Baseball Hits the Coast for Midweek Matchup
March 13, 2017

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Matchup: No. 14 Ole Miss (11-5) vs. Nicholls (9-6)
Dates: March 14
Location: Biloxi, Miss.
Venue: MGM Park
Capacity: 6,076
Television: None
Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network
    Eli Savoie, play-by-play
    Keith Kessinger, analyst
Live Audio:
Series: Ole Miss leads 15-8-1
Last Game: May 2, 2006
        Ole Miss won 11-7
        Oxford, Miss.

- For the second time in history and first time in 106 years, the Rebels are playing on the Mississippi coast (1911 in Gulfport, Miss. vs. Mississippi A&M, now known as Mississippi State).
- Ole Miss and Nicholls face off on the diamond for the first time in 11 years.
- The Rebels have won five straight against the Colonels.
- Ole Miss is coming off a weekend shutout of Furman; the last time the Rebels kept a team scoreless for a three-game series was, coincidentally, versus Nicholls (March 12-14, 2004).
- Ole Miss held opponents to two runs over five games last week, the second fewest in a five-game stretch in program history.  
- MGM Park is one of four professional baseball ballparks that the Rebels have or will play in this season; MGM Park is home to the Biloxi Shuckers, AA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
- Ole Miss ace David Parkinson was named SEC Pitcher of the Week on Monday.
- Ole Miss pitching leads the SEC in opponent batting average (.189), saves (8), fewest hits allowed per nine innings (5.96), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.27), strikeouts per nine innings (10.9) and WHIP (0.94).

Nicholls - Kyle Craft, Jr., RHP, 0-1, 2.00 ERA, 9.0 IP
Ole Miss - Ryan Rolison, Fr., LHP, 2-0, 2.38 ERA, 6.1 IP
- Has made six appearances this season, five in relief
- In his first career start, tossed 5.0 scoreless innings to collect the win over Georgia State (March 7)
- Recorded a career-high six strikeouts in 2.2 innings vs. No. 10 Texas Tech (March 4)
- Earned the win in his first career appearance, pitching one inning vs. No. 6 East Carolina (Feb. 19)
- Rated as the No. 10 freshman prospect in the nation (
- As a senior in high school, recorded 108 strikeouts in 58.0 innings to earn USA TODAY’s Mr. Baseball in the state of Tennessee, also earning first team All-USA honors
- Won a gold medal at the 18-and-under World Cup as a member of Team USA
- Drafted in the 37th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres

Nicholls enters the neutral site matchup with a 9-6 record following a victorious weekend series versus Northwestern State. The Colonels have won five of their past six games, including a three-game sweep of Brown. Only committing 10 errors on the 2017 campaign, Nicholls holds a .982 fielding percentage to pace the Southland Conference and rank top 20 in the country. At the plate, Alex Tucker leads the team with a .313 batting average, while Gavin Wehby has racked up 17 RBI through the first four weeks of the season. Junior Kyle Craft is scheduled get the ball against Ole Miss, making his first start; he has appeared in six games in relief, holding a 2.00 ERA. Seth Thibodeaux is in his seventh season as head coach of the Colonels, boasting a .520 winning percentage. Ole Miss leads the all-time series 15-8-1, winning the past five contests between the two programs.

MGM Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers Double-A affiliate Biloxi Shuckers, will be the second of four professional ballparks that the Rebels will play at this season. Ole Miss competed in the prestigious Shriners Hospitals of Children Classic at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros (March 3-5). The Rebels will travel to Memphis next week (March 21), playing at the home of the Memphis Redbirds (AutoZone Park). Ole Miss will also continue its annual tradition of traveling to Pearl, Mississippi for a pair of games at Trustmark Park. At the home of the Mississippi Braves, the Rebels will face Southern Miss (April 4) and Mississippi State (April 25).

With four in five games last week, the Rebels already have their most shutouts in a season since 2014, when they made the College World Series. The Rebels’ pitching staff was dominant all week, allowing only two runs over 47.0 innings of play (0.38 ERA). The two runs marked the second-fewest allowed in a five-game stretch in Ole Miss Baseball history. The Ole Miss arms held opponents to a .126 batting average, surrendering only 21 hits and 12 walks while striking out 54 hitters. Moreover, all five Ole Miss starting pitchers did not give up a run in 37.2 frames. The Rebels held the Paladins, a team with a combined batting average of .317, scoreless for the entire weekend to earn their third three-game sweep of the 2017 season. Keeping Furman without a run, the Rebels posted a three-game series shutout for the first time since March 12-14, 2004, coincidentally vs. Nicholls.

Following the best start of his career, Ole Miss ace David Parkinson was named SEC Pitcher of the Week, the league office announced March 13. Pitching a career-long 8.0 scoreless innings versus Furman (March 10), the junior left-hander earned his first weekly accolade as a Rebel. Parkinson became the second Rebel to earn an SEC weekly honor through the first four weeks of the season. Ryan Olenek was the SEC Player of the Week after opening weekend. Prior to Parkinson, the last Rebel to be named SEC Pitcher of the Week was Wyatt Short (May 11, 2015). Kicking off the weekend, Parkinson got the Rebels off to a perfect start by pitching a gem. Against a team hitting .317 heading into the weekend, the Henrico, Virginia, native struck out a career-high nine hitters and did not issue a walk during his longest outing as a Rebel. Moreover, he had a no hitter intact until a leadoff single to center in the eighth inning. Parkinson faced the minimum as the Furman baserunner was wiped off the base patch on a groundball double play. As the team’s ace, Parkinson is 3-1 with a 2.52 ERA this season through four starts. He has recorded 26 strikeouts, ranked 10th among conference pitchers, while only walking five in 25.0 innings of work. The southpaw is holding opponents to a .198 batting average to help the Ole Miss pitching staff pace the conference in that category.

The Ole Miss pitching staff has been efficient on the mound this season, leading the SEC in several categories and ranking among the best in the nation.

Stat National Rank SEC Rank
WHIP              0.94 3rd 1st
Shutouts 4 4th 2nd
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio 4.27 5th 1st
Hits/9 Innings 5.96 5th 1st
Strikeouts/9 Innings 10.9 6th 1st
Walks/9 Innings 2.54 11th 2nd

With 15 freshmen as part of the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, some of the newest young Rebels are making an impact right away. Ole Miss has started four freshmen in the majority of the early games: Thomas Dillard (LF), Cooper Johnson (C), Grae Kessinger (SS) and Cole Zabowski (1B). After Dillard paced Ole Miss in hitting through the first two weekends, and Zabowski was the team’s leader in batting averge after three weekends of play. Meanwhile, Johnson and Kessinger have provided great defense at two of the most important positions on the field.

Last year, Ole Miss had the luxury of having two closers in lefty Wyatt Short and right-hander Will Stokes. The duo combined for 18 saves in 2016 with Short in the primary role, closing 11 games. After drafted by the Chicago Cubs, Short took his talents to the professional level, and it appeared as if Stokes would become the lone closer on the staff in 2017. However, another Rebel has emerged to join Stokes in the back end of the bullpen. Sophomore Dallas Woolfolk, who’s fastball ranges from 93-95 mph, has become another pitcher that Ole Miss can rely on as a closer. The Southaven, Mississippi, native holds a 1.54 ERA over a team-high seven appearances. Along with tallying 15 strikeouts and issuing only two walks, Woolfolk also boasts four saves. Stokes has recorded four saves as well, and the two Rebels lead the conference.

Junior Will Golsan has gotten off to a fast start this season, leading the team in hits (17), runs (11), doubles (4) and total bases (24). He’s shown his versatility in the field as well, starting in his third different position in as many seasons. Golsan won the starting nod at second base following the beginning of his freshman season before moving to first base last year. This season, Golsan has found his home in right field to better showcase his athleticism.  

Ole Miss freshman Cooper Johnson was named to the watch list for the 2017 Johnny Bench Award, one of 85 catchers nominated for the award given annually to the top catcher in Division I baseball. Johnson, the top-ranked catcher out of high school last season, has earned the starting nod behind the dish in his first season as a Rebel. Making 13 starts through the first 16 games of the season, the Mundelein, Illinois, native has thrown out six baserunners (four caught stealing, two pickoffs). With only eight attempted stolen bases against Ole Miss so far (second-fewest in the SEC), opponents have been wary of the freshman’s strong arm. The tradition of great catchers at Ole Miss is well known, especially over recent history. Stuart Turner won the Johnny Bench Award in 2013. One year later, Will Allen was an All-American catcher as a 2014 Johnny Bench Award finalist. As a first team All-SEC catcher, Henri Lartigue made the cut of semifinalists in 2016. With a coaching staff filled with guys who played the position, expectations of Rebel catchers are always lofty. Head coach Mike Bianco was a catcher at LSU, while assistant coaches Carl Lafferty and Mike Clement also started behind the plate during their playing days.

The 2017 season is the 17th year of Ole Miss Baseball led by Mike Bianco, the program’s all-time wins leader. With 641 wins at Ole Miss over the past 16+ seasons, Bianco is the winningest and longest active coach in the Southeastern Conference. In fact, he’s the conference’s longest active coach among the sports of baseball, men’s basketball and football. He ranks seventh on the SEC’s all-time wins list, passing longtime Auburn coach Hal Baird earlier this season. 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.

Following the midweek contest, the Rebels will return home to lift the lid on Southeastern Conference play by hosting No. 15 Vanderbilt (March 17-19). The first two games of the series will air on SECN+, while the series finale will be a national television broadcast. Friday’s contest will begin at 7 p.m. before an afternoon matinee is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday. To close out the weekend, the Rebels and Commodores will square off at 3 p.m. on SEC Network.






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