Feb. 15, 2017
Matchup: No. 8 Ole Miss (0-0) vs. No. 6 East Carolina (0-0)
Dates: Feb. 17-19
Location: Oxford, Miss.
Venue: Swayze Field
Will Kollmeyer play-by-play
David Dellucci, analyst
Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network
David Kellum/Eli Savoie, play-by-play
Keith Kessinger, analyst
Live Audio: OleMissSports.com
Series: First Meeting
Last Series: N/A
Fri., February 17, 4 P.M. » Home Opener » 1,000 Schedule Magnets and Tate Blackman Poster Giveaway » 5,000 Rebel Towel Giveaway » First 500 students in right field receive a FREE Kinnucan's T-shirts
Sat., February 18, 1:30 P.M. » Colby Bortles Poster Giveaway
Sun., February 19, 12 P.M. » Meet the Rebels Poster Giveaway » Kids Run the Bases Presented by Belles and Beaus. Kids are invited to come down on the field following the completion of the game.
- This weekend’s matchup is the only series on opening weekend that features two top-10 teams.
- Head coach for East Carolina is Cliff Godwin, who served as an assistant coach at Ole Miss from 2011-14.
- Ole Miss is 15-1 in season openers under head coach Mike Bianco.
- The Rebels have won 12 season-opening weekend series during the Bianco era.
- Opening weekend kicks off an eight-game homestand to begin the 2017 season.
- Ole Miss Baseball has more than 6,000 season ticket holders this season, a new program record.
- Third baseman Colby Bortles was tabbed Preseason All-America by Collegiate Baseball.
- Bortles and second baseman Tate Blackman were named Preseason All-SEC by the conference’s coaches.
- Junior Will Stokes was named to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List.
- Ole Miss welcomes 17 newcomers making up the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class.
- Shortstop Grae Kessinger was tabbed as the Preseason SEC Freshman of the Year (D1Baseball.com).
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
FRIDAY, 4 P.M.
East Carolina - Evan Kruczynski, Sr., LHP, 8-1, 2.01 ERA, 116.2 IP (2016 Stats)
Ole Miss - David Parkinson, Jr., LHP, 5-3, 2.78 ERA, 68.0 IP (2016 Stats)
- Became the No. 2 weekend starter midway through the season last year
- Held the lowest ERA among Rebel starting pitchers
- Made 22 appearances, including nine starts, and logged 68.0 innings
- Tied his career high in strikeouts with six versus No. 4 South Carolina in the 2016 SEC Tournament
- Tossed a career-high 7.0 innings against Alabama (April 16, 2016), allowing only one run on six hits while striking out five
- Transferred to Ole Miss in 2016 after spending one season at Florence-Darlington Technical School
SATURDAY, 1:30 P.M.
East Carolina - Jacob Wolfe, Sr., LHP, 7-7, 3.07 ERA, 88.1 IP (2016 Stats)
Ole Miss - James McArthur, So., RHP, 6-1, 4.26 ERA, 61.1 IP (2016 Stats)
- 2016 Louisville Freshman All-American (Collegiate Baseball)
- Pitched in 15 games, making 12 starts
- Served primarily as the midweek starter, but made his first weekend start vs. #8 LSU (April 30, 2016)
- SEC Freshman of the Week (April 25, 2016) after pitching 11.2 scoreless innings in two appearances over the week
- Went a career-long 7.0 scoreless innings against Memphis with seven strikeouts and surrendering only four hits (April 19, 2016)
- Named to the First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll
SUNDAY, 12 P.M.
East Carolina - TBA
Ole Miss - Brady Feigl, R-So., RHP, 4-0, 3.76 ERA, 40.2 IP (2016 Stats)
- 2016 Louisville Freshman All-American (Collegiate Baseball)
- Made 26 appearances out of the bullpen in his debut season
- Second-most outings on the team and most by a freshman
- Recorded 39 strikeouts to rank second among Rebel relievers
- Career-long outing was 5.1 innings of relief against Mississippi State (April 2, 2016)
- Redshirted the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery
SCOUTING THE PIRATES
East Carolina enters the 2017 campaign ranked as high as No. 6 in the preseason polls, setting up a top-10 battle at Swayze Field on opening weekend. Last season, the Pirates advanced to an NCAA Super Regional and finished one win away from going to the College World Series. Cliff Godwin, a former Ole Miss assistant coach who helped the Rebels make the 2014 CWS, enters his third season as ECU’s coach. Leading the Pirates on the field will be Preseason All-America honorees Joe Ingle (RHP, 6-3, 12 saves), Evan Kruczynski (LHP, 8-1, 2.01 ERA) and Dwanya Williams-Sutton (OF – .360 average, 11 doubles, 4 triples, 5 home runs).
NATION’S BEST MATCHUP
No. 8 Ole Miss and No. 6 East Carolina will be the best series in the country to kick off the 2017 season. The three-game set will be the only series on opening weekend that features a pair of top-10 teams battling against one another. The Rebels are ranked at high as eighth (Perfect Game) in the preseason polls, while the Pirates are ranked sixth by Baseball America.
REBELS VERSUS RANKED OPPONENTS IN 2016
The Rebels faced 10 different ranked opponents last season. Ole Miss won 12 games over ranked teams with series victories over No. 2 Louisville, No. 8 LSU and No. 21 Arkansas. The Rebels also topped No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 4 South Carolina, No. 5 Mississippi State and No. 18 Coastal Carolina, which would go on to win the national championship, in games last year.
Ole Miss has enjoyed success in season-opening games under head coach Mike Bianco, posting a 15-1 record in games to open the season over the past 16 years. The Rebels’ lone loss on opening day came at the hands of ULM to open the 2010 season when Ole Miss fell 6-5 to the Warhawks in Oxford.
CLAIMING THE FIRST SERIES
The Rebels have fared well in season-opening weekends under Bianco with the Rebels claiming series wins in 12 of the last 16 seasons. The Rebels did not play a weekend series to open the 2005, 2007 or 2009 seasons. Those years, the Rebels either opened the year with midweek games or played at a weekend tournament with multiple-teams. The Rebels also had a game rained out in the season-opening weekend of 2012 and split the two games played at TCU to start the year. Last season, Ole Miss swept Florida International to begin the 2016 campaign.
BEGINNING THE 17TH SEASON OF THE BIANCO ERA
The 2017 season will be the 17th year of Ole Miss Baseball led by Mike Bianco, the program’s all-time wins leader. With 630 wins at Ole Miss over the past 16 seasons, Bianco is the winningest and longest active coach in the Southeastern Conference. He ranks eighth on the SEC’s all-time wins list and is just five victories away for passing longtime Auburn coach Hal Baird for seventh. Bianco is also on pace to leapfrog former Vanderbilt coach Roy Mewbourne, who sits in sixth, this season; Mewbourne produced 655 wins in 24 seasons.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
Swayze Field provides the best atmosphere and some of the biggest crowds across the country for college baseball games. The Rebels have won over 70 percent of their home games throughout the past 28 seasons. The combination of winning baseball plus an electric fan base makes Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field a bucket list item for any sports fan. A 2016 survey conducted by D1Baseball.com proved it as Division I baseball coaches ranked Swayze Field top 10 nationally in six different categories, including prettiest setting, best traditions, best overall stadium and most intimidating cracking the top five. Last year, the Rebels averaged 8,502 fans per game, including five contests with the attendance over 10,000, to rank second nationally. In total, 291,714 fans watched Ole Miss Baseball at Swayze Field, which was also the third-highest total attendance in the country. Both marks set season attendance records.
6,000 SEASON TICKETS SOLD...AND COUNTING!
Rebel Nation is ready for the 2017 Ole Miss Baseball season after breaking a school record for season tickets sold. Heading into opening weekend, Ole Miss Baseball season ticket holders grew to more than 6,000 and counting, snapping the mark of 5,877 last season. That number is already more than the average attendance of every college baseball team in nationwide, aside from four schools. All five schools with an average attendance more than 6,000 in 2016 are in the Southeastern Conference.
BORTLES NAMED PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN, ALL-SEC
Entering the final year of his Ole Miss career, third baseman Colby Bortles was named a third team Preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball and Preseason All-SEC by the conference’s coaches. From playing in 40 games and earning a start in the 2014 College World Series as a freshman to starting all 62 games last year, he has made his mark on the program. The Oviedo, Florida, native has appeared in 158 games through the first three seasons as a Rebel, making 129 starts. As a .272 career hitter, Bortles has been known for his power at the dish with 34 doubles and 17 home runs. In 2016, Bortles led the Rebels in doubles with 21, ranking second in the Southeastern Conference as well as fifth in Ole Miss history for a single season. As a team captain, he helped Ole Miss to a 43-19 record that included 18 SEC wins and hosting the team’s seventh NCAA Regional in the last 13 years. He produced 14 multi-RBI games leading to a season total of 50 that was 15th among SEC hitters. After hitting seven homers as a sophomore, Bortles belted eight last season to go along with a .475 slugging percentage.
BLACKMAN EARNS PRESEASON ALL-SEC HONORS
Alongside Bortles, second baseman Tate Blackman was chosen as a Preseason All-SEC honoree as well. Blackman had a breakout season a year ago, hitting .322 to earn second team All-SEC accolades. Last year, the Altamonte Springs, Florida, native started all 62 games at second base and put together 21 multi-hit contests. He also led the conference in sacrifice flies with seven, a mark that ranked 19th nationally. Blackman finished the 2016 campaign with 74 hits, 48 runs, 38 RBI, 13 doubles and three home runs. Through two seasons as a Rebel, Blackman has appeared in 101 games with a .278 career batting average. He’s a two-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll as a criminal justice major.
STOKES NAMED TO STOPPER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST
Ole Miss closer Will Stokes was named to the preseason watch list for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year Award. Stokes is the second Rebel to earn a spot on the watch list in as many years. Last season, southpaw Wyatt Short made the preseason and midseason lists as the Rebels’ primary closer. With Short now in the professional ranks with the World Series champion Chicago Cubs organization, Stokes becomes the go-to reliever at the end of games. However, it is a role that he held at times throughout the 2016 campaign. As a sophomore, Stokes tied a school record with 30 relief appearances throughout the season. That mark also ranked fifth among relievers in the Southeastern Conference. The Meridian, Mississippi, native went 2-1 with seven saves and a 2.93 ERA over 43.0 innings as a solid piece to the 2016 Ole Miss bullpen. The junior also recorded 40 strikeouts while walking just seven and holding opponents to a .228 batting average.
The Rebels return 17 players from last season’s team, including five starting position players. Alongside preseason all-conference infielders Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman, other returners feature junior Kyle Watson and sophomore Ryan Olenek, a pair of infielders who have used their athletic abilities to convert to the outfield. Olenek will move from right field to center field following All-American J.B. Woodman getting selected in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft. A new addition to the outfield is a veteran who will be switching positions for a third time in as many seasons. From playing second base as a freshman and first base as a sophomore, Will Golsan makes the transition to right field in 2017. Redshirt-sophomore Michael Fitzsimmons, who started as a designated hitter last year, will battle junior college transfer Chase Cockrell and incoming freshman Cole Zabowski for the nod at first base. Following whoever wins the job, the other two could see action at DH. Back on the mound, the Rebels return nine arms, including three Freshman All-Americans. Two of those Freshmen All-Americans, Brady Feigl and James McArthur, earned spots in the weekend rotation. The other Freshman All-American, Andy Pagnozzi, will be an important piece of the Ole Miss staff after recording eight wins out of the bullpen last season. With two sophomores holding a pair of spots in the rotation, junior David Parkinson will take over the role as the team’s ace. Two more sophomores that expect to see a lot of innings out of the bullpen are Connor Green and Dallas Woolfolk, who recorded the two lowest ERAs on the team in 2016. They’ll be relied on to set up the game for Will Stokes, who becomes the primary closer.
Team captains for this season’s team are senior third baseman Colby Bortles and junior second baseman Tate Blackman. Bortles is a captain for the second-straight season, while Blackman will officially help lead the Rebels for the first time in his career. The captains were selected from a vote by the team.
WELCOME THE NATION’S NO. 1 RECRUITING CLASS
The 2016 Ole Miss Baseball recruiting class came to campus arguably the best class in program history. That opinion became fact after Baseball America and D1Baseball.com ranked Ole Miss first in their respective recruiting rankings during the offseason. The top ranking marked the first No. 1 recruiting class in Ole Miss Athletics history. All 17 members of the recruiting class, including four selected in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft, decided to continue their careers at Ole Miss. The class consists of 15 freshmen and two junior college transfers, including four freshmen hailing from Oxford. The accolades of the incoming class are second to none. Seven earned All-America accolades last year and six were named in the top-500 draft prospects in the country. The Rebels brought in five freshmen who were ranked among the top-100 high school baseball players, more than any other school nationwide. Several newcomers also competed in prestigious all-star games during their high school careers. Five competed in the East Coast Professional Showcase, three participated in the Area Code Games and a trio of Rebels played in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field. Two Rebs even won a gold medal at the 18-and-under World Cup as a member of Team USA. Below are some of the accolades of the incoming class:
No. 1 Recruiting Class by the Numbers
7 High School All-Americans: Jason Barber (RHP), Thomas Dillard (C/OF), Will Ethridge (RHP), Cooper Johnson (C), Grae Kessinger (SS), Ryan Rolison (LHP), Houston Roth (RHP)
6 Top-500 Draft Prospects: Thomas Dillard (C/OF), Will Ethridge (RHP), Greer Holston (RHP), Cooper Johnson (C), Grae Kessinger (SS), Ryan Rolison (LHP),
5 Top-100 High School Players: Thomas Dillard (C/OF), Will Ethridge (RHP), Cooper Johnson (C), Grae Kessinger (SS), Ryan Rolison (LHP)
6 Participants in National All-Star Games: Thomas Dillard (C/OF), Will Ethridge (RHP), Greer Holston (RHP), Cooper Johnson (C), Grae Kessinger (SS), Jackson Tavel (LHP)
2 18U World Cup Gold Medalists: Cooper Johnson (C), Ryan Rolison (LHP)
OLE MISS PREDICT TO FINISH THIRD IN SEC WEST
SEC coaches submitted their season predictions in terms of the conference standings. No. 8 Ole Miss was projected to place third in the SEC West after being picked to finish fifth in the last year’s preseason poll. In the last three years, the Rebels have exceeded conference expectations with a College World Series appearance in 2014, an NCAA Regional berth in 2015 and hosting an NCAA Regional last season. Florida and LSU earned the most votes in their respective divisions. A total of seven SEC teams qualified for NCAA Regionals in 2016 and five advanced to Super Regionals. The SEC slate begins March 17 with the Rebels hosting Vanderbilt for a weekend series at Swayze Field.
2017 SEC BASEBALL COACHES PRESEASON POLL
Eastern Division (First Place Votes)
1. Florida (10) - 70
2. South Carolina (4) - 61
3. Vanderbilt - 52
T-4. Georgia - 29
T-4. Kentucky - 29
6. Tennessee - 20
7. Missouri - 12
Western Division (First Place Votes)
1. LSU (13) - 72
2. Texas A&M (1) - 55
3. Ole Miss - 51
4. Mississippi State - 36
5. Arkansas - 27
T-6. Auburn - 16
T-6. Alabama - 16
SEC Champion: Florida (6); LSU (6), South Carolina (2)
ON THE HORIZON
Next week, the Rebels will continue their eight-game homestand with four contests at Swazye Field. Ole Miss will begin the week with its first midweek game of the season, hosting Arkansas State on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 4 p.m. The tough non-conference weekend series will continue as the Rebels battle UNCW, an NCAA Regional qualifier and defending champion of the Colonial Athletic Association (Feb. 24-26). All four games will be broadcast on SECN+ with Will Kollmeyer and former Rebel/World Series champion David Dellucci on the call.