May 11, 2017
Matchup: #19 Texas A&M (34-15, 14-10) at Ole Miss (29-20, 11-13 SEC)
Dates: May 12-14
Location: Oxford, Miss.
Venue: Swayze Field
Television: SECN+ (Fri.)/SEC Network (Sat./Sun.)
Richard Cross/Dave Neal, play-by-play
David Dellucci/Chris Burke, analyst
Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network
David Kellum, play-by-play
Keith Kessinger, analyst
Live Audio: OleMissSports.com
Series: Texas A&M leads 11-7
Last Series: May 19-21, 2016
Texas A&M won two-of-three
College Station, Texas
Friday, May 12, 6:30 p.m.
» 2,000 Rebel Towel Giveaway
» Friday Night Fireworks presented by Newks
Saturday, May 13, 6:30 p.m.
» Senior Day
» 1,000 Baseball Card Pack Giveaway (5 of 5)
Sunday, May 14, 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.
- Ole Miss is playing a ranked opponent for the third consecutive weekend; the Rebels are 14-13 versus ranked teams this season.
- Heading into the final three home games of the regular season, the Rebels hold a 22-8 record at Swayze Field.
- Prior to Saturday’s game, seniors Colby Bortles and Sean Johnson will be recognized in a special on-field ceremony.
- Freshman Ryan Rolison has allowed the fewest runs (15) and ranks fifth in ERA among SEC starters.
- Every pitcher in the Ole Miss weekend rotation has earned a weekly conference honor this season.
- The Rebels are 24-4 when scoring at least four runs.
- Head coach Mike Bianco has 659 career victories at Ole Miss, ranking sixth on the SEC all-time wins list.
- Earlier this week, Don Kessinger, the grandfather of current Rebel Grae Kessinger, was named an SEC Baseball Legend and will be honored at the 2017 SEC Baseball Tournament.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
FRIDAY, 6:30 P.M.
Texas A&M - Brigham Hill, Jr., RHP, 7-3, 2.62 ERA, 75.2 IP
Ole Miss - James McArthur, So., RHP, 3-4, 3.99 ERA, 56.1 IP
- Ranks second in the SEC in fewest hits allowed per game (5.75) and opponent batting average (.181)
- Named SEC Pitcher of the Week after throwing a career-high 8.0 innings and allowing only one hit at No. 10 Arkansas (April 27)
- Collected a win against Alabama, going 7.0 innings and allowing only one run on two hits to go along with seven strikeouts
- 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)
- 2016 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American (Collegiate Baseball)
- Standing 6’ 7”, tied with Sean Johnson as the tallest Rebel on the team
SATURDAY, 6 P.M.
Texas A&M - Corbin Martin, Jr., RHP, 5-3, 3.13 ERA, 60.1 IP
Ole Miss - Ryan Rolison, Fr., LHP, 6-2, 2.19 ERA, 53.1 IP
- Has allowed the fewest runs (15) in the SEC among qualified pitchers and ranks fifth in ERA
- Has made 17 appearances this season, including eight starts
- Named SEC Freshman of the Week (April 24) after tossing 6.0 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and recording a career-high nine strikeouts in a win over Missouri (April 22)
- 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
- Drafted in the 37th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres
SUNDAY, 12 P.M.
Texas A&M - Stephen Kolek, So., RHP, 3-2, 3.31 ERA, 70.2 IP
Ole Miss - David Parkinson, Jr., LHP, 5-3, 3.66 ERA, 66.1 IP
- Only Rebel pitcher to start during every weekend of the season
- Earned a win over No. 8 LSU (April 14), allowing only one run over 6.1 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
- Transferred to Ole Miss in 2016 after spending one season at Florence-Darlington Technical School
SCOUTING THE AGGIES
Texas A&M enters the weekend with a 34-15 record after dropping two-of-three games at home to Mississippi State last week. The series setback was the first over the last six SEC weekends for Texas A&M. The Aggies are just ahead of the Rebels in the SEC West with a 14-10 mark, tied with Auburn. Kaylor Chafin holds the lowest ERA on the team at 1.92 to go along with a 6-1 record over 21 appearances, including 20 out of the bullpen. He has allowed the fewest runs in the SEC (15) among qualified pitchers, tied with Ole Miss freshman Ryan Rolison. Texas A&M’s rotation is led by ace Brigham Hill, who is 7-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 12 starts this season. The righty has tallied 84 strikeouts in 75.2 innings of work. Offensively, the Aggies pace the conference with 20 triples as a team, including four apiece from Logan Foster and George Janca that top the SEC individually. Freshman Braden Shewmake has had a breakout first year in college, leading the Aggies with a .348 batting average, 14 doubles, seven home runs, 57 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Shewmake’s 57 RBI rank second in conference statistics. Cole Bedford and Blake Kopetsky also have batting averages over the .300 plateau at .310 and .309, respectively. The Aggies are coached by Rob Childress, who is in his 12th season at Texas A&M.
This weekend’s series will feature the two best pitching staffs in the SEC. Texas A&M leads the conference with a 3.03 ERA, while the Rebels’ 3.35 ERA ranks second. Texas A&M holds a slight 11-7 advantage over Ole Miss in the all-time series. Last year, the Aggies claimed the final series of the regular season, beating the Rebels twice in College Station. The two teams also met in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, and No. 1 Texas A&M emerged with a 12-8 victory. The last time the two divisional foes met in Oxford, the series was limited to two games with each team winning once. The Rebels and Aggies first met in 1998 as non-conference opponents during Texas A&M’s time in the Big 12 Conference. The Aggies won the three-game set at home with two victories in the final games of the series.
On Saturday, Ole Miss will honor its 2017 seniors. While only two seniors make up the class, Colby Bortles and Sean Johnson, these Rebels have been important pieces to the Ole Miss baseball program.
#25 Colby Bortles (IF)
A four-year veteran of the baseball team, Bortles has been a team captain for the past two seasons. The Oviedo, Florida, native has started 177 games throughout his career, providing constant power at the plate and spending the majority of the last three seasons as the team’s starting third baseman. He played in 40 games as a freshman during the Rebels’ run to Omaha in 2014, including three games in the College World Series. During that first season, Bortles hit a key home run in the NCAA Regional championship game versus Washington. He took over the reigns of the hot corner as a sophomore when he hit .281 with seven home runs and 47 RBI. Perhaps his biggest home run of the season was a game-tying grand slam in the top of the ninth against the defending national champion and then-No. 1 Vanderbilt Commodores; the Rebels went on to win that game, 6-5 in 16 innings before taking the next game to claim the series. Last season, Bortles produced a team-high 21 doubles which ranked second in the SEC and was the fifth-most in a single season in Ole Miss history. He also participated in the 2016 College Home Run Derby. This year, the slugger leads the Rebels with nine home runs and 39 RBI. With 150 RBI over his career, he ranks 10th on the Rebels’ all-time list. This weekend, Bortles will graduate with a degree in criminal justice.
#33 Sean Johnson (RHP)
Johnson has been part of the Ole Miss program for the past three seasons. He joined the Rebels in the fall of 2014 after leading Iowa Western Community College to a national championship that spring. Despite missing most of his first season at Ole Miss due to Tommy John surgery, Johnson excelled in the classroom and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. Less than one year after his surgery, he made a successful return to the mound by earning a victory in the season-opening series against FIU. The Durango, Colorado, native made 10 appearances during the 2015 season, serving primarily as a starting pitcher. Pitching in the series finale versus No. 2 Louisville, he earned the win to help the Rebels knock off one of the best teams in the country. This year, Johnson holds a 3.29 ERA on the mound. Last week against ULM, he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, limiting the opposition to only one hit and leading the Rebels to victory. Last may, Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss before deciding to continue his education and college baseball career as a graduate student-athlete.
DIFFICULT CLOSING STRETCH
The Rebels have faced some of the best teams in the SEC down the stretch. Texas A&M will be the fourth ranked team Ole Miss will play over the past five weekend series. Next week, that mark will increase to five out of six as the Rebels travel to nationally-ranked Auburn (May 18-20).
THE ROAD TO HOOVER
With only two weekends left in conference play, it’s time to start looking towards the 2017 SEC Baseball Tournament, which will take place May 23-28 in Hoover, Alabama. Ole Miss is currently tied for ninth in the overall standings with SEC East foe South Carolina. Only three games separate five teams fighting for seeds 6-10, so there is plenty of uncertainly heading into the final two weekends. The top 12 teams qualify for the SEC Tournament; moreover, the top four automatically earn byes into the double elimination portion of the tournament.
THE YEARLY GAUNTLET
The Rebels are 14-13 versus ranked teams in 2017, which includes sweeps of both No. 6 East Carolina and No. 23 UNCW in three-game series at Swayze Field as well as a two-game season sweep of No. 16 Southern Miss. Ole Miss also won series over No. 15 Vanderbilt and No. 10 Arkansas, while taking one game from both No. 8 LSU and No. 19 Kentucky. 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.
FOCUS ON FORTES
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 25 of the Rebels’ last 27 games. The catcher caught 13 of those games behind the plate and has also started 12 games at first base. Since assuming starting duties, Fortes is hitting .333 (25-for-75). In 36 games this season, including 30 starts, he leads the team with a .315 batting average, including .323 in SEC play. Last week, the Deland, Florida, native hit. 400 with seven nine RBI, eight runs and three homers. In Tuesday’s game against ULM, he hit two home runs in the sixth inning to become the first Rebel to homer twice in the same inning since 2008 (Michael Guerrero - May 31 vs. Bethune-Cookman in the NCAA Coral Gables Regional). He concluded the weekend at No. 5 Florida with another three-hit performance.
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. Individually, Ryan Rolison leads the conference in fewest runs allowed (15) and senior Colby Bortles is the SEC leader with six sacrifice flies.
TEAM CAPTAINS LEAD THE WAY
Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles, the captains of the team, have shown their leadership at the plate. On the season, Bortles leads Ole Miss in RBI (39), home runs (9) and 11 multi-RBI games. Meanwhile Blackman paces the team in runs (41) and triples (3), slugging percentage (.526) and on base percentage (.416). The two have both reached base in each of the last 15 games as well.
FIRST INNING RUNS
Ole Miss has scored in the first inning in eight of the last 13 games. On the season, the Rebels are 10-5 when scoring in the opening frame. In terms of runs, Ole Miss pitching has been the most effective in the first inning this season, giving up only 10 runs through 49 games. Plating 27 runs themselves, the Rebels’ +17 run differential is the team’s second-best inning.
WOOLFOLK THE CLOSER
With Wyatt Short now in the professional ranks with the World Series champion Chicago Cubs organization, Dallas Woolfolk burst onto the scene in 2017 to become the go-to reliever at the end of games. Woolfolk, whose fastball ranges from 94-97 mph, has been nearly unhittable this season. The Southaven, Mississippi, native holds a 1.91 ERA over a team-high 23 appearances. Along with tallying 36 strikeouts and issuing only five walks, Woolfolk is 3-2 and boasts 10 saves as the team’s top closer. His 10 saves rank third in the SEC as well as 25th nationally. Moreover, the hard-throwing righty has shown that he’s more than just a one-inning wonder by recording at least four outs to earn five of his saves. In 33.0 innings, Woolfolk is holding opposing hitters to a .181 batting average. As a freshman, he was 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA and one save in 18 appearances (17.2 innings). Moving into his second year as a Rebel, his breakout moment occurred on opening weekend. In the series finale against No. 6 East Carolina (Feb. 19), Woolfolk entered the game in the eighth with the bases loaded and nobody out as the runner on second represented the tying run. In the toughest possible jam in baseball, he locked in by striking out three straight hitters to end the inning and keep the Pirates from scoring. He ended up coming back out for the ninth, recording two more strikeouts on his way to retiring the side and earning his first save of the season. He was named to the midseason watch list for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year Award (April 26), one of 40 pitchers on the watch list for the award given annually to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I Baseball.
GOLSAN LEADS THE WAY
Junior Will Golsan has been the most consistent Ole Miss hitter this season, leading the team in hits (57) and multi-hit games (17). The Columbus, Mississippi, native also ranks second on the team in batting average (.302), runs (36) and doubles (9). He hits even better in SEC play with a .312 average in conference games. Recording at least one hit in 13 of the last 15 games, Golsan is hitting at a .417 clip (20-for-48). Throughout his career, he’s shown his versatility in the field as well, starting at 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 49 games (45 in right field, three in center field, one at first base).
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 38 percent by freshmen only. Offensively, the underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) have taken 56 percent of the team’s at-bats with a freshman stepping up to the plate 30 percent of the time.
OUTFIELD FLASHING THE LEATHER
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 as Ole Miss has tallied 13 outfield assists in 2017. Will Golsan leads the way with five assists, and Ryan Olenek is closely behind with four. Thomas Dillard has two, while Bryan Seamster and Kyle Watson each have one outfield assist to their credit.
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 113-1 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 25-0 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 Thomas Dillard (41 starts), C Cooper Johnson (31 starts), SS Grae Kessinger (46 starts) and 1B Cole Zabowski (23 starts). On the mound, five freshmen have made their presence known as well: RHP Jason Barber (three appearances), RHP Will Ethridge (18 appearances), RHP Greer Holston (15 appearances), LHP Ryan Rolison (17 appearances) and RHP Houston Roth (14 appearances).
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 8,579 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, Feb. 17) and series (33,070 versus East Carolina, Feb. 17-19) records already broken this season, Ole Miss has averaged 8,640 per game to rank second in the nation.
DON KESSINGER NAMED SEC BASEBALL LEGEND
Don Kessinger, a two-sport All-American at Ole Miss before becoming a six-time All-Star in Major League Baseball, will be honored at the 2017 SEC Tournament as an SEC Baseball Legend May 23-28 at the Hoover Met in Hoover, Alabama. Kessinger is the second Rebel to earn the distinction of SEC Baseball Legend, joining 2014 honoree Jake Gibbs. Alongside Kessinger, the 2017 class features LSU’s Ben McDonald, Missouri’s Dave Silvestri and South Carolina’s Earl Bass. Kessinger excelled in both basketball and baseball for the Rebels from 1962-64, earning All-SEC and All-America honors in both sports. In basketball, he averaged 22.2 points per game to rank fourth in Ole Miss history as well as 11th with 1,553 career points. On the diamond, Kessinger’s feats were equally impressive. His .400 career batting average still remains No. 1 in the Ole Miss record book, an effort which is also sixth on the SEC career chart. Kessinger’s best year at the plate came in 1964 when he led the SEC by hitting .436, a performance which remains as the best single season effort in Rebel baseball history. His nine career triples and 44 career steals place him 10th on each Ole Miss all-time list. Following a successful collegiate career, Kessinger moved on to Major League Baseball where he put together an impressive 16-year career. He started with the Chicago Cubs in 1964 and played at Wrigley Field until 1975. During that time as the Cubs’ starting shortstop, Kessinger played in six All-Star Games, earned two Gold Glove Awards and set a then-Major League record for consecutive errorless games at shortstop with 54 in 1969. In his last season in MLB, 1979, Kessinger served as a player-manager for the White Sox.
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 659 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 sixth on the SEC’s all-time wins list after passing former Vanderbilt coach Roy Mewbourne last weekend.
ON THE HORIZON
Next week, the Rebels will wrap up the 2017 regular season with four road games in a five-day span. First, Ole Miss travels to Jonesboro, Arkansas Tuesday (May 16) to face Arkansas State for the second time this season. With the Rebels looking to claim the season sweep, first pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. and can be heard on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network. Ole Miss will then travel to Auburn to put a lid on the regular season conference slate (May 18-20). The three-game series begins Thursday night at 6 p.m. CT with game two beginning at the same time on Friday. The series finale will start at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon.