Ole Miss and No. 16 Southern Miss Battle for Second Straight Week
Freshman pitcher Jason Barber slides in safely as the winning run in a 6-5 win over Southern Miss, April 4. (Photo by Elwin Williams)
April 10, 2017

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The Last Meeting
#17 Southern Miss5  
Ole Miss6(12)
April 4, 2017
Pearl, Miss.
Rebel Pitcher Jason Barber Scores Winning Run in 12-Inning Victory Over No. 17 Southern Miss
Freshman pitcher Jason Barber stepped up the plate in the 12th inning before scoring the winning run on a wild pitch and completing Ole Miss baseball’s comeback victory over No. 17 Southern Miss Tuesday night at Trustmark Park.

Matchup: Ole Miss (20-12) at Southern Miss (26-7)
Date: April 11
Location: Hattiesburg, Miss.
Venue: Pete Taylor Park
Capacity: 6,600
Television: None
Streaming: SouthernMiss.com
Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network
    David Kellum, play-by-play
    Keith Kessinger, analyst
Live Audio: OleMissSports.com
Series: Ole Miss leads 73-50
Last Game: April 4, 2017
    Ole Miss won 6-5 in 12 innings
    Pearl, Miss.

- Ole Miss enters the week on a four-game winning streak.
- During the winning streak, designated hitter Tim Rowe is hitting .500 with four doubles and one homer.
- The Rebels will play four games on the road, all against ranked teams, in a five-day span this week.
- Ole Miss defeated Southern Miss in 12 innings last Tuesday (April 4) at Trustmark Park.
- The first matchup between the two in-state foes was the Rebels’ longest game of the year.
- As the only SEC team to earn a weekend sweep, the Rebels inched two games closer to the top of the conference standings.
- The Rebels are 10-6 versus ranked teams this season.
- Ole Miss pitching leads the SEC in fewest hits per nine innings (7.11), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.67), WHIP (1.09) and fewest walks allowed per nine innings (2.68).
- The Rebels rank top 10 nationally in five different pitching categories: ERA, fewest hits allowed per nine innings, shutouts, strikeout-to-walk ratio and WHIP.

Southern Miss - Taylor Braley, Jr., RHP, 3-0, 4.26 ERA, 31.2 IP
Ole Miss - Greer Holston, Fr., RHP, 0-2, 3.18 ERA, 28.1 IP
- Started last week’s game against USM, allowing four runs on four hits and three walks in 4.2 innings
- Has made 10 appearances, including four starts
- Pitched 5.1 scoreless innings versus Little Rock (March 28)
- Against Furman (March 10), pitched a career-long 7.0 scoreless innings and allowed only two hits to go along with a career-high six strikeouts
- Out of high school, named the best right-handed pitcher in the state of Mississippi by Perfect Game
- Attended IMG Academy as a senior, going 6-2 with a 1.02 ERA and hitting .360 at the plate
- Named 2015 4A Player of the Year in Mississippi after leading Saint Stanislaus to a state championship and posting a 12-1 record with 99 strikeouts as well as a 0.91 ERA over 72.0 innings

The Golden Eagles enter Tuesday’s in-state matchup winners in 17 of their last 20 games. Southern Miss holds an impressive 26-7 record this season, ranking as high as No. 16 in the national polls (D1Baseball.com). After dropping the midweek contest against the Rebels last week, the Golden Eagles took two-of-three from FIU at home. USM is an impressive team offensively, ranking 11th nationally and leading Conference USA with 361 hits on the season (10.9 per game). Averaging eight runs per game, Southern Miss sits ninth in the country and paces the conference. The Golden Eagles have also belted 46 home runs, which is seventh in the nation. Taylor Braley does it all for Southern Miss, hitting .339 with eight home runs and 29 RBI. He also boasts a 3-0 record on the mound and will get the start against Ole Miss. Last week, Braley pitched 5.0 innings versus the Rebels and allowed three runs on five hits. As a team, Southern Miss pitching leads its conference with a 3.48 ERA. The Golden Eagles are led by eighth-year head coach Scott Berry.

The Rebels and Golden Eagles have been meeting on the diamond since 1916, and the teams will face off for the 124th time on Tuesday. Ole Miss leads the all-time series, 73-50, but the two teams split the series last year. Meeting in a neutral-site contest last week at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Mississippi, the Rebels rallied from four down before earning a 6-5 walk-off victory in wild fashion.  

Freshman pitcher Jason Barber stepped up the plate in the 12th inning before scoring the winning run on a wild pitch and completing Ole Miss baseball’s comeback victory over No. 17 Southern Miss at Trustmark Park (April 4). The Rebels rallied from a four-run deficit, scoring once in the ninth to force extra innings and winning their longest game of the year, 6-5. With Ole Miss out of position players, Barber was hit by a pitch in his first career plate appearance. While he scored the winning run, redshirt-freshman Carson Klepzig tied the game in the bottom of the ninth on a passed ball. Ryan Olenek went 3-for-6 with a double as Ole Miss pounded 11 hits throughout the night. The Ole Miss bullpen tossed 7.1 innings without allowing an earned run, and Dallas Woolfolk collected the win by pitching 2.0 scoreless innings of relief. A season-high 24 Rebels saw action during the 12-inning affair.

Ole Miss won all four of its game this past week, beating No. 17 Southern Miss in a neutral-site midweek game before sweeping Alabama at home. Designated hitter Tim Rowe hit .500 (6-for-12) throughout the week to pace the Ole Miss bats, while Will Golsan and Nick Fortes posted weekly averages of .438 (7-for-16) and .417 (5-for-12), respectively. As a team, the Rebels hit .284 to improve their season batting average. On the mound, sophomore Dallas Woolfolk finished off three Ole Miss victories, collecting wins in two of them. The Rebel pitching staff held a 2.08 ERA during the 4-0 week, dropping its season ERA to 2.77 to rank 10th nationally.

Three of the Rebels’ last five wins have come in walk-off fashion. In the bottom of the 10th against Little Rock (March 28), Michael Fitzsimmons broke a 4-4 tie with a single to left field to give Ole Miss its first walk-off victory of the season. One week later, the Rebels had another walk-off in extra innings versus No. 17 Southern Miss (April 4). After tying the game in the bottom of the ninth, Ole Miss emerged victorious in the 12th when a wild pitch went to the backstop on an intentional walk. Needing to bat with the Rebels out of position players, freshman pitcher Jason Barber was hit by a pitch to reach base before scoring the winning run. Clinching the weekend series over Alabama (April 8), Tate Blackman belted a 1-1 pitch to left-center in the bottom of the ninth. The moon shot cleared the fence and gave Ole Miss a 5-4 win.

After mixing up the designated hitter role through the first half of the season, the Rebels may have found their guy. Junior college transfer Tim Rowe recorded a hit in all four games last week, hitting .500 to help Ole Miss to a perfect 4-0 week. Five of Rowe’s six hits went for extra bases (four doubles, one home run). After hitting an RBI double to help the Rebels come back against No. 17 Southern Miss, Rowe jumped off the bench in the series opener versus Alabama; he went 2-for-2 with a pinch-hit home run, hitting the Rebels’ first pinch-hit homer of the year. Earning the starting nod in game two, the Hernando, Mississippi, native tallied two runs and added another double. His double barrage continued to the series finale as he blasted a pair in his first two at-bats to assist in the sweep of the Crimson Tide. On the year, Rowe is hitting .314 with a team-high .529 slugging percentage over 24 games.

Nick Fortes waited for his opportunity and since receiving it, he has taken advantage of it. With the help of his bat, the sophomore has started eight of the Rebels’ last nine games behind the plate. Since assuming the starting duties, Fortes is hitting a blistering .435 (10-for-23). Over the weekend, Fortes recorded five hits, scored four runs and belted his first career home run to help Ole Miss sweep Alabama. In 19 games this season, including 13 starts, he leads the team with a .319 batting average. The Deland, Florida, native has also thrown out five baserunners in 2017.

The Rebels are 10-6 versus ranked teams this season, which includes sweeps of both No. 6 East Carolina and No. 23 UNCW in three-game series at Swayze Field. Ole Miss also won a series over No. 15 Vanderbilt to start SEC play along with victories over No. 19 Kentucky and No. 17 Southern Miss. Last season, the Rebels won 12 games against ranked teams which included series victories over No. 2 Louisville, No. 8 LSU and No. 21 Arkansas. Ole Miss also topped No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 4 South Carolina, No. 5 Mississippi State and No. 18 Coastal Carolina, which went on to win the national championship, in games last year. In 2015, the Rebels made the NCAA Tournament after having the nation’s No. 1 strength of schedule.

Sophomore Ryan Olenek has had a big first half of the 2017 season. He got off to a hot start by earning SEC Player of the Week honors the first weekend of the season, and the Ole Miss center fielder leads the team in doubles (9) to go along with a .281 batting average. Olenek has produced four three-hit games to pace the Ole Miss bats, while also going a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen bases. Over the last three games, Olenek is hitting .400 (10-for-25) with four doubles.  

Last season, the Ole Miss outfield recorded 17 assists, one off the school record of 18 set in 2014. Despite the loss of All-American J.B. Woodman to professional baseball, the Rebel outfielders have continued to make plays this season. Ole Miss has tallied eight outfield assists in 2017, including five over the past eight games. Two crucial outfield assists helped the Rebels defeat No. 17 Southern Miss last week. In the fifth, Will Golsan made a perfect relay to Tate Blackman, who threw across the diamond to third. The relay was in time to prevent a triple and wipe a runner off the base path. A double on the next at-bat would have scored the run. Later, in the top of the 11th, Southern Miss attempted to take the lead in the 11th, but another outfield assist kept the game tied at 5-5. With a double down the left field line, the Golden Eagles tried to score the go-ahead run from first. However, Bryan Seamster found Grae Kessinger, who gunned a strike to the plate. Protecting the dish and hanging on to the ball, Cooper Johnson tagged the runner out to end the inning.

Past the halfway point of the 2017 regular season, it’s clear that Ole Miss is a young baseball team. On the mound, 73 percent of the innings pitched have been by freshmen or sophomores, including 35 percent by freshmen only. Offensively, the underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) have taken 57 percent of the team’s at-bats with a freshmen stepping up to the plate 31 percent of the time.  

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                     1.09 3rd 1st
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio 3.67 4th 1st
Shutouts   6 4th 2nd
Hits/9 Innings 7.11 10th 1st
ERA  2.77 10th 2nd
Walks/9 Innings 2.68 12th 1st
Strikeouts/9 Innings 9.80 12th 3rd

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 .118 (2-for-17) and .062 (1-for-16), respectively. Since then, Blackman holds a .305 batting average, while Bortles boasts a .315 average during the current span. Through the entire 2017 campaign thus far, Bortles leads the Rebels in home runs (4) and RBI (20). He also sits atop the SEC with five sacrifice flies, ranking 15th nationally. Blackman is just behind his fellow captain in RBI (16), while leading the team in triples, (2), runs (21) and walks (16).

Sophomore Dallas Woolfolk, whose fastball ranges from 93-95 mph, has been nearly unhittable this season. The Southaven, Mississippi, native holds a team-low 1.07 ERA over a team-high 17 appearances. Along with tallying 28 strikeouts and issuing only two walks, Woolfolk boasts six saves as the team’s primary closer. He also has a 3-1 record after picking up a pair of relief victories last week. In 25.1 innings, Woolfolk is holding opposing hitters to a .138 batting average.

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 105-1 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 17-0 mark when ahead through eight innings of play.

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 (29 starts), C Cooper Johnson (19 starts), SS Grae Kessinger (29 games) and 1B Cole Zabowski (19 starts). On the mound, five freshmen have made their presence known as well: Jason Barber (two appearances), Will Ethridge (10 appearances), Greer Holston (10 appearances), Ryan Rolison (13 appearances) and Houston Roth (nine appearances).  

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 .333 with runners in scoring position. As a pinch hitter, Fitzsimmons is 3-for-10 (.300) 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. Last week, 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.

The 2017 season is the 17th year of Ole Miss Baseball led by Mike Bianco, the program’s all-time wins leader. With 650 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.

Following the midweek contest against Southern Miss, the Rebels will remain on the road. Traveling further south, Ole Miss will prepare to face No. 8 LSU in SEC action (April 13-15). The first two games will take place under the lights of Alex Box Stadium, beginning at 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively. The series finale will be an afternoon matchup slated for 2 p.m. All three conference games will be broadcast on SECN+.





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