Matchup: Alabama (14-16, 2-7 SEC) at (RV) Ole Miss (17-12, 3-6 SEC)
Dates: April 7-9
Location: Oxford, Miss.
Venue: Swayze Field
Television: SECN+ (Fri.)/SEC+ (Sat.)/SEC Network (Sun.)
Richard Cross (Fri./Sat.)/Mike Morgan (Sun.), play-by-play
David Dellucci (Fri./Sat.)/Ben McDonald (Sun.), analyst
Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network
David Kellum, play-by-play
Keith Kessinger, analyst
Live Audio: OleMissSports.com
Series: Alabama leads 198-148-2
Last Series: April 15-17, 2016
Alabama won two-of-three
Friday, April 7, 6:30 p.m.
» 2,000 Rebel Towel Giveaway
» Friday Night Fireworks presented by Newks
Saturday, April 8, 3 p.m.
» Ole Miss Football Grove Bowl Saturday, 11 a.m.
» Stadium will be open immediately following the Grove Bowl
Sunday, April 9, 3 p.m.
» Postgame Easter Egg Hunt presented by Belles and Beaus for kids 12 and Under
» 1,000 Baseball Card Pack Giveaway (3 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.
– The Rebels are coming off a 6-5 victory over No. 17 Southern Miss in 12 innings Tuesday night.
– Ole Miss has recorded eight outfield assists this season, including five over the last five games.
– The Rebels won five out of the last six games at home against Alabama, including a three-game sweep in 2013 on Grove Bowl weekend (spring football game).
– Tate Blackman has reached base in 22 straight games.
– Colby Bortles leads the SEC in sacrifice flies (5) and ranks 10th nationally.
– This weekend’s rotation of James McArthur (2.00), David Parkinson (2.79) and Ryan Rolison (2.08) has a combined ERA of 2.37.
– Ole Miss pitching leads the SEC in fewest hits per nine innings (6.99), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.77), WHIP (1.07) and fewest walks allowed per nine innings (2.68).
– The Rebels rank top 10 nationally in five different pitching categories: fewest hits allowed per nine innings, shutouts, strikeout-to-walk ratio, fewest walks per nine innings and WHIP.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
FRIDAY, 6:30 P.M.
Alabama – Dylan Duarte, So., LHP, 2-1, 2.48 ERA, 36.1 IP
Ole Miss – James McArthur, So., RHP, 1-1, 2.00 ERA, 27.0 IP
– Holds the lowest ERA among Ole Miss starting pitchers
– 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”)
SATURDAY, 3 P.M.
Alabama – Nick Eicholtz, Sr., RHP, 1-0, 5.96 ERA, 25.2 IP
Ole Miss – David Parkinson, Jr., LHP, 4-2, 2.79 ERA, 42.0 IP
– Only Rebel pitcher to start during every weekend of the season
– Last year against Alabama (April 16, 2016), gave up only one run over 7.0 innings in his second career start
– 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
SUNDAY, 3 P.M.
Alabama – TBA
Ole Miss – Ryan Rolison, Fr., LHP, 3-1, 2.08 ERA, 26.0 IP
– Has made 12 appearances this season, including three starts
– In his three starts, holds a 1.06 ERA (17.0 innings)
– 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
SCOUTING THE CRIMSON TIDE
Alabama started off the season with a 20-game homestand, going 10-10 during that stretch. The Crimson Tide opened up league action dropping all three games to Missouri at home before taking one-of-three from South Carolina on the road. Last weekend, Alabama lost a series at home against Arkansas and will come to Oxford with a 2-7 record in SEC play and a 13-16 mark overall. Chandler Avant leads the Crimson Tide at the plate with a .325 batting average to go along with 10 doubles. Hunter Alexander has a team-high 22 RBI to go along with 11 extra-base hits (six doubles, one triple, four home runs) to provide some power in the Crimson Tide lineup. In terms of pitching, the Alabama staffs holds a 3.69 ERA, including a 2.48 ERA from ace Dylan Duarte. Greg Goff is in his first season at the helm of the Crimson Tide program after spending the last two seasons as head coach at Louisiana Tech. Goff isn’t a stranger to the SEC as he served as an assistant coach at Kentucky from 1999 to 2003. He also spent time in Mississippi, playing college baseball at Delta State and earning two degrees from the university.
A LOOK AT THE SERIES
Alabama leads the all-time series 198-148-2 in a series dating back to 1895, the second-oldest series in program history. Under head coach Mike Bianco, Ole Miss is 9-7 in SEC series versus Alabama, including claiming three of the past five. Each team has protected its own diamond over the past four seasons, with the series winner being the home squad. The Rebels won the three-game set at Swayze in 2015, but the Crimson Tide got revenge in Tuscaloosa last year, taking two of the three weekend contests.
OLE MISS-ALABAMA CONNECTION
Ole Miss freshman pitcher Ryan Rolison and Alabama freshman outfielder Logan Carey were high school teammates at the University School of Jackson in Jackson, Tennessee. To end their high school careers, Rolison was named Mr. Baseball in the state of Tennessee by USA Today, while Carey was tabbed the West Tennessee Hitter of the Year. With Rolison as the projected Sunday starter for the Rebels and Carey playing in 21 games so far this season, the two could face off against one another in the series finale.
TUESDAY’S WILD WIN
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. 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 as Dallas Woolfolk collected the win by pitching 2.0 scoreless innings of relief. A season-high 24 Rebels saw action throughout the night.
OLEY, OLEY, OLEY!
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 still leads the team in batting average (.282), hits (31) and doubles (8). Olenek has produced four three-hit games to pace the Ole Miss bats, while also going a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen bases. Over the last three games, Olenek is hitting .500 (7-for-14) with three doubles.
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. Ole Miss has tallied eight outfield assists in 2017, including five over the past five games. Two crucial outfield assists helped the Rebels defeat No. 17 Southern Miss on Tuesday. 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.
At 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 35 percent by freshmen only. Offensively, the underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) have taken 58 percent of the team’s at-bats with a freshmen stepping up to the plate 32 percent of the time.
The 2017 Major League Baseball season is now underway, and five former Rebels earned spots on big league ballclubs: Zack Cozart (Cincinnati Reds), Lance Lynn (St. Louis Cardinals), Drew Pomeranz (Boston Red Sox), Seth Smith (Baltimore Orioles) and Stuart Turner (Cincinnati Reds). For the second consecutive season, Cozart began the season with a hit in his first at-bat and also scored the Reds’ first run of the 2017 campaign. He is in his sixth season as the starting shortstop for the Reds. Lynn will make his 2017 debut Thursday (April 6), returning to the mound after missing the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. Another MLB Rebel pitcher, Pomeranz begins the season on the disabled list due to a forearm flexor strain; however, the southpaw is scheduled to be back to start the April 9 game. After getting traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Baltimore Orioles during the offseason, Smith debuted with his new American League team and scored the Orioles’ first run of the year. The newest Rebel to make a Major League roster is Turner. In December, the Reds picked the catcher in the Rule 5 Draft from the Minnesota Twins. Turner hit over .400 during Spring Training to earn a spot on the 25-man roster. He made his MLB debut on Thursday (April 6), becoming the 45th player in Ole Miss Baseball history to play in the Majors.
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.
|Stat||National Rank||SEC Rank|
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 .118 (2-for-17) and .062 (1-for-16), respectively. Since then, Blackman holds a .305 batting average, while Bortles boasts a .325 average during the current span. Through the entire 2017 campaign thus far, Bortles leads the Rebels in home runs (4), RBI (19) and slugging percentage (.452). He also leads the SEC with five sacrifice flies, ranking 10th nationally. Blackman is just behind his fellow captain in RBI (13), while leading the team in triples, (2), runs (17), on base percentage (.387) and walks (15).
Sophomore Dallas Woolfolk, whose fastball ranges from 93-95 mph, has been nearly unhittable this season. The Southaven, Mississippi, native holds a team-low 0.83 ERA over a team-high 15 appearances. Along with tallying 25 strikeouts and issuing only two walks, Woolfolk boasts six saves as the team’s primary closer. In 21.2 innings, he has only allowed eight hits and is holding opposing hitters to a .111 batting average.
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.
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 (12,177 on opening day versus East Carolina) and series (33,070 versus East Carolina) records already broken this season, Ole Miss has averaged 8,910 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. 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.
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 (26 starts), C Cooper Johnson (19 starts), SS Grae Kessinger (26 games) and 1B Cole Zabowski (18 starts). On the mound, five freshmen have made their presence known as well: Jason Barber (two appearances), Will Ethridge (eight appearances), Greer Holston (10 appearances), Ryan Rolison (12 appearances) and Houston Roth (nine appearances).
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 647 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 hit the road for four games in a five-day span. First, Ole Miss travels to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to battle Southern Miss for the second time in as many weeks. First pitch is slated for Tuesday, April 11 at 7 p.m. from Pete Taylor Park. Traveling further south, Ole Miss will prepare to face LSU in SEC action (April 13-15). All three conference games will be broadcast on SECN+.