official RPI rankings. Fellow SEC national seed contenders Vanderbilt, which Ole Miss might face in an SEC Tournament matchup Thursday, and South Carolina are ranked Nos. 6 and 8, respectively.
"You can't control what they do or how they're playing, but as long as keep playing well, we'll make a run at a national seed," senior third baseman Austin Anderson said. "All we can do is play well and win. If you start looking at that, you get distracted from what we're trying to do. Although it would be great to be a national seed and host a Super Regional, as long we keep winning, it doesn't matter where we play, we'll make it to Omaha."
For Allen and Anderson, they have achieved two team goals for the first time in their four-year careers: win 40 games and claim an SEC Western Division Championship. Other goals, however, remain ahead of them, as they want to finish strong and leave their legacy, individually and as a team.
"It's something we have been focused on the whole year," said Allen of the national seed talk. "One of our goals is to host a Regional and host a Super Regional. You have to take it game-by-game and really focus on the task at hand. Right now, we have the SEC Tournament. It would be really cool win an SEC Championship. None of us here now have done that, so we would love to do that."
Rebels Rolling Entering Hoover
Ole Miss left Tuscaloosa with a 4-5 record in SEC play, having just been swept at Alabama and having lost two of three at South Carolina two weekends previously.
From there, the Rebels have gone 15-6 in SEC play, including four straight series wins to end the regular season. The 21-game stretch also included weekend sweeps of Auburn and Kentucky and just one series loss, at home against LSU.
"Last year, we had a pretty good year, but we seemed to be dying out at the end and lost two of three at LSU," Anderson said. "At Hoover, we won our first game and then lost the next two. It seems like the team is playing well and we have a lot of confidence going into the postseason."
The Rebels have also shown an ability to bounce back this season. Ole Miss is 10-5 after losses, including a 7-1 mark since the 4-5 start in SEC play. They look to continue the trend coming off a 9-6 loss at Texas A&M in the regular season finale.
"Throughout the year, we have lost some close games," Allen said. "It seems like the next game we bounce back. I don't know the record off the top of my head, but it seems like after the games we have lost and the next game we play, we get right back on track. That's huge. To not really go through too many peaks and valleys but just consistently play, we have been able to do that this year."
Allen Wins Regular-Season Batting Title
Will Allen won the SEC regular-season batting title, with a .359 average, edging Kentucky's A.J. Reed by percentage points. He surged to the league lead, going 6-for-12 for the weekend series at Texas A&M. He also ended the regular season ranked second in RBI (55), second in hits (80) and seventh in home runs.
Allen has started all 56 games, including 50 at catcher, after serving primarily as the DH as a junior. He credits two years of maturity and strength and conditioning to coach Ben Fleming, for his ability to maintain his weight and remain consistent throughout the season.
"We lift two times a week and try to maintain my weight," Allen said. "A couple of years ago, I lost quite a bit of weight. I am making sure I stay between 225-230 pounds. I do a lot of stretching on my own before practice. I'm more mature with taking care of myself and making it a priority."
Robinson, Woodman Lift Rebels Late
Freshmen Errol Robinson and J.B. Woodman have been on a tear since the start of the Kentucky series. Robinson has raised his average from .285 to .310, hitting at a .375 clip, while Woodman has raised his average from .280 to .336, hitting at a .435 clip.
Woodman earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his role in helping Ole Miss clinch the SEC West. He drove in the game-tying run in Thursday night's win at Texas A&M and then drove in the game-tying run and scored the game-winning run in Friday's win at Texas A&M.
"The freshmen have had a big impact," Anderson said. "Errol, JB and Colby (Bortles), and Wyatt Short out of the bullpen, have had great years. Even as an older guy, when you see a freshman player with that confidence, it makes it a lot easier for us to feed off of that. Our whole team feeds off one another."
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