OXFORD, Miss. – Entering the second weekend of the 2018 campaign, an undefeated Ole Miss team looked to continue its winning ways against the Tulane Green Wave of the American Athletic Conference.
Tulane, also undefeated, brought a 3-0 record into Oxford this weekend. Before Friday’s game, the Rebels led the all-time series 84-38-2, with the last meeting between the two programs coming in the 2016 NCAA Oxford Regional—a game which saw the Green Wave come from behind and eliminate the Rebels from post-season play, 6-5.
Using timely pitching, hitting, and defense, the Rebels emerged victorious in this weekend’s matchup and now sit at 7-0.
Game 1: Ole Miss 5, Tulane 4
Friday saw the Rebels and Green Wave begin game one under dark skies and the threat of rain. Weather radar indicated it wasn’t a question of if the rain would get to Oxford, only when it would arrive.
In the first inning, Tulane’s designated hitter Matt Rowland began the scoring with a solo home run off a 93 mile-per-hour fastball from Rebel ace Ryan Rolison. It was the only run–and only one of two hits–Rolison would give up on the day.
Striking out nine Green Wave batters, the reigning SEC pitcher of the week, Rolison, was awarded his second win of the season. He now has 21 strikeouts on the season and continues to impress.
Ole Miss would counter in the bottom of the first with two runs of its own. Right fielder Ryan Olenek took his second hit-by-pitch of the season, the 17th of his Ole Miss career. Olenek, who advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by first baseman Nick Fortes, scored on a throwing error by the Tulane catcher, who overthrew second base on Fortes’ attempted steal of second.
Tulane’s defensive woes continued as Fortes took third on a passed ball by the Green Wave catcher. Left fielder Thomas Dillard collected his second RBI of the season, scoring Fortes from third on a fielder’s choice ground out to second base.
Both starting pitchers then settled in, allowing no runs in innings two, three, and four. Rolison was aided in the fifth inning by an excellent wall-crashing, two-out catch by Dillard. The catch preserved the Rebel lead and was anything but routine.
In the bottom of the 5th, with two outs and Rebel catcher Cooper Johnson on first base, the rain and field conditions became too much to handle and the game was suspended until Saturday.
Picking up where Rolison left off, sophomore Will Ethridge took the hill in the resumed game from Friday night. Ethridge pitched scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh but ran into some trouble in the eighth, as the Green Wave notched two doubles and a home run.
Ethridge gave way to Will Stokes who got three scoreless outs. Pre-season All-SEC closer Dallas Woolfolk took care of business in the ninth inning, facing the minimum and earning his third save of the season.
Offensively, the seventh inning provided Ole Miss all the runs the Rebels would need in game one, with consecutive home runs by Cole Zabowski and Cooper Johnson, as well as an unearned run scored by Grae Kessinger. The Johnson home run traveled 348 feet and left the bat at 99 miles per hour, while the Zabowski homer traveled 371 feet and took off at 103 miles per hour.
Game 2: Ole Miss 9, Tulane 1
(Click here for box score.)
Similar to the first game, Tulane and Ole Miss traded runs in the first inning of game two. Tulane’s run would be unearned, scored by a runner who reached base on a passed ball on a strike out.
Ole Miss answered in bottom of the first with one sweet swing from short stop Grae Kessinger. The sophomore’s 374-foot solo home run tied the game at one.
“I hit it pretty well and then with the wind blowing out, I hit it high, I knew it was going to get out of here. It’s a good feeling.”
Grae Kessinger on his homer
“He was electric, one of the best outings he has had here. He had three dominant pitches today, great counts, (got) ahead of each batter.“
Coach Bianco on pitcher Brady Feigl
Feigl tallied one-two-three innings in the second, third and fourth innings. The outstanding final line for Feigl looked like this: six innings pitched, two hits given up, one run (unearned) and six strikeouts.
Rebel sophomore Parker Caracci faced the minimum in the seventh and eighth and struck out four. He was followed by freshman Maxwell Cioffi, who threw a scoreless ninth and also faced the minimum.
Rebel hitting: Ole Miss hitters notched eight runs in the middle innings as the Rebels coasted to a relatively easy 9-1 victory. In the fourth inning, catcher Nick Fortes doubled to lead off the inning, advanced on a sacrifice fly, and then scored on a subsequent sacrifice fly.
Chase Cockrell doubled in the fifth and scored after Jacob Adams’ walk and Grae Kessinger’s double. Adams then scored via a Ryan Olenek sacrifice fly.
While the fourth and fifth innings bore fruit, the big inning for the Rebels came in the sixth. Ole Miss faced four different Tulane pitchers in the sixth, as the Red and Blue sent sent 10 batters to the plate—and scored five runs.
Coach Bianco was pleased with his team’s performance, both offensively and defensively. “They looked very business-like…and mature at the plate,” he said.
“We’ve played really good defense. Today, they (the outfield) made some great plays. Those change the game.”
Coach Bianco on the Rebels’ defense
Game 3: Ole Miss 6, Tulane 3
(Click here for box score.)
For the third time in three games, the Rebels would play from behind early, allowing Tulane to score first in the first inning. Ole Miss would tie the game in the bottom of the fourth with a Dillard solo home run to right field. On the weekend, Dillard went 3 for 9 with a double and the homer.
Tulane added a fifth-inning unearned run, however, to take back the lead, 2-1.
The big inning in Sunday’s game arrived in the sixth. Powered by the second home run of the weekend from Cooper Johnson, Ole Miss plated five runs and didn’t trail the rest of the game. His three-run blast scored Will Golsan and Dillard.
Earlier in the inning, Will Golsan singled home Fortes and Kessinger. Golsan went 3 for 10 over the weekend, and in addition to his improved production at the plate, he also contributed in the outfield with a wonderful running catch in deep center field. Golsan’s catch occurred with the bases loaded and earned praise from Bianco.
“Another great catch,” Bianco said of his senior center fielder. “He was terrific.”
Pitching: Junior James McArthur started the game for Ole Miss, pitching 5 ⅓ innings and allowing only a single earned run. Coming on in relief, freshman Jordan Fowler got the win and improved to 2-0 on the season.
Also in action were, Greer Holston and Will Stokes. In what is becoming something of a pattern, closer Dallas Woolfolk faced the minimum in the ninth inning and earned his fourth save in as many chances.
The Rebels finish their opening eight-game home stand Tuesday against Murray State at 4 p.m.
Following the mid-week game, Ole Miss hits the road for the first time, going out west to California to face the Dirt Bags of Long Beach State in Friday, Saturday, Sunday action. The Dirt Bags, who have already sustained a number of season-ending injuries, own a current record of 2-5, going 1-2 this weekend at TCU.