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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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
You've seen 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 season.
Powder blue 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:
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."
Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
May 12-18, 2014
- Ole Miss claimed the Southeastern Conference Western Division title and the overall No. 2 seed at the SEC Tournament with a series win at Texas A&M this past weekend.
- The Rebels posted a 40-16 record in the regular season with a 19-11 mark in SEC play. It's the fifth 40-win series in the Bianco era and sixth in program history.
- Will Allen and Austin Anderson were named semifinalists for the Dick Howser Trophy by the NCBWS, presented annually to the organization's Player of the Year.
- Allen was also named one of 15 semifinalists for the Johnny Bench Award honoring the top collegiate catcher in the nation.
- Ole Miss will open SEC Tournament play Wednesday in game two of the day against the winner of the previous day's game between Arkansas and Texas A&M.
Track & Field
- The No. 18 nationally ranked Ole Miss men achieved their best finish in 30 years with a fifth-place showing at the SEC Outdoor Championships.
- Senior Ricky Robertson and junior Sam Kendricks stole the show with sensational SEC titles within a couple of minutes of each other Sunday in the high jump (7-3.25) and pole vault (18-6), respectively.
- Robertson earned the SEC Commissioner's Trophy for scoring the most points at the meet (23), as he placed first in the high jump, second in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump. It was the second time in his career to win the award (2012 indoors), and he's the second straight Rebel to win the outdoor award (Isiah Young last year).
- Kendricks set a Kentucky facility record with his winning pole vault of 18-6. He captured his first SEC outdoor title and second league crown overall.
- Freshmen Robert Domanic, Sean Tobin and Trevor Gilley all scored team points for Ole Miss, led by Domanic's runner-up finish in the 1,500 meters (3:49.02) and Tobin's third-place showing in the 5,000 meters (14:16.74).
- The Rebels scored 78 points, including a whopping 67 on Sunday's final day of competition. It was their second-highest point total at an SEC outdoor meet in program history.
- The NCAA East Preliminary is up next. The top 48 athletes in each individual event and top 24 relays from the East region will compete May 29-31 in Jacksonville, Florida, for the right to advance to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon, June 11-14.
- Nik Scholtz begins his quest for a national championship as the NCAA Singles Championship begins Wednesday. Scholtz is seeded 9-16 in singles for the third year in a row. In 2012, he reached the quarterfinals.
- Head Coach Billy Chadwick will be inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Hall of Fame on Wednesday night in Athens, Georgia. He becomes the second representative from Ole Miss to be inducted, joining 1995 NCAA doubles champion Mahesh Bhupathi, who entered the hall of fame in 2010.
- Senior Johan Backstrom was named to the Capital One Academic All-District At-Large Team for the second year in a row. The Uppsala, Sweden, native posted a 4.0 grade point average this spring and boasts a 3.92 cumulative GPA.
- Associate head coach Toby Hansson, who will take over as head coach after Chadwick's retirement, completed his first recruiting class last week, signing the top recruit from Croatia (Zvonimir Babic) and the top recruit from Egypt (Mazen Osama). They join Sweden's top recruit, Gustav Hansson, who signed in the fall.
- Junior standout golfer Blake Morris competed in the NCAA Auburn Regional in Auburn, Alabama, over the weekend.
- Morris carded a three-round total of 235 and tied for 64th-place overall.
- This concludes the 2013-14 men's golf season.
Ole Miss clinched the SEC Western Championship and locked up the second overall seed in the SEC Tournament as the Rebels won two of three games at Texas A&M this past weekend. With the series win, Ole Miss finished the regular season 40-16 overall and 19-11 in SEC play and moved up two spots in week's official RPI rankings, from No. 15 to No. 13.
Fellow SEC national seed contenders Vanderbilt and South Carolina are Nos. 6 and 8, respectively. Other national seed contenders of note are Louisiana-Lafayette (7), Miami (FL) (12) and TCU (14).
As far as the RPI top 25 and top 50, there are a couple of Ole Miss opponents to watch entering conference tournament play this week. Kentucky and Alabama each fell three spots to Nos. 22 and 24, respectively. Arkansas and UCF each moved more solidly into the RPI top 50 to Nos. 41 and 46, respectively, while Georgia fell 10 spots to No. 55.
The Rebels will open SEC Tournament play with either No. 7 seed Arkansas (No. 41 RPI) or No. 10 seed Texas A&M (No. 33) on Wednesday, followed by No. 3 seed LSU (No. 16), No. 6 seed Vanderbilt (No. 6) or No. 11 seed Tennessee (No. 45) on Thursday.
Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers had Ole Miss among his eight national seeds, while Baseball America's Aaron Fitt had Vanderbilt replacing Ole Miss as a national seed in last week's projections. After Ole Miss' series win over Texas A&M, Rogers still had the Rebels in as the eighth and final national seed with South Carolina and TCU, among other teams also in the mix for a national seed.
Here's a brief look at the NCAA Tournament resume and remaining schedule for Ole Miss, as well as the NCAA Tournament resumes for Florida, LSU and South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Ole Miss Rebels
40-16 Overall | 19-11 SEC (2nd)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 22
Record against RPI top 25: 5-7
Record against RPI top 50: 14-11
Record against RPI top 100: 21-14
Road Record: 15-7
37-19 Overall | 21-9 SEC (1st)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 1
Record against RPI top 25: 14-7
Record against RPI top 50: 22-13
Record against RPI top 100: 29-17
Road Record: 12-8
40-14-1 Overall | 17-11-1 SEC (3rd)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 45
Record against RPI top 25: 4-8
Record against RPI top 50: 12-12
Record against RPI top 100: 18-12-1
Road Record: 10-9
South Carolina Gamecocks
42-14 Overall | 18-12 SEC (t-4th)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 34
Record against RPI top 25: 8-7
Record against RPI top 50: 12-9
Record against RPI top 100: 23-12
Road Record: 8-9
40-16 Overall | 17-13 SEC (6th)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 4
Record against RPI top 25: 8-6
Record against RPI top 50: 18-14
Record against RPI top 100: 24-15
Road Record: 13-7
With a series win over Georgia, Ole Miss remained in first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division and can clinch the division with at least two wins at Texas A&M this weekend. However, for the second straight week, the Rebels dropped in this week's official RPI rankings, from No. 12 to No. 15.
Arkansas, which Ole Miss won two of three games against earlier this season, moved up four spots to No. 50, while Alabama, which swept the Rebels earlier this season moved more solidly into the RPI top 25 to No. 21.
Ole Miss finishes the regular season with a midweek contest at Arkansas State (No. 60), followed by a three-game series at Texas A&M (No. 35). UCF, which Ole Miss swept earlier this season, is another opponent to watch in the RPI rankings, as the Golden Knights dropped eight spots to No. 48.
Both Baseball America's Aaron Fitt and Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers had Ole Miss among their eight national seeds in last week's projections, and the Rebels remain in both the regional host and national seed discussion with one weekend left in the regular season.
Here are some Ole Miss-related questions and answers from Fitt's weekly chat on Monday:
Q: Is it a given that either Rice or TCU gets a national seed, and are they competing with each other for one? If so, how is that race shaping up? Is any other Lone Star program in the national seed conversation?
A: I'd hesitate to say it's a "given" that one of them will be a national seed, because there's still a lot of competition for those eight spots; there are three very strong ACC contenders and there will probably be three strong SEC contenders (Florida, Ole Miss, and the Vandy/South Carolina series winner), plus Oregon State and Louisiana-Lafayette and Indiana. Frogs and Owls must both continue to play at a high level; and I do believe they are probably both competing for one spot. Right now, I lean toward TCU because it plays in a better league and is 14-8 vs. the top 50, vs. Rice's 8-9. And no, I don't see another team from the state in the national seed mix. Houston has a great RPI, but being in third place in the AAC (three games back, too) really hurts.
Q: Hey Aaron, do you still see Ole Miss being a national seed if they win their series against A&M this week and is Florida still a national seed if they lose this week to Tennessee?
A: Yes on Ole Miss. Feel like Florida is probably safe even if it loses this weekend -- Gators had such a cushion to work with in the standings and in the RPI, and all those top 25 and top 50 wins are loud.
Here are some Ole Miss-related questions and answers from Rogers's weekly chat on Monday:
Q: Hey Kendall, big fan here. I was wondering who you think from the SEC will get a national seed draw. Do you think two could get one? Thanks.
A: I anticipate having Ole Miss and Florida still in as national seeds this week. I could see the SEC getting a third national seed, and right now, I would give that to Vanderbilt. I'd also keep an eye on South Carolina if the Gamecocks take that series from the Commodores this weekend. Right now I'd go with two national seeds, but three absolutely far from out of the question.
Q: Will a series win at Texas A&M secure at national seed spot for Ole Miss?
A: Would be pretty hard to deny at that point. Would mean OM finished the season exactly the way the committee would like to see it finish.
Q: What does Ole Miss have to do to host?
A: OM is hosting barring some 0-3 vs. A&M, and 0-2 in the SEC tournament type of deal ....
Here's a brief look at the NCAA Tournament resume and remaining schedule for Ole Miss, as well as the NCAA Tournament resumes for Alabama, Florida, LSU and South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Ole Miss Rebels
37-15 Overall | 17-10 SEC (2nd)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 23
Record against RPI top 25: 5-7
Record against RPI top 50: 14-11
Record against RPI top 100: 18-13
Road Record: 12-6
Remaining Schedule: at Arkansas State (No. 60), 3 at Texas A&M (No. 35)
Alabama Crimson TIde
32-19 Overall | 14-12 SEC (7th)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 10
Record against RPI top 25: 8-9
Record against RPI top 50: 13-13
Record against RPI top 100: 19-17
Road Record: 10-10
Remaining Schedule: at Jacksonville State (No. 101), 3 vs. Mississippi State (No. 42)
34-18 Overall | 19-8 SEC (1st)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 1
Record against RPI top 25: 14-7
Record against RPI top 50: 23-12
Record against RPI top 100: 27-16
Road Record: 10-7
Remaining Schedule: South Florida (No. 143), 3 at Tennessee (No. 44)
36-14-1 Overall | 14-11-1 SEC (6th)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 48
Record against RPI top 25: 4-8
Record against RPI top 50: 14-12-1
Record against RPI top 100: 15-12-1
Road Record: 7-9
Remaining Schedule: Northwestern State (No. 133), 3 at Auburn (No. 68)
South Carolina Gamecocks
39-13 Overall | 16-11 SEC (t-3rd)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 34
Record against RPI top 25: 6-6
Record against RPI top 50: 14-10
Record against RPI top 100: 18-11
Road Record: 6-8
Remaining Schedule: The Citadel (No. 202), 3 at Vanderbilt (No. 7)
38-14 Overall | 16-11 SEC (t-3rd)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 11
Record against RPI top 25: 7-4
Record against RPI top 50: 17-12
Record against RPI top 100: 22-14
Road Record: 13-7
Remaining Schedule: Southeast Missouri State (No. 75), 3 vs. South Carolina (No. 12)
Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
May 5-11, 2014
- Ole Miss maintained its lead in the SEC Western Division standings with a series win over Georgia this past weekend.
- Junior outfielder Auston Bousfield continues to lead the SEC in batting average and hits, and drove in both runs in Sunday's 2-1 win in 10 innings.
- Junior right-handed pitcher Chris Ellis improved to 8-0 on the year with the win over Georgia in the series opener Friday.
- With the series win, Ole Miss is now tied with Georgia in the all-time series 37-37.
- Ole Miss closes out the regular season at Arkansas State on Tuesday and at Texas A&M this weekend.
- The Rebels rallied to defeat No. 30 Northwestern 4-1 to advance to the second round of the NCAA Championships before falling in a tight match to No. 13 Notre Dame 4-2. The Rebels' season ends at 16-14 overall. They made their 21st consecutive NCAA appearance.
- Freshman Ricardo Jorge went 3-0 in singles and doubles in the NCAAs, winning both his singles matches in straight sets, to put the Rebels on the board in both matches after they had dropped the doubles point.
- Senior Johan Backstrom rallied to clinch the win over Northwestern, the second time he has clinched a win in the NCAA Championships.
- With the Rebels' team season coming to a close, the 35-year career of head coach Billy Chadwick comes to an end with five overall SEC championships, 10 SEC West titles, three SEC Tournament championships, 23 NCAA appearances, one NCAA finals appearance, four NCAA Final Four appearances, nine NCAA quarterfinal appearances and 16 Sweet Sixteen appearances.
- Junior Nik Scholtz will compete in the NCAA Singles Championship beginning May 21 in Athens, Ga. He is seeded 9-16, marking the third straight year for the South African to be seeded.
- The Rebels came back to defeat No. 26 Texas Tech in an exciting 4-3 match to advance to the second round of the NCAA Championships before falling to No. 3 UCLA 4-0. The Rebels ended the season at 14-10 overall. They made their sixth straight NCAA appearance under head coach Mark Beyers.
- Junior Julia Jones rallied after dropping a close first set tiebreaker to win 6-2 in the third and clinch the opening win for the Rebels. The win improved the series lead against Texas Tech to 3-1. Jones finished the year with a team-leading 27-11 overall record, 16-7 in dual matches. She earned All-SEC second team honors after going 8-5 in the SEC. Jones also teamed with freshman Zalina Khairudinova for a 15-6 record in doubles.
- Junior Erin Stephens ended the year on an 11-match winning streak.
- Senior Caroline Rohde-Moe ended her four-year career with an 84-58 overall record. She earned All-SEC honors twice and graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Mississippi.
- Sophomore Abby Newton competed in the 2014 NCAA East Regional and finished 38th in the individual standings.
- The Katy, Texas, native saved her best round for the final day, firing a 2-under-par 70, giving her a three-day score of 220. The 70 was her first round under par this spring.
- She also nailed an eagle on opening day action Thursday, her first this season and the third for an Ole Miss player this spring.
After giving up a run in the first, Sam Smith and Jeremy Massie kept Georgia off the scoreboard for the rest of the game and Auston Bousfield delivered the big hit, as Ole Miss clinched the weekend series with a 2-1 win in 10 innings. It was the Rebels' seventh walk-off win and their first since April 4.
Smith posted his ninth quality start, his first since a stretch of eight quality starts from March 2 to April 19, as he gave up just one run on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts in seven innings, which is tied for his second-longest outing of his career. Over his last three innings, he allowed just one base runner.
"He was great," head coach Mike Bianco said. "Even in the first inning, where they scored a run, they were good pitches. They were balls that happened to find holes, and they happened to be running on one of them, which a guy goes from first to third, and he ends up giving up a run. The first couple of innings, he gave up some hits, but they were not necessarily bad pitches. He had better stuff and command today.
"His last two or three innings were better than his first two or three innings. That's saying a lot. Usually that doesn't happen as much for him. Usually he gets a little tired. He caught his second wind somewhere around the fifth inning and really made some pitches."
From there, it was all Jeremy Massie, who worked three innings of scoreless relief. He allowed just one hit with no walks and four strikeouts, retiring the last seven batters he faced. It was his third-straight relief appearance, which also included four scoreless innings against Kentucky on April 27.
"He's very mature," said Bianco of the move to the bullpen. "He pitches with a lot of confidence. He does what he does well. Some people complicate it. Some people think that you have to do something if you're a starter or a reliever. It's a great lesson for our young guys to watch. Most of them usually start out as a deliver. He's been both. He's been terrific since we have moved him back to the bullpen."
"He's very important to us," Errol Robinson said. "Every time he gets in the game, he's doing something to get productive out, gets ground balls and a strikeout here and there. He's been so important to us.
With the win, Ole Miss improves to 37-15 overall and 17-10 in SEC play and finishes the regular season with a 25-7 record at home. The Rebels can clinch the SEC West with two wins at Texas A&M next weekend.
Georgia evened the series, as Robert Tyler tossed his first career complete-game shutout in a 2-0 win. Ole Miss was shutout for just the second time this season and held to three hits, which tied a season low.
"He was just terrific," said head coach Mike Bianco of Tyler. "Going in, we knew that he had a big-time fast ball, and today he threw an outstanding change-up. When you have that kind of fast ball and you're able to mix your off-speed in, it makes it really difficult. They didn't give us any opportunities. We didn't have many base runners on.
"On the opposite end, you have to your hat, too, because they got some clutch base hits, base hits with runners in scoring position that won them the game. It's a tough one. He was really good, and we weren't good enough today."
Ole Miss had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs just once, back in the first inning, when Braxton Lee led off the inning with a double to left. The next batter, Auston Bousfield, attempted to lay down a bunt to advance Lee, but Tyler threw Lee out at third.
"It's a signal given to him that we want him to move the runner up," said Bianco of the play. "He has the option to bunt. He's so good with the bat. He can do either, and he felt he could get it down. We could be really critical about that, but we're critical because it didn't work. We have bunted so many times this year and have had success. It's not about that. Sometime you steal, and you get thrown out. Sometimes you bunt, and they get the lead runner."
"I put the bunt down, and Braxton was thrown out," Bousfield said. "I was trying just move him over with a sac bunt. The pitcher made a good play and threw him out. Good play by him."
Offensively, Georgia scored its two runs on a pair of 2-out RBI, one in the eighth and one in the ninth. Before the first 2-out RBI, the Bulldogs had been 1-for-10 with runners on base and 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, leaving seven runners on base.
Bousfield led off the ninth with a hit by pitch, just the second leadoff batter to reach base for the game, but Tyler retired the next three batters in order. He allowed just three with no walks, a hit by pitch and four strikeouts over nine innings.
"He has a great arm, 95-97 mph most of the game," said Bousfield, whose 21-game hit streak was snapped with a 0-for-3 game. "He was throwing a really change-up up there and flipping a curve ball in when he needed to. You have to tip your cap. That's a really good pitcher they threw out on the mound, and we really weren't able to do much with him."
Ole Miss defeated Georgia by a score of 12-2 in Friday's series opener. All nine starters had at least one hit, as the Rebels pounded out 12 hits. It was their eighth game where they scored 10 or more runs this season. With the win, Ole Miss improves to 36-14 overall and 16-9 SEC play and extends his lead in the SEC Western Division standings to two games over Mississippi State (31-19, 14-11 SEC).
Chris Ellis improved to 8-0, as he allowed two runs -- both earned -- on 10 hits with two walks and two strikeouts. It was his sixth straight start where he allowed two or fewer earned runs.
Auston Bousfield extended his hit streak to 21 games with a 2-for-4 game. It is tied for the fifth-longest hit streak in Ole Miss history, and he is hitting at a .413 clip (38-for-92) over the hit streak.
John Reimer is the creator of Baseball Buddha, and he plans to attend Ole Miss-Georgia game on Saturday as part of his cross-country baseball road trip.
Baseball Buddha is a journey, a self-funded documentary of the spectator experience behind the love of baseball. He travels by car and attends a different baseball game every day. The Ole Miss-Georgia game will be game 92 and day 100 on the road.
This journey, Reimer said, is his path to happiness, to enlightenment through baseball and the love of baseball, which started on February 14, the opening day for college baseball.
"I had become unhappy at my work, and my dad had triple bypass surgery last August," Reimer said. "I spent the first two or three nights with him, and the very first night, he was contemplating his life. We started talked about, 'What would you do if you could do anything?' I knew instantly what I would want to do. I wanted to ravel the country and see the country and go to a baseball game every day and then blog about the experience.
"I wanted to be happy. I wanted to start doing things that I wanted to do. I wanted to start living life with me dictating the terms. Everybody talks about doing things. There's a lot of talk, but then you have to act."
Through the use of social media, it is his goal to document the fan experience every day until the final pitch is thrown and the last out is played. It's not just the game itself, he said, but it's the fan experience with the game and searching and reporting the best stories of the common baseball fan. It's what certain parts of the country are like and finding out for himself.
For Reimer, this is part of his second trip through the South, having visited Southern Miss and Alabama his first time through but he decided to come back through because of the fans and energy. That's what brings him to Ole Miss on Saturday. He will book end his visit to Swayze Field with a game at Mississippi State on Friday and the Memphis Redbirds on Sunday.
"I heard awesome things about and wanted to hit Mississippi State and Ole Miss," Reimer said. "When I was driving through Alabama on my first trip, I listened to an Ole Miss game because it was the only game on the radio and I could feel the energy from the broadcast. The fans are rabid down there. The energy is awesome."
For more information on John Reimer, his daily blog updates and ways to support him, visit www.baseballbuddha.com.
Ole Miss moved into first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a series win over Arkansas this past weekend. However, the Rebels dropped eight spot to No. 12 in this week's official RPI rankings.
Two Ole Miss opponents -- UCF and Mississippi State -- moved more solidly into the RPI top 50 to Nos. 39 and 40, respectively. Auburn, which Ole Miss swept earlier this season, dropped 20 spots to No. 67. The Rebels' next opponent, Georgia, moved up 17 spots to No. 45.
Three other Ole Miss opponents to watch in the RPI rankings are Alabama, Arkansas and Arkansas. The Crimson Tide, which swept the Rebels earlier this season, dropped five spots to No. 25, while Arkansas and Arkansas State each moved up five spots to Nos. 54 and 55, respectively.
Both Baseball America's Aaron Fitt and Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers had Ole Miss among their eight national seeds in last week's projections, and the Rebels remains in both the regional host and national seed discussion with two weekends left in the regular season.
Here are some Ole Miss-related questions and answers from Fitt's weekly chat on Monday:
Q: What are your thoughts on Ole Miss' and do you agree that if they win their last two series that they will be a national seed?
A: I think that's a very good, balanced club -- one of the most dangerous offensive teams out there, and solid enough on the mound to be quite dangerous. Yes, if they win their last two series, they'll be a national seed.
Q: Yet another week of interesting SEC developments. Vandy looks poised for the hosting bubble and about ready to get into serious national seed conversation. South Carolina appears to be headed in the other direction and perhaps LSU. Besides the obvious choice of Florida as a national seed, who from the SEC seems most likely to get a 2nd national seed. UM or Vandy? LSU, Bama, or USC-E still have a reasonable/possible path?
A: I still think a lot remains to be settled over these last three weeks, but I'm leaning toward Ole Miss as a second national seed from the SEC. Vandy, LSU and South Carolina are all still alive in that race, I think, but Alabama is falling back. It's still a pretty fluid picture; a lot can change depending on how these teams finish.
Here are some Ole Miss-related questions and answers from Rogers's weekly chat on Monday:
Q: Safe to say Ole Miss is a lock as a regional host?
A: The Rebels would have to do something pretty bad the rest of the way (last two weekends) to lose a host site. This is one of those years where I think Mike Bianco really needed to get a host, and he's going to get it barring a surprise.
Q: Will Ole Miss still be projected as a national seed after this weekend?
A: I would say so ... but let me look at everything tomorrow. But right now, I would say yes.
Q: If the season ended today, who are your 4 or 5 SEC hosts? And, any predictions on who hosts from the league when these last two weeks (plus SECT) play out? Do you think we'll see a traveling 1 seed from the SEC this year? Please not VU to Liberty. I'd hate that more than getting stuck with Louisville again.
A: I still like LSU as my fourth SEC host with Florida, South Carolina and Ole Miss as the others. I also think Vanderbilt and Alabama are heavily in the mix. Vandy still has South Carolina, and that could go a long way into determining who gets a host site in the league. That's still a wide open race outside of Ole Miss and Florida at this point, who both look to be in very good shape ... Don't see an SEC team traveling as a No. 1.
Q: If you had to pick a team from the SEC not named Florida to make it to Omaha, who would it be?
A: South Carolina. If the Gamecocks are healthy in the postseason, and that's still a big if, they'll be in Omaha, IMO. My other team after that is Ole Miss. Ole Miss is extremely balanced this year, and that offense has a chance to put up some big numbers in the NCAA postseason.
Here's a brief look at the NCAA Tournament resume and remaining schedule for Ole Miss, as well as the NCAA Tournament resumes for Alabama, Florida, LSU and South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Ole Miss Rebels
35-14 Overall | 15-9 SEC (2nd)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 22
Record against RPI top 25: 5-7
Record against RPI top 50: 10-9
Record against RPI top 100: 16-12
Road Record: 12-6
Alabama Crimson TIde
30-18 Overall | 13-11 SEC (t-6th)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 16
Record against RPI top 25: 7-8
Record against RPI top 50: 11-10
Record against RPI top 100: 18-16
Road Record: 9-9
33-15 Overall | 18-6 SEC (1st)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 1
Record against RPI top 25: 13-5
Record against RPI top 50: 20-8
Record against RPI top 100: 26-12
Road Record: 10-7
33-11 Overall | 13-10-1 SEC (5th)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 44
Record against RPI top 25: 3-7
Record against RPI top 50: 11-10-1
Record against RPI top 100: 14-11-1
Road Record: 7-9
South Carolina Gamecocks
35-13 Overall | 13-11 SEC (t-6th)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 30
Record against RPI top 25: 6-6
Record against RPI top 50: 13-8
Record against RPI top 100: 18-11
Road Record: 6-8
36-12 Overall | 14-10 SEC (t-3rd)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 19
Record against RPI top 25: 5-2
Record against RPI top 50: 14-8
Record against RPI top 100: 18-12
Road Record: 11-6
Remaining Schedule For Ole Miss:
May 9-11 vs. Georgia (45)
May 13 at Arkansas State (55)
May 15-17 at Texas A&M (32)
Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
April 28-May 4, 2014
- Ole Miss moved into first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a series win over Arkansas this past weekend.
- The Rebels have now won five SEC series and nine series overall this season, with two weekends left in the regular season.
- Auston Bousfield leads the SEC in hits (77) and average (.368) after the weekend, and is in the top four in runs scored and steals.
- Will Allen is second in the SEC in average (.359) and RBI (51), and is in the top three in home runs (7).
Track & Field
- Ole Miss showed Saturday it belongs among the best track & field teams in the country with a strong performance at the five-team LSU Invitational, its final tune up for the May 15-18 SEC Championships.
- The 16th-ranked Rebel men finished third in the team standings with 110 points behind No. 2 Texas A&M (166) and No. 10 LSU (143). No. 1 Florida was fourth (104), followed by Miami (28). On the women's side, No. 7 LSU took the title at home with 158 points, followed by No. 3 Texas A&M (135), No. 2 Florida (100), Miami (84) and Ole Miss (73).
- The Ole Miss men and women finished the day with numerous personal and seasonal bests, and a total of six event victories.
- Junior Phillip Young had an outstanding day in three different events. He won the triple jump with a big mark of 52-10.25 that ranks him fourth in the NCAA this year and sixth in school history. He also placed third in the long jump (24-6.25) and anchored the Rebels' 4x400-meter relay squad that finished runner-up in a season-best 3:08.38.
- Freshman Robert Domanic was the top collegiate finisher in the 1,500 meters with a personal-best 3:44.78 that ranks him third-best in school history and top 50 in the NCAA this year. Ole Miss finished 1-2-3 in the 800 meters, led by freshman Sean Tobin in 1:48.79. Junior newcomers Dameon Morgan and Holland Sherrer clocked lifetime bests of 1:49.50 and 1:49.54, respectively.
- On the women's side, freshmen Mary Alex England and Saga Barzowski captured event titles in the 5,000 meters and 3,000-meter steeplechase, respectively.
- The Rebels earned their 21st consecutive and 23rd overall NCAA appearance. They will head to South Bend, Ind., May 10-11 for the first and second rounds. The Rebels will face Northwestern in the first round Saturday at 10 a.m. CT. The winner of that match will meet the winner of the match between Notre Dame/Wisconsin-Green Bay, Sunday at 1 p.m. for the right to advance to the sweet 16.
- Ole Miss is 2-0 all-time against Northwestern. In their last meeting (2007), the Rebels defeated the Wildcats 5-2 in Evanston, Ill. This will be the first meeting in the NCAA Championships.
- This marks the second time for the Rebels to begin NCAA play in South Bend. The last time they did so (1995), the Rebels advanced to the championship match in Athens, Ga., site of this year's sweet 16.
- Junior Nik Scholtz earned the SEC's automatic bid to the NCAA Singles Championship, and is seeded Nos. 9-16. It marks the third consecutive year for him to be seeded. The NCAA Singles Championship begins May 21, following the conclusion of the team championships.
- The Rebels earned their sixth consecutive, and 17th overall, NCAA bid. They will head to Los Angeles to take on Texas Tech in the first round, Friday at 12 p.m. CT. The winner of that match will meet the winner of UCLA/Sacramento State in the second round Saturday at 5 p.m. CT.
- The Lady Raiders and Rebels have met three times, with Ole Miss leading the series 2-1. Last season, Texas Tech hosted Ole Miss in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Championships, but the two did not meet.
- Ole Miss is one of 40 teams in Division I tennis to have both its men's and women's tennis teams in the NCAA Championships. This is the sixth consecutive year both Rebel teams have made it in the same year.
- Sophomore Abby Newton was selected to compete as an individual in the 2014 NCAA East Regional in Tallahassee, Fla., May 8-10. Newton was one of 18 individuals selected to compete.
- This marks the seventh consecutive year Ole Miss will be represented at the NCAA Championships.
- Ole Miss concluded its season last weekend in Knoxville, Tenn., against the then-No. 8 Tennessee Lady Vols.
- Ole Miss jumped out to early leads in games one and two against the Lady Vols, but could not close out the Lady Vols in either game. The Rebels dropped the series and season finale Sunday, allowing just two runs and one hit in innings 2-6 after giving up three runs in the bottom of the first.
- The 2014 Rebels (22-31, 3-21 SEC) set team program records in hits (396), RBI (217), walks (150), and tied the program record with five saves. It's the third straight year Ole Miss has increased its season hit total.
- Individually, junior Allison Brown and senior RT Cantillo each logged 11-game hitting streaks, which tie the school's third longest streak. Cantillo, who was drafted in the fifth round of the National Pro Fastpitch College Draft by the Chicago Bandits, finished the 2014 season with the second best single-season batting average in program history (.424), the fourth most hits (61), tied the fifth most runs scored (35), tied the fourth most walks (30), tied the 10th best slugging percentage (.556) and logged the third best on-base percentage (.522). Brown's 12 doubles in 2014 are tied for the sixth most in single-season history behind the 17 she hit as a sophomore in 2013. Senior Londen Ladner tied the single season record for the ninth most home runs (seven) and also tied the mark for the seventh most RBIs (34).
- Ole Miss is graduating six seniors in Cantillo, Shelby Jo Fenter, Carly Hummel, Ladner, Natalie Nimmo and Marina Parra.
Toughness has been a mantra for Ole Miss baseball from day one, and it shined through once again Saturday, as the Rebels erased an early 4-0 deficit to clinch the weekend series against Arkansas.
Arkansas strung together six straight singles to take a 4-0 lead in the first, but Ole Miss answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning. From there, Christian Trent and the bullpen put up eight straight zeroes, as the Rebels came back to win by a score of 7-4.
"We were being aggressive and getting some good swings off," said Will Allen, who went 3-for-4 for the game. "That's huge after their four-run first to come back and put three runs up. It put us in a good position for the rest of the game. It took some of that momentum that they had, and we took it into our dugout and kept it for the most part of the game."
After the first inning, Trent worked a perfect second, fourth and fifth innings, as he allowed just three base runners the rest of the game. He left in the sixth, having allowed four runs -- all earned -- on nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts.
"In the first inning, when you look at what they did offensively, they square up some ball, but a couple of balls found holes," assistant coach Carl Lafferty said. "The thing that I was proud of Christian about is, to really mature in this league and be a quality starter, you're going to have innings like that, where it doesn't go your way. The difference for guys who are really elite in this league, they are the ones who can come up and do what Christian did and put up four more zeroes and keep us in the game and allow our offense to answer, which it has done all year."
"They were hitting everything I was throwing," said Trent of the first inning. "I gave up a couple of hits that were bad pitches, but really, they came out swinging. I was throwing pretty decent pitches, and they were just hitting them. I had to finish the game like I did and not let them score any more runs."
Ole Miss took the lead in the fourth behind five straight singles, including bunt singles by Errol Robinson, Preston Overbey and Braxton Lee. J.B. Woodman delivered the big hit of the inning with an RBI single up the middle, and heads-up base running allowed Robinson to score a second run on the play.
The Rebels added another run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly from Austion Bousfield, and then Sikes Orvis hit a solo shot in the fifth, his team-leading 12th home run of the season, to extend the lead to 7-4. On the mound, Scott Weathersby, Wyatt Short and Josh Laxer closed things out, as they combined to allow three hits with one walk and three strikeouts in four scoreless innings of relief.
"It's been a mantra this whole year," Lafferty said. "They don't flinch. They keep doing what they're doing and stick with the game plan. It's like, 'Let's just play.' We feel like we can score runs, we feel like we have a pitching staff that can hold them down. It was early in the ball game, but for the offense to come back and answer back in the bottom of the first, that's huge, especially for Christian and the rest of the pitching staff. We never feel like we are out of a game, and certainly that was the case today."
With the win, Ole Miss maintains sole possession of first place in the SEC Western Division with a 15-8 SEC record, 1.5 games ahead of LSU (13-9-1) and 2 games ahead of Alabama (13-10). Florida remains in first place in the SEC overall standings with a 17-6 SEC record.
"We urged our team that you can't scoreboard watch," Lafferty said. "You can't worry about what other teams are doing and who's playing and who's losing. You have to control your own destiny. We don't know if tomorrow is going to be the game that wins us the Southeastern Conference, so the focus is the same."
In the preseason, Mike Bianco said Aaron Greenwood could be their best guy out of the bullpen, the guy who can come in at any point and finish the game, similar to Jake Morgan and Scott Bittle from past Ole Miss teams.
Greenwood did just that, as he earned his second save of the season with three perfect innings of relief to close out to a 3-2 win in the series opener Friday night against Arkansas.
"If you remember back before the season started, when we talked about who the closer was, we said we didn't really have one right now, but Greenwood can be that guy who can come into this type of game and get you nine outs," Bianco said. "He can come in and not be just the ninth-inning guy. We laughed, Aaron and I, that we didn't know it was going to take until May 2 for that to happen."
Greenwood had posted a scoreless innings streak of 19-plus innings, capped by a career-long 4.2 scoreless innings in an 8-5 win over Auburn before he suffered an abdominal injury. In his first outing back, this past Sunday, he allowed two runs -- one earned -- on three hits in 2.1 innings of relief in a 9-6 win over Kentucky.
After Friday's dominant performance, he said he's feeling back to his old self.
"I'm really close (to 100 percent)," Greenwood said. "Last weekend was a little shaky. I performed well thankfully. This weekend, it felt great to be back out there. I keep getting better every single day."
Ole Miss took a 3-0 lead with a run in the third and two in the fourth before Arkansas had its first of two rallies, in the fifth. The Razorbacks cut the lead to 3-2 with a two-out, 2-RBI triple from Tyler Spoon. After a hit by pitch and walk to load the bases for Arkansas, Chris Ellis got out of it with a groundout to third.
Arkansas threatened again with an error and walk to lead off the sixth. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, Ellis got a strikeout and shallow fly out to right to strand two more runners.
Ellis, who recorded his fourth straight quality start, allowed two runs -- both earned -- on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts, as he stranded seven Arkansas runners on base. It was fifth straight start to allow two earned runs or fewer.
"My command was not exactly there, but I worked out of it and made pitches when I needed to," Ellis said. "We got hits when we needed to, and certainly Greenwood came in and dominated in the last three innings."
From there, it was all Greenwood. He worked a perfect seventh, eight and ninth, retiring all nine Arkansas batters in order, including four strikeouts. Josh Laxer and Wyatt Short warmed up in the bullpen, but Bianco stayed with Greenwood for the ninth, and he delivered.
"We had those guys ready," Bianco said. "We got them warmed up. When (Greenwood) went in for the seventh, we weren't sure if he could get to the ninth. When he threw at Kentucky, he hadn't pitched, and he got really tired. We weren't sure. We had those guys up and ready to go, but with the way he pitched in seventh and eighth and it looked the ball had a lot of zip on it and it looked like he had all four pitches, he had to do it."
"After the eighth, Coach B came up to me and said, 'You feel good enough to finish?' I said, 'For sure. Yes sir,'" Greenwood said. "(Out there the ninth), it's great because you're out there in front of all these fans -- 9,000 tonight -- and your adrenaline starts pumping. You can tell I was a little wild for a little bit, but I calmed myself back down and made some pitches."
After a weekend sweep of No. 17 Kentucky, Ole Miss moved up five spots to No. 4 in this week's official RPI rankings.
Auburn, which Ole Miss swept earlier this season, moved into the RPI top 50 to No. 47, and UCF, which Ole Miss also swept earlier this season, moved more solidly into the RPI top 50 to No. 45.
With its resume to this point, Ole Miss is in both the regional host and national seed discussion. Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers assessed the Rebels' national seed chances in his weekly college chat on Monday.
Here's a brief look at the NCAA Tournament resume and remaining schedule for Ole Miss, as well as the NCAA Tournament resumes for Florida, LSU and South Carolina.
Ole Miss Rebels
33-12 Overall | 13-8 SEC (t-2nd)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 15
Record against RPI top 25: 5-7
Record against RPI top 50: 13-9
Record against RPI top 100: 15-11
Road Record: 12-6
30-15 Overall | 15-6 SEC (1st)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 1
Record against RPI top 25: 10-5
Record against RPI top 50: 15-8
Record against RPI top 100: 21-11
Road Record: 7-7
33-11 Overall | 12-8-1 SEC (4th)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 40
Record against RPI top 25: 3-7
Record against RPI top 50: 8-8
Record against RPI top 100: 13-9
Road Record: 6-7
South Carolina Gamecocks
34-11 Overall | 12-9 SEC (5th)
Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 20
Record against RPI top 25: 6-6
Record against RPI top 50: 14-7
Record against RPI top 100: 17-9
Road Record: 5-6
Remaining Schedule For Ole Miss:
April 30 vs. Southern Miss (RPI No. 67)
May 2-4 vs. Arkansas (59)
May 9-11 vs. Georgia (62)
May 13 at Arkansas State (60)
May 15-17 at Texas A&M (38)
Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
April 21-27, 2014
- Ole Miss went on the road and swept No. 17 Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., this past weekend for only the third time in school history, and the first time since 2002.
- The Rebels scored 39 runs on the weekend, the most in a three-game SEC series in school history. Ole Miss also tallied 49 hits and six home runs.
- Junior outfielder Auston Bousfield hit .714 for the series with eight runs scored and seven RBIs to help pace the Rebels' offense in the sweep.
- Ole Miss will host four games this week, including a Wednesday night contest with Southern Miss and a weekend series against Arkansas.
Track & Field
- The No. 11 nationally ranked Ole Miss men's team competed at the Arkansas State Red Wolves Open this past weekend, while the Rebel women split between the Drake Relays and the Red Wolves Open.
- Between the two squads, Ole Miss collected six event victories and posted some of its best results of the season.
- Freshman Jalen Miller once again burned the track in the 100 and 200 meters. He placed runner-up in both events to former Rebel and Olympian Isiah Young (running unattached). Miller equaled his personal best of 10.24 in the 100 and ran 21.02 in the 200 as the top collegiate finisher.
- Sophomore Nathan Loe won the hammer throw with a heave of 209-7 that was just shy of his school record of 210-3. Loe has now placed in the top two at all five outdoor meets this year.
- On Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, freshman Mary Alex England won the Drake Relays 10,000 meters and set a school record with her time of 34:48.66. Amazingly, it was her first ever competitive race at that distance.
- Other victories for the men went to freshman Will Spiers in the 1,500 (personal-best 4:00.95), junior Robert Semien in the 110 hurdles (14.19) and the 4x400 relay (3:11.84), while Margaret Harkness claimed the women's 1,500 title in Jonesboro (4:45.77).
- Junior Nik Scholtz (Caledon, South Africa) was named the SEC Men's Tennis Player of the Year last week. Scholtz is the highest ranked player, nationally, in the SEC at No. 9. He finished the regular season 15-1 at No. 1 singles, 8-1 in the SEC.
- Scholtz became the fourth Rebel to earn the league's top honor, and the first player in program history to earn freshman of the year and player of the year honors during his career.
- The Rebels are expected to earn their 21st consecutive NCAA appearance when the selections are announced Tuesday at 4 p.m. The announcement of the 64 teams and 16 host sites will be broadcast on NCAA.com.
- Junior Julia Jones earned All-SEC Second Team honors as the league office announced the 2014 postseason awards last week. Jones (St. Petersburg, Fla.) owns a team-leading 26-10 overall record, 15-6 in dual matches and 8-5 in the SEC. She posted a 4-2 record at No. 2 singles, 11-4 at No. 3 singles. Jones also went 15-5 in doubles with freshman Zalina Khairudinova, 7-3 in the SEC.
- This marks the second time for Jones to be recognized by the league office, as she was named to the all-freshman team in 2012.
- The Rebels have had at least one member of the squad named to the all-SEC team every year of head coach Mark Beyers' career (13 years).
- The Rebels are expected to earn their sixth consecutive NCAA appearance when the selections are announced Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. The announcement of the 64 teams and 16 host sites will be broadcast on NCAA.com.
- Ole Miss celebrated Senior Weekend last week against then-No. 24 LSU by recognizing two of its six seniors - RT Cantillo, Shelby Jo Fenter, Carly Hummel, Londen Ladner, Natalie Nimmo and Marina Parra - prior to each game of the three-game series.
- Ole Miss couldn't get its offense going in the series' opening two games though, and couldn't slow down the Tigers in Sunday's series finale.
- Redshirt freshman Alyssa Invergo went 3-6 with an RBI in the series vs. LSU, while Nimmo batted in three runs over the course of the three games.
- Ole Miss will close out its regular season schedule with a three-game series at No. 8 Tennessee beginning Friday at 5 p.m. CT. Game two will begin Saturday at 1 p.m., and game three is scheduled for Sunday at noon and will be televised by Fox Sports Network.
- The Ole Miss men's golf team competed at the 2014 SEC Championships at St. Simmons Island, Ga., at the Sea Island Golf and Country Club.
- Junior Joe Lewis was the Rebels' top competitor, carding a three-day total of 217 and tying for 43rd place.
- As a team, Ole Miss finished in 14th with a tournament total of 875.
whole lotta hip hop in there...and I LIKE that!in post Ole Miss Baseball 2012 Walk Out Songs
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