Baseball Returns to Swayze Wednesday to Host UAPB
Nick Fortes (right) scored a career-high three runs in last season's 12-1 win over UAPB.
April 18, 2017

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The Last Meeting
Ole Miss12
May 4, 2016
Oxford, Miss.
Ole Miss Force Awakens in 12-1 Win over UAPB
The Force was with the Rebels on Star Wars Night at Swayze Field as No. 7 Ole Miss blasted Arkansas-Pine Bluff 12-1. Right-handed pitcher Chad Smith posted a career-high 11 strikeouts on the night to help propel the Rebels (34-12) over the Golden Lions (17-22).

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Matchup: UAPB (11-23) at (RV) Ole Miss (22-14)
Date: April 19
Location: Oxford, Miss.
Venue: Swayze Field
Capacity: 10,323
Television: SECN+
    Richard Cross, play-by-play
    David Dellucci, play-by-play
Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network
    David Kellum, play-by-play
    Keith Kessinger, analyst
Live Audio:
Series: Ole Miss leads 6-0
Last Game: May 4, 2016
    Ole Miss won 12-1
    Oxford, Miss.

- Men's Health Night presented by Rebel Well: All men will receive FREE admission and the first 500 will receive a unique Ole Miss Baseball hat.
- Kids 12 and under get in free.
- $1 Hot Dog Night

- The Rebels begin a four-game homestand over a five-day span.
- Assistant coach Marc MacMillan served as UAPB's associate head coach for three seasons (2011-13).
- Ole Miss has outscored UAPB a combined 75-13 in the six meetings between the two programs, winning all six games at Swayze Field.
- The Rebels are 5-3 in midweek games this season.
- Tate Blackman has hit four home runs over the last six games; he hit four homers through the first 129 games of his Ole Miss career.
- Colby Bortles leads the SEC in sacrifice flies (5), ranking 22nd nationally.
- Ole Miss pitching leads the SEC in ERA (2.84), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.47), WHIP (1.12), fewest runs allowed (132) and fewest walks allowed per nine innings (2.73).
- The Rebels rank top 10 nationally in four different pitching categories: ERA (8th), shutouts (7th), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4th) and WHIP (2nd).

UAPB - Nathan Sawrie, Jr., RHP, 2-3, 6.60 ERA, 45.0 IP
Ole Miss - Greer Holston, Fr., RHP, 2-2, 2.62 ERA, 34.1 IP
- Last week, earned his first career victory with 6.0 scoreless innings against No. 16 Southern Miss
- Has made 11 appearances, including five 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

Arkansas-Pine Bluff heads to Oxford winners of three straight after sweeping Alabama A&M over the weekend. The midweek matchup with the Rebels will mark the end of a nine-game road trip for UAPB. Ole Miss is the fourth SEC team on UAPB's schedule as the Golden Lions have already faced Alabama, Mississippi State and Missouri; UAPB has gone 1-6 against SEC teams this season with a lone victory over Alabama as part of a four-game series. The Golden Lions are 11-23 on the season with nine of their wins coming in SWAC play. Jordan Knox and Serg Esparza have led the way for the Golden Lions on offense, hitting .354 and .320, respectively. On the mound, UAPB has allowed over eight runs per game. Nathan Sawrie (2-3, 6.60 ERA) will get the start against Ole Miss, making his 12th appearance of the year (eighth start). Carlos James is in his seventh season guiding the UAPB baseball program.

Ole Miss leads the all-time series with UAPB 6-0; the two programs first met in 2009 with the Rebels claiming a 22-2 victory. All six matchups have occurred at Swayze Field, and the Rebels have outscored the Golden Lions a combined 75-13. Ole Miss scored at least seven runs in each game, including victories of 17-1 in 2010 and 11-1 in 2014. The Rebels downed UAPB 12-1 in the last meeting between the two teams.

Last season, the Force was with the Rebels on Star Wars Night at Swayze Field as Ole Miss blasted Arkansas-Pine Bluff 12-1 (May 4, 2016). Right-handed pitcher Chad Smith posted a career-high 11 strikeouts on the night to help propel the Rebels over the Golden Lions. With the win, head coach Mike Bianco also collected his 400th victory at Swayze Field. Smith had an outstanding night on the mound, recording a new career high in strikeouts and surrendering just one unearned run on four hits over 7.0 innings. Andrew Lowe pitched the last two innings, retiring all six batters he faced and striking out three of them. The Rebels earned a total of 10 hits on the night as Errol Robinson, Ryan Olenek and Kyle Watson had two hits apiece and at least two RBI. Nick Fortes scored three runs to lead the Rebels, a new career high that still stands today.

When the Rebels and Golden Lions take the field Wednesday, there will be a connection between the programs in the first base coaching box. Prior to returning to his alma mater, Ole Miss assistant coach Marc MacMillan spent three years as UAPB's associate head coach. MacMillan worked with the pitchers, infielders and base runners, while also coordinating the program's recruiting efforts plus strength and conditioning programs. In 2013, he coached a pitching staff that led the conference in ERA, helping lead UAPB to the program's first SWAC Tournament appearance since the 2009 season. His recruiting classes stretched from coast-to-coast and aided UAPB's back-to-back Western Division titles in 2014 and 2015.

In terms of offense, four seems to be the magic number for Ole Miss. With an outstanding pitching staff, the Rebels are 17-1 when scoring at least four runs in a game. The lone loss when plating more than four runs was the team's first setback of the season; Memphis defeated Ole Miss 9-6 at Swayze Field (Feb. 28).

In his first 129 games as a Rebel, Tate Blackman hit four home runs. Over the past six contests, the junior second baseman has equaled that total to boast eight career homers. The Altamonte Springs, Florida, native first flexed his muscles with walk-off home run against Alabama (April 8). Just six days later, Blackman recorded the first multi-homer game of his career to lead Ole Miss to a 4-1 win over No. 8 LSU (April 14). Blackman hit two home runs, starting the contest with a solo blast before adding another in the sixth, to become the first Rebel to have a multi-homer game since J.B. Woodman (May 7, 2016). Beginning the game with a leadoff home run, Blackman was the first Rebel to hit a homer to start a game since Tim Ferguson (March 9, 2010 vs. Austin Peay). Coincidentally, he was the first Ole Miss slugger to hit a leadoff homer in an SEC game since Brad Henderson did it at LSU (March 28, 1999). In the series finale versus the Tigers, Blackman homered again for his third throughout the final two games of the weekend.

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 12 of the Rebels' last 13 games behind the plate. Since assuming the starting duties, Fortes is hitting .378 (14-for-37). He has reached base in eight straight games, recording at least one hit in seven of those contests. Over the weekend, Fortes belted his second career home run to help Ole Miss knock off No. 8 LSU 4-1 (April 14). In 23 games this season, including 17 starts, he leads the team with a .317 batting average, including a blistering .429 in SEC play. The Deland, Florida, native has also thrown out five base runners in 2017.

Ryan Olenek 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 has continued to be one of the leaders at the plate. The sophomore ranks fifth in the SEC with a team-high 12 doubles to go along with a .279 batting average. Olenek has also produced four three-hit games to pace the Ole Miss bats, while also going 6-for-7 in stolen bases. Over the last 10 games, Olenek is hitting .350 (14-for-40) with seven doubles.    

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 SEC Rank National Rank
WHIP             1.12 2nd 1st
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio 3.47 4th 1st
Shutouts 6 7th 2nd
ERA 2.84 8th 1st
Walks/9 Innings 2.73 14th 1st
Hits/9 Innings 7.34 14th 3rd
Strikeouts/9 Innings 9.5 20th 5th

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 nine outfield assists in 2017. Will Golsan and Ryan Olenek lead the way with three apiece, while Thomas Dillard, Bryan Seamster and Kyle Watson each have one outfield assist to their credit.

Past the halfway point of the 2017 regular season, it's clear that Ole Miss is a young baseball team. On the mound, 76 percent of the innings pitched have been by freshmen or sophomores, including 36 percent by freshmen only. Offensively, the underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) have taken 57 percent of the team's at-bats with a freshman stepping up to the plate 31 percent of the time.

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 has posted a .364 batting average over the past seven games. During the winning streak two week ago, the Hernando, Mississippi, native hit .500 throughout the four-game week to pace the Ole Miss bats. On the year, Rowe is hitting .295 with a team-high .475 slugging percentage over 27 games.

Sophomore Dallas Woolfolk, whose fastball ranges from 94-97 mph, has been nearly unhittable this season. The Southaven, Mississippi, native holds a team-low 0.98 ERA over a team-high 19 appearances. Along with tallying 31 strikeouts and issuing only two walks, Woolfolk is 3-1 and boasts seven saves as the team's primary closer. Moreover, Woolfolk has shown that he's more than just a one-inning wonder by recording at least four outs to earn four of his saves. In 27.2 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 107-1 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 19-0 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 (32 starts), C Cooper Johnson (19 starts), SS Grae Kessinger (33 games) and 1B Cole Zabowski (21 starts). On the mound, five freshmen have made their presence known as well: Jason Barber (two appearances), Will Ethridge (11 appearances), Greer Holston (11 appearances), Ryan Rolison (14 appearances) and Houston Roth (10 appearances).  

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 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 (12,177 on opening day versus East Carolina) and series (33,070 versus East Carolina) records already broken this season, Ole Miss has averaged 8,891 per game to rank second 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 .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. On March 28, 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 652 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 non-conference affair, the Rebels welcome Missouri to Oxford for SEC play (April 21-23). The three-game series against the Tigers will be Military Appreciation Weekend at Swayze Field. It all begins Friday night (April 21) at 6:30 p.m. under the lights. Game two is set for Saturday evening with a 4 p.m. first pitch, while the series finale is slated for 1:30 p.m. All three games will be broadcast on SECN+ with Richard Cross and David Dellucci on the call. David Kellum and Keith Kessinger will also provided coverage of the series on the airwaves of the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network.





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