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Weekend Wrap-Up: No. 6 Rebels open SEC play with series win over Tennessee

Weekend Wrap-Up: No. 6 Rebels open SEC play with series win over Tennessee

OXFORD, Miss. – No. 6 Ole Miss began the first weekend of SEC play in Oxford against Tennessee. The Rebels entered the series against the Vols at 17-1, tied for the nation’s best record. Here’s your weekend wrap-up of all the action at Swayze Field.

Friday: Tennessee 8, Ole Miss 6 

(Click here for box score.)

The wind was a factor Friday night, as the Rebels and Vols traded two runs each in the bottom of the first and top of the second. Shortstop Grae Kessinger led off for the Rebels with a double and then advanced to third on Ryan Olenek’s sacrifice bunt. Kessinger scored on an RBI fielder’s choice from Nick Fortes. Thomas Dillard then singled, later scoring on a double from Will Golsan.

Tennessee answered to tie the game at two in the second inning.  Both teams would go scoreless for the next four innings–until the seventh.

Ryan Rolison (Photo: Josh McCoy)

Friday was fireworks night at Swayze–a perfect description of the seventh inning when the two teams combined for 10 runs. Unfortunately, the Vols scored six of those to the Rebels’ four.

Ole Miss ace Ryan Rolison was literally only one pitch away from getting out of the inning with no damage, but he came up just short as he walked the last batter he faced on a full count. Rolison finished the day with 99 pitches.

“I felt as good as I did out of the gates in the seventh,” Rolison said. “I didn’t make a pitch on a that 3-2 count and the best situation was to go to the pen and that is what Coach (Bianco) did.”

In the bottom half of the seventh, the Rebels fought back, continuing their two-out scoring success. Tim Elko scored first on a Jacob Adams single, and then Ryan Olenek powered a three-run home run scoring Grae Kessinger and Jacob Adams that cut the Vols’ lead to 8-6. 

In postgame interviews, shortstop Grae Kessinger expressed eagerness to get back out on the diamond. “In Long Beach, we had the same thing happen, and we bounced back,” he said.

I’m excited for tomorrow. One thing this team is really good at is staying confident. It’s huge for us to bounce back and show we’re not going to go down easy.

Grae Kessinger

Ole Miss would get a baserunner on in both the 8th and 9th innings; however, they got a bit unlucky as double plays erased the runners in each of the two innings.

Grae Kessinger (Photo: Josh McCoy)

Although Rolison left the game with a tie score, he was tagged with the loss after his runners scored in the 7th. The sophomore from Jackson, Tenn. was stellar throughout the game; at one point he sat down eight of nine hitters faced in the middle innings.

On the day, Rolison struck out 11 Volunteer hitters–and only two of the five runs charged to him were earned. With those 11 strikeouts, Rolison now has 54 K’s in five games.

Rebels with multiple hits

Several Rebels notched a multi-hit game Friday: Kessinger finished with a single and a double; Tim Elko tallied a single and a double; and Jacob Adams hit two singles.

In his postgame interview with Keith Kessinger, Coach Bianco was not worried. “We didn’t play well tonight,” he said. “There’s lots of baseball to be played this weekend.”

Saturday: Tennessee 1, Ole Miss 7

(Click here for box score.)

Ole Miss pitching:

Brady Feigl (Photo: Josh McCoy)

With beautiful spring weather in Oxford and a crowd of 8,875 in attendance Saturday afternoon, the Rebels looked to bounce back from the Friday night defeat.

Ole Miss turned to NCBWA Pitcher of the Month Brady Feigl to even the series, and he did not disappoint.

Feigl dazzled in 6 ⅓ innings pitched, allowing only a single run on four hits.  He recorded nine strikeouts with one walk and improved to 5-0 on the year.

Coach Bianco was proud of Feigl’s performance. “We needed a big effort out of him today and we got it,” he said.

Will Stokes and Max Cioffi came out of the bullpen to pitch the rest of the 7th and all of the 8th and 9th innings for Ole Miss. Together, they allowed only one hit and one walk.

Ole Miss hitting:

The Ole Miss bats provided plenty of offense with runs scored in the second, third, fourth and six innings.  In the second, Jacob Adams doubled home Tim Rowe and Tyler Keenan. In the third inning, Ole Miss manufactured a run when Kessinger singled and stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Ryan Olenek, and scored on a passed ball.

James Adams (Photo: Josh McCoy)

The big inning for Ole Miss was the fourth when the Rebels tallied three runs. Tyler Keenan and Cole Zabowski scored on another James Adams double, and then Tim Rowe scored on Grae Kessinger’s fielder’s choice.

In the sixth, Adams recorded his third hit of the game, ultimately scoring on a Kessinger double. Kessinger would suffer what was listed as a “pulled hamstring” on that double.

“We were much better offensively today . . . more aggressive,” Coach Bianco said after his team’s win that evened the series at two games.

“As a coach you’re always concerned,” Bianco continued.  “We’ve played so well, that you you want to know how you’re going to handle some adversity.”

Sunday: Tennessee 0, Ole Miss 5

(Click here for box score.)

Ole Miss pitching:

James McArthur (Photo: Josh McCoy)

After splitting the first two conference games of the season, Sunday would decide the series winner.  Before the pivotal game three, Coach Bianco told Rebels’ play-by-play guru David Kellum he was pleased with his Sunday starter, James McArthur.

“I’m proud of how consistent he’s been on Sunday,” Bianco said.

Some years, we haven’t had that Sunday guy.  James has been so good for four weeks in a row. You always have an opportunity to win when James pitches.”

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco on James McArthur

McAurhur would live up to his coach’s expectations as he threw six innings of shutout baseball in the rubber game. The junior allowed only two hits and three walks and recorded his third win of season.

“Having a chance to win the series is huge,” McArthur said after the game. “Had a lot of fun out there. Our bullpen is ridiculous–a guy like Parker (Caracci) coming in there, throwing 95-96.”

Caracci pitched a scoreless 7th, 8th and 9th, recording seven strikeouts in three innings and picking up the save, his first of the season.

Ole Miss hitting:

The Rebels’ offense hit three home runs in the game— a solo blast in the first from Jacob Adams (his second homer on the season) and another from Cole Zabowski in the sixth (his fourth on the season). Thomas Dillard hammered a two-run bomb in the eighth inning, his fifth homer of the year.

Weekend Stat Leaders:

Pitchers:

Ryan Rolison – 11 strikeouts
Brady Feigl – Win, 9 strikeouts
James McArthur – Win, 6 shut-out innings
Parker Caracci – Save, 7 strikeouts

Hitters:

Grae Kessinger – 2 games, 6 for 9, 2 doubles, 3 runs scored;
Jacob Adams – 3 games, 6 for 10, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 4 runs scored, 5 RBIs

(Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco – Video credit: Justin Dial)

Next Up for Ole Miss:

Ole Miss (19-2, 2-1 SEC) plays the annual “School Day” game on Tuesday at 11 a.m. vs. New Orleans at Swayze Field.

The Rebels will then hit the road for the first SEC road series of the season in a Thursday-Friday-Saturday matchup with A&M at Blue Bell Park in College Station. Game times are 6:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.

About The Author

Chris Muller

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 24 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.

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