No. 6 Ole Miss opens SEC play with home series against Vols
OXFORD, Miss. – After completing the non-conference portion of its schedule with a stellar 17-1 record, Ole Miss baseball begins SEC play at home this weekend with a series against Tennessee. Thus far this season, the Rebels have notched three-game home sweeps against Winthrop, Tulane, Eastern Illinois, as well a weekend series victory on the road against Long Beach State.
Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball.com, where the Rebels are ranked No. 8, is impressed with what he has seen from the Rebels this season. “Always nice to get off to a 15-1 start—and I love that they traveled out west and won a road series at Long Beach,” he said.
Fitt believes Ole Miss, who is ranked as high as No. 6 by PerfectGame, could be a strong contender for a deep postseason run.
“The sophomores have made the jumps forward we expected, which gives me a lot of faith that we were right to rank this team in the preseason Top 10.“
Aaron Fitt on Ole Miss baseball
Tennessee, on the other hand, has struggled this season. The Vols sit at 11-6 with the worst winning percentage in the SEC East.
Ole Miss pitching
Ole Miss owns one of the best pitching staffs in college baseball. Currently, the Rebels possess the No. 1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the nation at 4.26. Pitching coach Carl Lafferty’s players are the only staff in NCAA Division I with a ratio greater than 4.0, and as a unit the Rebels’ pitchers have struck out 183 batters while walking only 43.
This weekend, the Rebels’ pitching rotation should remain the same with Ryan Rolison (Friday), Brady Feigl (Saturday), and James McArthur (Sunday) taking the mound for Ole Miss.
Rolison, a sophomore, owns an overall record of 3-1 with a 2.28 earned run average and 32 strikeouts in 23.2 innings pitched.
Feigl, who was recently named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association National Pitcher of the Month, boasts a 4-0 record and a 1.03 earned run average in 26.1 innings worked.
McArthur (2-0) sports a 1.74 earned run average, and his 16 hits allowed are the lowest of the three weekend starters.
Junior closer Dallas Woolfolk leads the SEC with six saves—good enough for sixth in the NCAA. He has not allowed an earned run this season, going 7.2 innings, striking out seven, and walking four.
Coming out of the bullpen, Will Ethridge has been dominant as of late. In his last five appearances, the sophomore has gone 8.2 IP, allowing zero runs on one hit and two walks and striking out 10. He leads the team with a strike percentage of 71.4.
The Rebels also rely on Will Stokes, Austin Miller, and Parker Caracci out of the bullpen, and they should also have Houston Roth and Greer Holston available to give some innings.
Ole Miss hitting has been solid this season. Thomas Dillard leads the team with a .350 batting average and also boasts a .650 slugging percentage with a .487 on-base percentage. It has taken Dillard just 14 games this season to equal his home run total (4) from last year.
Dillard is among the top 50 players in the nation in runs scored and seventh in the SEC with 19. Dillard also leads the Rebels in stolen bases (8), which ranks him second in the conference.
The Rebels are No. 10 in the nation and No. 4 in the SEC in doubles—with 43 thus far this season. Ryan Olenek, Grae Kessinger and Dillard each have tallied six doubles, ranking them No. 10 in the SEC.
Chase Cockrell has been rock-solid in the DH spot for Ole Miss. He has played in 12 of 16 games thus far this season, starting 10. He leads the team in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage with an incredible line of .486/.886/.513.
Grae Kessinger, who is hitting .338 this season, leads the Rebels with 24 hits. Olenek, tied for the team lead with his six doubles, owns a .318 batting average. Nick Fortes, switching between first base and catcher, leads the team with 16 runs batted in.
Senior center fielder Will Golsan is No. 4 in the nation and tied for first in the SEC with four SAC flies on the season. As a result of this, he is second on the team with 15 RBI.
Look for Cole Zabowski, Jacob Adams, Tyler Keenan, Cooper Johnson, Tim Elko and Anthony Servideo, to also contribute this weekend.
Ole Miss is 16th in the nation and 5th in the SEC with 21 homers on the year. The Rebels are averaging 1.17 home runs per game, with three Ole Miss players—Nick Fortes, Thomas Dillard, and Chase Cockrell—notching multi-home-run games this season.
Dillard and Fortes are tied for the team lead with four each, while Cockrell and Zabowski each have hit three.
Ten different Diamond Rebels have hit a home run this season, with five of those hitting two or more.
Scouting the Vols
Garrett Crochet started for the Vols against Cincinnati last Friday night and is the probable starter this Friday against Ole Miss. He brings a 1-2 record and a 3.57 earned run average into the contest.
Garrett Stallings is the probable Game 2 starter for Tennessee. His record is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA. Last week for the Vols, Will Neely threw a complete game and improved his record to 2-0. Neely’s ERA is 3.86 over 23.1 innings pitched.
Defensively, expect Tennessee to start with Zach Daniels, Brodie Leftridge, and Justin Ammons from left to right in the outfield. Wyatt Stapp, Andre Lipcius, Jay Charleston, and Pete Derkey will man third to first in the infield, with Benito Santiago at catcher.
Offensively, Santiago leads the Volunteers in batting average (.371), as well as hits (23). Charleston leads Tennessee with 15 runs scored, while Lipcius leads the team with 19 RBI. Lipcius and Daniels are tied with for the home run lead with three each.
Tennessee ranks last in the SEC in both hitting and pitching. The Vols’ batting average sits at .266, while their pitching enters the series with the Rebels with a 4.42 ERA. They are also second to last in fielding, as well as in runs scored.
Dates: March 16-18, 2018
Venue: Swayze Field, Oxford, MS
First Pitch: Friday: 7:00 p.m. | Saturday/Sunday: 1:30 p.m.
TV: SEC Network + (Doug Cross, Play-by-Play; Brady Bramlett, Analyst)
Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, Play-by-Play; Keith Kessinger, Analyst)
Given the quality of the Ole Miss pitching staff, the Rebels’ strength at the plate, and Tennessee’s corresponding lack of offensive production, it is not unreasonable to expect a sweep for the home team.
It’s time to bring out the brooms for the 4th time this season.
Chris is our Director of Baseball Content and Senior Baseball Writer. Muller is a 1995 Graduate of Ole Miss. He is a collegiate recreational sports professional currently residing in Arlington Texas with his wife of 25 years, Amber, and German Shorthaired Pointer, Sophie. Chris is an avid Ole Miss Baseball and Football fan. His hobbies include watching college football and baseball and playing poker with his friends.