OXFORD, Mississippi – The 19th ranked Ole Miss baseball team squared off against the unranked Bulldogs from Starkville in a weekend series where both clubs brought in identical 3-3 records in conference play. Something had to give. During Thursday’s ESPNU broadcast, Rebel Skipper Mike Bianco commented on the rivalry between Ole Miss and State saying, “It means everything.”
Thursday: Ole Miss 3, Mississippi State 4
The Rebels received extremely solid pitching Thursday night start from James McArthur, the sophomore from New Braunfels, Texas. McArthur pitched 6 ⅔ innings, leaving the Rebels with a 3-0 lead. The righty struck out five, allowed four Bulldog hits, and issued two walks. He was dinged for two earned runs and did not factor into the decision.
Reliever Will Stokes was not able to record an out in the 7th and left the game after surrendering three runs. Will Ethridge and Dallas Woolfolk finished the game on the mound for Ole Miss, throwing a combined 2 ⅓ innings and allowing no earned runs.
Offensively, Tate Blackman, the junior second baseman, had half the Ole Miss hits. He was 2 for 3 in the game, including a single, a double and two walks. Blackman also batted in two runs.
Designated hitter Thomas Dillard recorded a hit and the other Rebel RBI. The Ole Miss runs were scored in the 4th and 5th inning, while State scored three in 7th and the winning run on a passed ball strike-out that allowed Bulldog Jake Mangum to score from third.
Friday: Ole Miss 3, Mississippi State 5
In Friday’s game, Ole Miss gained the lead in the second inning on an RBI single by Grae Kessinger, a true freshman from Oxford. State scored a run in the third inning to tie things but watched as the Rebels regained the lead in the bottom of the third when catcher Nick Fortes singled home third baseman Colby Bortles.
The Bulldogs were buoyed by home runs off the bats of Brent Rooker and Cody Brown.
Ole Miss got the bats going with 11 hits throughout the night but could only manage three extra-base hits: two doubles by center fielder Ryan Olenek, who went 3 for 4 and a double by Nick Fortes, who also went 3 for 4.
Ole Miss starter David Parkinson was touched up a bit, allowing five earned runs in 4 ⅔ innings pitched. However, Parkinson struck out eight of the 23 batters he faced.
Brady Feigl went 4 ⅓ innings out of the bullpen for the Rebels, allowing no earned runs and striking out six Bulldogs in a spectacular relief appearance.
Saturday: Ole Miss 1, Mississippi State 2
The Ole Miss bats were held at bay Saturday with the Rebels managing only one run on four hits.
In his first SEC start, freshman Ryan Rollison pitched six full innings. Will Ethridge saw action in his second game of series, pitching two complete innings, recording four strike-outs and allowing no runs—and keeping the Rebs within a run of the Bulldgos.
Bortles recorded the lone Ole Miss RBI, scoring Olenek in the first inning. He was the sole Rebel with multiple hits.
Head Coach Mike Bianco was proud of starter Ryan Rollison after the game, saying he was “terrific.” He added: “We have to continue to fight and believe in one another.”
The last time the Ole Miss was swept by State was 14 years ago in 2003.
Support for the home team
After the rain blew out of Oxford Thursday afternoon, Ole Miss fans showed up at the park to support the Rebels. Attendance was good throughout the weekend with 8,521 attending on Thursday, and the fourth and fifth-best crowds in Swayze history present on Friday (11,017) and Saturday (11,204). Over 30,000 fans attended the weekend series.
What’s Next for Ole Miss
On Tuesday, the Rebels travel to Trustmark Park, home of the Mississippi Braves, to face in-state foe Southern Miss. Then, the upcoming weekend series is on a traditional Friday, Saturday, Sunday schedule as Ole Miss stays at the friendly confines of Swayze Field to square off against SEC West rival Alabama. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday night and 3:00 p.m on both Saturday and Sunday.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)