Finishing an eight-game road trip, the No. 4 Ole Miss Rebels traveled to Nashville to take on the No. 14 ranked Vanderbilt Commodores this past weekend. Top 25 matchups are usually competitive, and this series was no exception. Head coach Tim Corbin’s Vanderbilt teams are always talented and play hard, smart baseball.
Friday Night: Ole Miss 11, Vanderbilt 3
(Click here for box score.)
Ole Miss was firing on all cylinders in game one of the series, prompting head coach Mike Bianco to say it was as complete of a game as his team has played all year.
Right fielder Ryan Olenek recorded another outstanding day at the plate, going 4 for 5 and scoring four runs. The Winter Park, Florida native extended his current team-high hitting streak to 13 games. Entering the weekend, the junior was hitting .468 with 22 hits in league play.
After Friday night’s game Olenek acknowledged his success at the plate. “I’m seeing it well,” he said. “Our whole offense is seeing the ball well.”
Bianco recognized Olenek’s contributions. “Facing big-time arms, (he’s) getting great swings off,” he said of Olenek. “He’s carried us in so many of these games offensively.”
Following a solid outing in Starkville the weekend before, Ryan Rolison returned to the mound as the Friday night starter, a spot he has held for the majority of the season. The draft-eligible sophomore threw 5 ⅔ innings in Friday’s game, giving up only two runs on six hits while striking out eight Commodores.
Leaving the game with a 6-2 Ole Miss lead, Rolison notched the win and improved to 5-3 on the year. It was the left hander’s second SEC victory in a row.
Other Rebels with a strong day at the plate include catcher Nick Fortes, who went 3 for 5 including a double and a triple with three RBIs; left fielder Thomas Dillard, who tallied three hits and an RBI; and, co-captain Will Golsan, who had two hits—including a solo home run in the 7th inning—and two RBIs.
In total, Ole Miss pounded out 14 hits and scored 11 runs.
Somewhat lost in the offensive onslaught was a great defensive play by catcher Fortes in the third inning, as he retired a Commodores batter on a bunt attempt that ended in a pop-out to Fortes with runners on first and second.
Sunday, Game 1: Ole Miss 7, Vanderbilt 8
(Click here for box score.)
Due to forecasted rain all day Saturday in the Nashville area, the call was made early to postpone Saturday’s game to Sunday, resulting in two, league-mandated seven-inning games.
Per the SEC Manual: “If weather prevents playing both the Friday and Saturday games, or if the Saturday game does not begin because of rain, there shall be two seven-inning games on Sunday. If a Friday game is postponed and no games are played on Saturday, the postponed game shall be resumed on Sunday, followed by a seven inning game.”
Brady Feigl returned to his usual position as the starter of game two. The Rebel co-captain pitched 5 ⅓ inning in the first game Sunday, allowing only two hits. He gave up four runs, three of which were earned. Due to the late-inning scoring from Ole Miss, Feigl, who recorded four strikeouts on the day, did not factor into the decision.
Vanderbilt starter Patrick Raby held the usually hot-hitting Rebels scoreless for the first four innings of the shortened game. At one point, Raby had retired 13 straight Ole Miss hitters.
The Rebels, however, would not be held down as they scored a run in both the fifth and sixth innings, including a homer from Ryan Olenek that extend his hitting streak to 14 games.
Trailing 5-2 going into the seventh, Ole Miss posted a four-run rally to take a one-run lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. The inning began with singles from Cole Zabowski and Will Golsan.
Freshman Tyler Keenan was then hit by a pitch and that loaded the bases for the Rebels. Following a Vandy pitching change, Ole Miss’ Chase Cockrell was also hit by a pitch which scored the first Rebels’ run of the inning.
Jacob Adams then grounded to second which scored a run and moved runners up to second and third. Grae Kessinger flew out to right field, scoring Anthony Servideo. Olenek soon singled home Michael Spears to give Ole Miss a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of what was to be the final inning.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, Vanderbilt tied the score in the bottom of the seventh and to extra innings we went. Thomas Dillard led off the Rebels’ half of the eighth with a double, eventually scoring on a Golsan sacrifice fly. Ole Miss took a slim, one-run lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning. The Commodores battled and ultimately scored two runs to defeat the Rebels, 8-7, in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader.
Sunday, Game 2: Ole Miss 7, Vanderbilt 8
(Click here for box score.)
The hidden ball trick—a rarely used play that seldom works, and one you are more likely to see at your local little league field rather than on an SEC baseball diamond–played a role in the rubber game of the series.
In game two of the doubleheader Sunday, Ole Miss fell prey to the sneakiness of the Commodores. Nick Fortes hit a two-run double that advanced Ryan Olenek to third base with no one out. Olenek, who stepped off the bag to talk to his coach, was immediately tagged out by the Vandy third baseman who had never actually returned the ball to the Commodores’ pitcher following the Fortes double.
While some called foul play on the hidden ball trick, it was completely legal as the Vandy pitcher had never returned to the mound area.
It’s worth noting here that one of the special things about this Ole Miss team is they don’t quit, and their never-say-die attitude was on display in game two of the doubleheader.
Down 5-1 going into the fifth inning of the shortened game, freshman Tyler Keenan gave the Rebels something to get excited about on the first pitch of the inning, depositing a homer into the right field bleachers.
Not done, Ole Miss would see consecutive singles from Chase Cockrell, Jacob Adams, Grae Kessinger and Olenek. Olenek’s hit streak continues, now at 15 straight games.
The aforementioned double by Fortes completed the scoring in the fifth and tied the game. The sixth inning saw the Rebels take a 7-5 lead on three singles and a walk.
Unfortunately, Ole Miss couldn’t maintain the lead as the Commodores loaded the bases and cleared them with a double that gave Vandy an 8-7 lead that would prove to be the final score.
Sunday starter James McArthur did not factor into the decision as he left the game in the fourth inning with the Rebels trailing at the time. Will Ethridge was given the loss, following his two-inning appearance where he allowed three runs and Vandy took the lead for good.
“Defensively and pitching, we gotta to tighten it up,” Coach Bianco said after the game.“ We’ll be excited to be at home, finally,” he added.
- Of the Rebels’ eight defeats this season, seven have come by two runs or fewer.
- Sunday marked the fifth doubleheader of the season for Ole Miss.
- Ole Miss has tallied double-figure hits in eight of the last nine games.
- Ryan Olenek extended his hit streak to 15 games, tying Thomas Dillard for the longest streak of the season. He’s reached base successfully in 17 straight contests.
- Olenek continued his incredible tear, going 4-for-7 Sunday with 2 RBI, a run scored, a double and a home run.
- Tyler Keenan stayed hot for the Rebels, going 2-for-4 Sunday with two runs scored, two RBI, a double and a home run.
- Will Golsan turned in a strong weekend at the plate, going 5-for-9 with four runs scored and two RBI in Nashville.
- James McArthur tallied a season-high eight strikeouts in the second game of the doubleheader.
Next up for Ole Miss:
The Rebels return home Wednesday to face the Red Wolves of Arkansas State. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. The weekend brings the Georgia Bulldogs to Oxford with in a Friday-Saturday-Sunday series. Weekend start times are 6:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m., respectively.