Matchup: (RV) Ole Miss (21-12, 6-6 SEC) at No. 8 LSU (23-11, 7-5 SEC)
Dates: April 13-15
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Venue: Alex Box Stadium
Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network
David Kellum, play-by-play
Keith Kessinger, analyst
Live Audio: OleMissSports.com
Series: LSU leads 171-151
Last Series: April 28-30, 2016
Ole Miss won two-of-three games
– Ole Miss enters the weekend on a five-game winning streak.
– The Rebels continue their road trip of four games, all against ranked teams, in a five-day span.
– Ole Miss knocked off No. 16 Southern Miss 6-2 Tuesday night.
– The Rebels took two-of-three from LSU in last season’s series at Swayze Field.
– Ole Miss is 11-6 against ranked teams this season.
– As the only SEC team to earn a three-game sweep last weekend, the Rebels inched two games closer to the top of the conference standings; the Rebels have earned four three-game sweeps in 2017.
– Ole Miss pitching leads the SEC in ERA (2.72), fewest hits per nine innings (7.05), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.57), WHIP (1.09) and fewest walks allowed per nine innings (2.75).
– 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.
– The weekend rotation of McArthur, Parkinson and Rolison holds a combined 2.16 ERA.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
THURSDAY, 6:30 P.M.
LSU – Alex Lange, Jr., RHP, 3-4, 3.77 ERA, 45.1 IP
Ole Miss – James McArthur, So., RHP, 2-1, 1.85 ERA, 34.0 IP
– Holds the lowest ERA among Ole Miss starting pitchers
– Ranks fourth in the conference and 25th in the nation in WHIP (0.88)
– Collected a win against Alabama, going 7.0 innings and allowing only one run on two hits to go along with seven strikeouts
– 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)
– 2016 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American (Collegiate Baseball)
– Pitched in 15 games, making 12 starts last year (primarily in midweek games)
FRIDAY, 7 P.M.
LSU – Jared Poché, Sr., LHP, 6-1, 2.32 ERA, 50.1 IP
Ole Miss – David Parkinson, Jr., LHP, 4-2, 2.85 ERA, 42.0 IP
– Only Rebel pitcher to start during every weekend of the season
– 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, 2 P.M.
LSU – Eric Walker, Fr., RHP, 4-0, 2.45 ERA, 47.2 IP
Ole Miss – Ryan Rolison, Fr., LHP, 4-1, 1.99 ERA, 31.2 IP
– Has made 13 appearances this season, including four starts
– In his four starts, holds a 1.19 ERA (22.2 innings)
– Claimed his first SEC win in his second conference start, giving up one run and striking out seven over 5.2 innings versus Alabama (April 9)
– Pitched 6.0 innings and recorded seven strikeouts vs. Nicholls (March 14), 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
– Drafted in the 37th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres
LSU enters the weekend on a three-game winning streak after defeating Louisiana in the midweek game to go along with a pair of victories over Arkansas. The Tigers are 23-11 overall, including 7-5 in SEC play. LSU is in impressive team defensively, posting a .980 fielding percentage to lead the conference. Cole Freeman has been one of the Tigers’ leaders at the plate with a .350 batting average to go along with 43 hits, 28 runs and seven doubles. Providing the pop is Greg Deichmann, a left-hander hitting .341 with eight doubles, 10 home runs and 37 RBI. On the mound, LSU has stuck with the same rotation of junior RHP Alex Lange, senior LHP Jared Poché and freshman RHP Eric Walker all season long. Poché has been LSU’s best starter, boasting a 6-1 record with a 2.32 ERA. The Tigers are led by longtime coach Paul Mainieri, who is in his 35th year as a head coach with the last 11 seasons spent guiding the LSU program.
A LOOK AT THE SERIES
Ole Miss and LSU is a rivalry that’s 111 years old, dating back to 1906. The Tigers lead the all-time series 171-151. The last time the two conference foes met in Baton Rouge, LSU won two of the three games. However, the Rebels got revenge on its home field a year later, taking two-of-three against the No. 8 Tigers (April 28-30).
BIANCO RETURNS TO BATON ROUGE
When the Rebels make the trip to Alex Box Stadium, head coach Mike Bianco will be returning to a place where he played and coached. Bianco’s winning ways can be traced back to playing two seasons for Skip Bertman at LSU in 1988 and 1989. He was the starting catcher and team captain for the Tigers’ 1989 team that finished third at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. He homered in LSU’s 6-3 win over Miami (Fla.) in the 1989 CWS to help advance the Tigers to the semifinals. While working behind the plate for LSU, Bianco caught major league pitchers Ben McDonald, Russ Springer, Curtis Leskanic, John O’Donoghue, Chad Ogea and Paul Byrd. He was named to the All-Alex Box Omaha Era Team by LSU in 2008. His time behind the plate as a player would later benefit him as he would serve as LSU’s pitching coach during three world series championship teams in the 1990s. In five seasons at LSU (1993-1997), the Tigers advanced to the College World Series four times and claimed three national championships. LSU also won three Southeastern Conference crowns and two SEC Tournament titles in that five-year span. After the Tigers’ 1997 College World Series title run, Bianco was named the head coach at McNeese State in July of that year.
REBELS EARN ROAD WIN, SEASON SWEEP OF NO. 16 SOUTHERN MISS
Behind 6.0 shutout innings by freshman Greer Holston, Ole Miss took down No. 16 Southern Miss 6-2 Tuesday night at Pete Taylor Park. The Rebels defeated the Golden Eagles for the second time in as many weeks, earning a season sweep over USM for the first time since 2010 and winning in Hattiesburg for the first time in eight years. Holston held one of the nation’s best offensive teams without a run and surrendered only two hits during his second start against the Golden Eagles. Southern Miss entered the contest ranked in the top 11 nationally in hits per game (10.9), runs per game (8.0) and home runs (46). Holston, along with reliever Brady Feigl, limited the Golden Eagles to two runs, five hits and without a homer. Feigl pitched the final 3.0 innings, striking out five, to collect the rare three-inning save. Ryan Olenek and Nick Fortes both continued their hot hitting with 2-for-4 performances. Olenek recorded a pair of doubles to increase his season total to 11, a team high, while Fortes added a double and two RBI. Will Golsan homered for the second consecutive game, hitting a two-run shot in the top of the ninth.
WINNING STREAK STATS
Ole Miss is riding a five-game winning streak, beating No. 16 Southern Miss in a pair of midweek games, while sweeping Alabama at home in between. Catcher Nick Fortes has paced the Ole Miss bats with a .438 average over the last five games. Will Golsan and Ryan Olenek have each hit .381 while combining for five doubles, two home runs and nine RBI. Designated hitter Tim Rowe has added four doubles and one home run as well at the dish. On the mound, sophomore Dallas Woolfolk finished off three Ole Miss victories, collecting wins in two of them. The Rebel pitching staff holds a 1.88 ERA during the winning streak, dropping its season ERA to 2.72 to rank eighth nationally.
THE YEARLY GAUNTLET
The Rebels are 11-6 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 a series over No. 15 Vanderbilt to start SEC play and took one game from No. 19 Kentucky. Eleven victories against ranked opponents are tied with Florida and Kentucky for the most in the SEC. 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.
Three of the Rebels’ last six 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.
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 nine of the Rebels’ last 10 games behind the plate. Since assuming the starting duties, Fortes is hitting a blistering .429 (12-for-28). Over the weekend, Fortes recorded five hits, scored four runs and belted his first career home run to help Ole Miss sweep Alabama. He followed that performance by going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI to lead the Rebels in a midweek win at No. 16 Southern Miss. In 20 games this season, including 14 starts, he leads the team with a .333 batting average. The Deland, Florida, native has also thrown out five baserunners in 2017.
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 leads the team in doubles (11) to go along with a .288 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 four games, Olenek is hitting .414 (12-for-29) with six doubles.
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|
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 nine outfield assists in 2017, including six over the past nine games. 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, 77 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 freshmen stepping up to the plate 31 percent of the time.
ROWE THAT BOAT!
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 .291 with a team-high .491 slugging percentage over 25 games.
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 .300 batting average, while Bortles boasts a .304 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 (22) and stolen bases (7).
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.
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 106-1 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 18-0 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 (30 starts), C Cooper Johnson (19 starts), SS Grae Kessinger (30 games) and 1B Cole Zabowski (20 starts). On the mound, five freshmen have made their presence known as well: Jason Barber (two appearances), Will Ethridge (10 appearances), Greer Holston (11 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 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 651 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
After spending the week on the road, playing four games in five days, the Rebels will have three days off until they return to the diamond. Ole Miss will begin a four-game homestand at Swayze Field, hosting Arkansas-Pine Bluff for a midweek matchup Wednesday, April 19. 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.