OXFORD, Miss. – The No. 9 Ole Miss Rebels, now 9-2 on the season, defeated the Little Rock Trojans, 11-8, Tuesday afternoon at Swayze Field. Max Cioffi came on in relief and did a masterful job, earning the win in the process.
(Click here for box score.)
Here are five observations from Ole Miss’ Tuesday midweek game with Little Rock:
1. Fowler pitches four great innings
Jordan Fowler started off strong for Ole Miss in the first four innings of Tuesday’s game. Prior to the fifth, the sophomore was tossing a no-hitter—and making the Trojans batters look lost with some pretty solid breaking balls. He handed out three strikeouts and only walked one batter in his first 4.1 innings pitched.
But things went awry in the fifth inning as Fowler, with a 7-0 lead, gave up four runs after hitting two batters and giving up a couple more on some well-placed bunts. With SEC play coming up soon, he’ll need to get more consistent.
2. Max Cioffi and the relief pitchers balled out
Bianco went to his bullpen, calling on Max Cioffi to replace Fowler on the mound. Cioffi responded with an absolute gem of 3.2 innings of work. He recorded seven strikeouts and gave up no runs in his fourth appearance of the season. He got to the point of absolutely carving up the opposing hitters, before handing the ball over to Ray Falk at the start of the ninth for Falk’s first outing in a Rebel uniform.
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) March 6, 2019
Falk could not close it out, loading the bases without recording an out. Kaleb Hill came in for Falk, giving up four runs—only one of which was earned — before he closed out the game for Ole Miss.
3. In the blistering cold, the bats were hot:
Early in the contest, the Rebels were ready to hit the ball as they scored seven runs in the opening four frames. Little Rock pitching helped also as the Trojans issued five walks in the opening two innings, which gave Anthony Servideo, Tyler Keenan, and Cole Zabowski the chance to drive in five runs in the second inning, alone.
Although they didn’t come in the form of the monster homers we’ve seen over the past few weeks, several singles and doubles from all over the lineup got the job done for Ole Miss early in the ball game.
B2 | @ServideoAnthony is flexing the 💪 early today! He's 2-2 with a pair of RBI after his bases loaded single brings two more home for the Rebs.
Ole Miss 3, Little Rock 0
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) March 5, 2019
In the seventh inning, the Rebels’ offense exploded, yet again, for another four runs courtesy of some solid base-running and a couple of RBI base hits from Keenan and Grae Kessinger. Tyler, in fact, finished the day with four RBIs which gives him a team-leading 20 on the 2019 season.
Ryan Olenek and Thomas Dillard entered Tuesday’s game having notched a hit in every game thus far this season–and they continued their hitting prowess against Little Rock. Olenek extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a 2-for-4 day at the plate, while Dillard upped his to 13 (dating back to last season).
4. Catchers Extraordinaire
Dillard proved, yet again, that he is perfectly capable of spelling Cooper Johnson at catcher whenever called upon. In his second start behind the plate in 2019, Thomas gunned down two runners trying to steal a bag from the Rebels. The accuracy and arm strength are undoubtedly there for the junior clean-up hitter, so Coach Bianco has to feel good that he’s got someone he can use forJohnson, who, in his own right, is arguably the best catcher in college baseball.
Besides the fact that Dillard raked behind the plate, he also used a 1 for 2 day, with an extra three walks, to maintain a .439 average on the year, making him one of the best hitters in all of college baseball.
The point is this; Coach Mike Bianco has options at catcher that other coaches can only dream of having. No matter which is in the lineup, Ole Miss is in good hands.
5. Ole Miss gets a real test Wednesday versus ECU
While taking care of a 2-10 Little Rock team is a whole ton of fun and livens up the middle of the week, the main event arrives Wednesday night in the form of the No. 18 East Carolina Pirates.
Led by former Ole Miss staffer Cliff Godwin, ECU is sitting at 8-5 after a 4-1 loss at Mississippi State on the road in Starkville Tuesday afternoon.
Coach Bianco will put one of his most effective bullpen arms on the mound for the Rebels in the form of freshman Doug Nikhazy. In four appearances so far this season, the freshman from Florida has tossed a total of 5.0 innings with only one run given up and has notched six strikeouts in the process.
On the other side, due to some injuries on the Pirate pitching staff, Coach Godwin is likely to employ a “Johnny Fullstaff” method, where no pitcher will likely pitch more than a couple of innings. We should see a mix of several relief pitchers who will be looking to get some experience against quality hitters such as the Rebels.
First pitch is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. (CT) at Swayze and the game will be televised on the SEC Network +.
- Ole Miss improves to 9-2 on the year, and 19-4 all-time against Little Rock.
- The Rebels have yet to drop a game in their nine-game home stretch that began on Feb. 26, and they have also won six straight, dating back to a Sunday victory at Tulane on Feb. 24.
- All but one Rebel recorded a hit today, good for 13 team hits on the night.
- Ryan Olenek and Thomas Dillard entered today with hits in every game this year. With at least one hit for both of them today, Olenek increased his streak to 11 games, while Dillard upped his to 13 (dating back to last season).
- In 3.2 innings of relief work today, sophomore Max Cioffi recorded a new career high with seven strikeouts on the day. His efforts helped him secure his first career victory.
- Olenek matched the team-leader Anthony Servideo in stolen bases early today with his fifth of the year, before Servideo reclaimed his team lead with his sixth swiped bag of the year in the seventh inning. Servideo is a perfect 6-for-6 on stolen bases this year.
- Grae Kessinger tied his career best with three runs on the day.
- Tyler Keenan entered the day trailing just Thomas Dillard in RBI with 16 on the year. After a 3-for-5, four RBI day at the plate for Keenan, he has claimed the team lead with 20 on the year.
- Dillard was walked three times today, including one intentional walk in the first, a feat he has accomplished two times before, most recently last year versus Alabama.
(“Quick Hits” are courtesy of Ole Miss Baseball)