March 29, 2017
Matchup: #19 Ole Miss (16-9, 3-3 SEC) vs. (RV) Mississippi State (16-10, 3-3 SEC)
Dates: March 30-April 1
Location: Oxford, Miss.
Venue: Swayze Field
Television: ESPNU/SEC Network/SECN+
Richard Cross, play-by-play
Chris Burke (Thurs., Fri.)/David Dellucci (Sat.), analyst
Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network
David Kellum, play-by-play
Keith Kessinger, analyst
Live Audio: OleMissSports.com
Series: Mississippi State leads 240-212-5
Last Series: April 1-3, 2016
MSU won two of three games.
Thursday, March 30, 7 p.m.
» 2,000 Rebel Towels Giveaway
Friday, March 31, 6:30 p.m.
» Friday Night Fireworks presented by Newks
Saturday, April 1, 1:30 p.m.
» 1,000 Baseball Card Pack Giveaway (2 of 5)
» 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.
- Ole Miss is coming off a 5-4 midweek win over Little Rock in 10 innings.
- The Rebels continue a four-game homestand this week, playing all four games in a five-day span.
- Ole Miss is ranked No. 18 in the RPI and as high as No. 19 in the national polls.
- Ole Miss has won three of the last four SEC series against Mississippi State.
- The last time the two rivals met at Swayze Field (May 7-9, 2015), the Rebels swept the Bulldogs to complete a perfect season against MSU in baseball, men’s basketball and football.
- The first two games of the series will be nationally televised; Ole Miss is 2-1 in national TV games this year.
- Ole Miss pitching leads the SEC in opposing batting average (.207), fewest hits allowed (166), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.67) and WHIP (1.04).
- The Rebels rank top five nationally in four different pitching categories: fewest hits allowed per nine innings, shutouts, strikeout-to-walk ratio and WHIP.
- This weekend’s Ole Miss rotation holds a combined 1.86 ERA.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
THURSDAY, 7 P.M.
Mississippi State - Konnor Pilkington, So., LHP, 2-3, 2.75 ERA, 39.1 IP
Ole Miss - James McArthur, So., RHP, 1-1, 1.77 ERA, 20.1 IP
- Returned to the rotation last weekend after missing two starts due to a mild forearm strain
- Tossed 5.0 innings and only surrendered one run to earn the win over No. 19 Kentucky
- Against No. 23 UNCW, recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts and did not allow a hit until the sixth inning; pitched 6.0 innings and allowed just one run on two hits and one walk (no decision)
- Allowed two runs on three hits versus No. 6 ECU (no decision)
- 2016 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American (Collegiate Baseball)
- Pitched in 15 games, making 12 starts last year (primarily in midweek games)
- Tied with Sean Johnson as the tallest person on the team (6’7”)
FRIDAY, 6 P.M.
Mississippi State - TBA
Ole Miss - David Parkinson, Jr., LHP, 4-1, 1.93 ERA, 37.1 IP
- Boasts a 0.44 ERA over his last three starts (20.1 innings)
- Tossed 6.0 frames without allowing a run to earn the win over No. 15 Vanderbilt
- Named SEC Pitcher of the Week after tossing a career-high 8.0 scoreless innings versus Furman (March 10), facing the minimum and allowing only one hit to go along with a career-high nine strikeouts; took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
- Against No. 23 UNCW, retired the first 12 hitters he faced and finished his night allowing one earned run on three hits with six strikeouts
- Held the lowest ERA among Rebel starting pitchers in 2016
- Made 22 appearances, including nine starts, and logged 68.0 innings last season
- Transferred to Ole Miss in 2016 after spending one season at Florence-Darlington Technical School
SATURDAY, 1:30 P.M.
Mississippi State - TBA
Ole Miss - Ryan Rolison, Fr., LHP, 3-0, 1.80 ERA, 20.0 IP
- Has made 11 appearances this season, including two midweek starts
- In his two starts, tossed 11.0 scoreless innings to go along with 12 strikeouts
- Pitched 6.0 innings and recorded seven strikeouts vs. Nicholls (March 41), both career highs
- 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 (D1Baseball.com)
- 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
Mississippi State enters the weekend winners of four straight games following a series sweep of Tennessee and a midweek victory over Memphis. The Bulldogs are 16-10 overall and tied with Ole Miss at 3-3 in the Southeastern Conference standings. Brent Rooker has been on fire this season, leading the SEC in batting average (.427), doubles (14), home runs (8), RBI (38), steals (14), slugging percentage (.885) and on base percentage (.521). Sophomore Jake Mangum, who won the league’s batting title as a freshman, is right behind Rooker with a .407 average at the dish. Mangum has also moved to the mound at points in the season, including as the team’s starting pitcher in the series finale at Arkansas. Serving as a consistent foundation in the weekend rotation is the duo of Konnor Pilkington (2-3, 2.75 ERA) and Peyton Plumlee (3-1, 2.84 ERA). Andy Cannizaro enters his first season as Mississippi State’s head coach after John Cohen took over as the school’s athletic director. Before becoming the MSU head coach, Cannizaro served two seasons as the hitting coach at LSU. Joining Cannizaro on staff is another familiar face in the SEC coaching ranks. Gary Henderson, the head coach at Kentucky for the past eight years, joined MSU this season and coaches the pitching staff.
LAST TIME AT SWAYZE
The Rebels got the best of their rivals the last time they met at Swayze Field (May 7-9, 2015), sweeping Mississippi State in memorable fashion. Ole Miss took the series opener 4-3 behind a pair of two-out hits by Errol Robinson that knocked in three runs. Christian Trent earned the win on the mound, tossing 8.0 innings. Game two was a slugfest as the Rebels powered past the Bulldogs 13-10. Sikes Orvis led the way, belting a homer as part of a four-RBI night. Completing the sweep, Ole Miss made one of the biggest comebacks in school history. Down five runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Rebels rallied to tie the game and force extra innings. In the 10th, Nic Perkins singled home Tate Blackman to cap off the thrilling comeback victory. The win not only completed the four-game season sweep over the Bulldogs (includes a win in the Governor’s Cup), but it also made Ole Miss a perfect 7-0 against Mississippi State in baseball, men’s basketball and football during the 2014-15 academic year; that feat was accomplished for the first time since 1972.
In the bottom of the 10th, a pinch-hit single by Michael Fitzsimmons lifted Ole Miss over Little Rock Tuesday afternoon (March 28). The Rebels won the extra-inning battle with the Trojans in front of over 6,000 elementary school students in attendance for the fifth annual School Day Game at Swayze Field. Houston Roth struck out the side in the 10th, and the perfect inning earned the freshman the first victory of his career. Fellow freshman and Ole Miss starting pitcher Greer Holston did not allow a run over 5.1 innings, giving up just three hits and two walks. Will Stokes and Dallas Woolfolk also pitched out of the bullpen, combining to keep Little Rock off the scoreboard for 2.1 innings. Colby Bortles and Cole Zabowski tallied two hits apiece as Ole Miss finished with nine for the game.
TWO-OUT HITTING PRODUCES WINS
Two-out hitting has been the deciding factor in the Rebels’ last two wins. Facing No. 19 Kentucky, (March 23), Ole Miss recorded seven consecutive hits with two outs to plate six runs in the sixth and build an eight-run lead on its way to the series-opening victory. In Tuesday’s win over Little Rock (March 28), the Rebels scored all five of their runs with two outs. Throughout the game, the Rebels hit .357 when they were down to their final out of each inning.
ON THE MOUND
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.
Although he has only made four starts this season, redshirt-sophomore Michael Fitzsimmons has come through in clutch moments for the Rebels. The Eads, Tennessee, native is hitting .300 with runners on base, including a .400 batting average with runners in scoring position. As a pinch hitter, Fitzsimmons is 3-for-9 (.333) on the season, driving in the game-winning run on two of those hits. Against Furman (March 12), he came off the bench to knock in the game’s only run to help the Rebels secure the shutout victory. On Tuesday, Fitzsimmons was called upon in the bottom of the 10th; he ripped a single to left field to give Ole Miss a walk-off win over Little Rock. The big hit prompted teammate Nick Fortes to nickname Fitzsimmons the #PinchHitPrince on Twitter.
TEAM CAPTAINS STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE
When the Rebels got off to their fast start to the 2017 season, winning their first seven games, newcomers and a couple veterans were leading the way offensively. Team captains Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles took several games to find their swing, but now they have it. After only the first five contests, Blackman and Bortles were hitting .162 and .062, respectively. Since then, Blackman holds a .313 batting average, while Bortles boasts a .344 average during the current span. Through the entire 2017 campaign thus far, Bortles leads the Rebels in batting average (.286), home runs (4) and RBI (17) to go along with team highs in slugging percentage (.494) and on base percentage (.392). Blackman is just behind his fellow captain in on base percentage (.374), while also ranking second in runs (14).
BORTLES NAMED SENIOR CLASS AWARD CANDIDATE
Ole Miss senior Colby Bortles was recognized as one of 30 candidates for the 2017 Senior CLASS Award® in college baseball Monday afternoon. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. Not only is Bortles representing Ole Miss on the list, but he is also the only player from the SEC to be selected as a candidate for the prestigious award. Displaying leadership on and off the field, Bortles is a two-time team captain. He was chosen by his teammates to be team captain for the 2016 season before getting re-elected again this year. 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, Bortles has made his mark on the program. The Oviedo, Florida, native has appeared in 181 games as a Rebel, making 152 starts. Since he arrived on campus, Bortles has been active in the Oxford community. For the past four years, he has participated in the Reading with the Rebels program, through which he reads children’s books to local elementary students. Looking towards life after baseball, Bortles is currently interning with the Batesville Police Department as he pursues a degree in criminal justice.
FINISHING THE JOB
Over the past few seasons, Ole Miss has been lights out when holding a lead after the eighth inning. In fact since March 15, 2014, the Rebels are a blistering 103-1 in games they’ve led heading into the ninth. The lone loss occurred during the 2016 NCAA Regional when a Tulane two-run homer shocked Ole Miss at Swayze Field. This season, the Rebels hold a 15-0 mark when ahead through eight innings of play.
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE
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, whose 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 team-low 1.06 ERA over a team-high 11 appearances. Along with tallying 20 strikeouts and issuing only two walks, Woolfolk boasts six saves to lead the SEC and rank 15th nationally. Stokes adds four saves to the Ole Miss total of 10, which ranks second in the conference.
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 games: LF/DH Thomas Dillard (23 starts), C Cooper Johnson (18 starts), SS Grae Kessinger (22 games) and 1B Cole Zabowski (17 starts). On the mound, five freshmen have made their presence known as well: Jason Barber (two appearances), Will Ethridge (six appearances), Greer Holston (nine appearances), Ryan Rolison (11 appearances) and Houston Roth (eight appearances).
GOLSAN LEADS THE WAY
Junior Will Golsan has been the most consistent Ole Miss hitter this season, leading the team in hits (27), runs (16), doubles (6) and total bases (36). The Columbus, Mississippi native has also produced seven multi-hit games to lead the Rebels. 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. He is the only Rebel to start all 25 games.
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. With single-game and series records already broken this season, Ole Miss has averaged 8,674 per game to rank second in the nation.
THE 17TH SEASON OF THE BIANCO ERA
The 2017 season is the 17th year of Ole Miss Baseball led by Mike Bianco, the program’s all-time wins leader. With 646 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 after 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.
ON THE HORIZON
Next week, the Rebels will travel to Pearl, Mississippi for a neutral-site matchup against Southern Miss (April 4). First pitch from Trustmark Park, home of the Mississippi Braves, is slated for 6:30 p.m. Following the midweek contest, Ole Miss will host Alabama at Swayze Field for another three-game set (April 7-9). Saturday afternoon (April 8) will feature the football team’s spring game, the Grove Bowl, at 11 a.m. followed by game two of the baseball weekend series at 3 p.m.