Weekend Preview: No. 4 Ole Miss takes on No. 14 Vandy in SEC road series
OXFORD, Miss. — On Tuesday, Ole Miss defeated Southern Miss, 11-3, in Pearl, giving the Rebels the two-game season sweep over the Golden Eagles and improving their record to 28-6 overall and 7-5 in Southeastern Conference play.
This weekend the Rebels finish their eight-game road trip with a visit to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Here’s our preview of the weekend matchup.
Ole Miss ranks No. 4 in this week’s USA Today Coaches Poll, No. 5 in the D1Baseball, NCBWA, and Baseball America rankings, and No. 9 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.
The Commodores are ranked No. 14 by Baseball America, No.15 by D1Baseball, No.16 by USA Today Coaches and NCBWA, and No. 20 by Collegiate Baseball.
Rebels receiving awards
For the second week in a row, Ole Miss third baseman Tyler Keenan garnered SEC Freshman of the Week Honors. The Clayton, North Carolina native is the first Ole Miss player to receive Freshman of the Week Honors in consecutive weeks. For the week, Keenan went 6 for 16, including a two-run home run Sunday against State, notched three RBI and scored four runs.
In week eight, Parker Caracci and Keenan received SEC Pitcher of the Week and Co-Freshman of the Week Awards, respectively. Caracci was also named to two mid-season All-American Teams, earning a second-team Midseason All-American distinction from Perfect Game/Rawlings and D1Baseball.com’s All-American Team.
Ryan Rolison was named SEC Pitcher of the Week for week one of the season, and team co-captain Brady Feigl was named NCBWA Player of the Month for February.
Scouting the Commodores
Vandy comes in with an identical 7-5 record in league play and 20-13 overall record. Last week, the Commodores won their series with Georgia, 2-1, losing the first game (3-2) before coming back to win the final two (a 5-3 win on Saturday and an 8-3 win on Sunday).
Last We Met
Ole Miss hosted Vanderbilt in March, 2017, winning two of three tightly contested games over the Commodores. In game one, Ole Miss eked out a hard-fought 1-0 win. The lone run was scored by Thomas Dillard off a Tim Rowe single in the sixth inning. David Parkinson threw six innings of shutout baseball and earned the win. Dallas Woolfolk took care of the Commodores in 1-2-3 fashion in the 9th and recorded the save.
In game two last season, the Rebels fell, 6-2, with Brady Feigl absorbing the loss. Thomas Dillard smacked his third home run of the season.
In the rubber game last year, the bats came out for both teams and the Rebels sealed the game with three runs in the bottom of the eighth. Dallas Woolfolk earned the two-inning win in relief. Offensively, the Rebels had home runs from Tim Rowe and Colby Bortles, along with a double from Chase Cockrell.
Ole Miss Batting Leaders
Batting Average: Chase Cockrell, .386, Ryan Olenek, .369 (4th in the SEC)
At Bats: Will Golsan, 132
Runs Scored: Thomas Dillard, 33 (tied for 8th in SEC)
Hits: Ryan Olenek, 48 (4th in SEC)
Doubles: Ryan Olenek, 13 (tied for 1st in SEC)
Triples: Will Golsan and Thomas Dillard, 2 (tied for 6th in SEC)
Home Runs: Thomas Dillard, Cole Zabowski, and Nick Fortes, 7 (tied for 12th in SEC)
RBIs: Thomas Dillard, 35 (tied for 4th in SEC)
Hitting Streak: Ryan Olenek is currently second in active SEC hitting streaks with a streak of 12.
Vanderbilt Batting Leaders
Batting Average: J.J. Bleday, .372
At Bats: Pat DeMarco, 131
Runs Scored: Austin Martin and Conner Kaiser, 26
Hits: Pat DeMarco, 39
Doubles: Ethan Paul, 10 (tied for 7th in the SEC)
Triples: 3 players tied with 1
Home Runs: Ethan Paul, 5
RBIs: Ethan Paul, 30 (tied for 12th in the SEC)
Expect Stephen Scott to catch for the Commodores. The infield 1st to 3rd will be Julian Infante or Austin Martin at first, Ethan Paul at second, Conner Kaiser at shortstop, and either Austin Martin or Jayson Gonzalez or Harrison Ray at third. In the outfield, Vandy will start Cooper Davis or Harrison Ray in left field, Alonzo Jones at center, and Pat DeMarco in right field.
Anticipated Lineup for the Commodores
- 3B/1B Austin Martin
- CF Alonzo Jones
- DH Philip Clarke
- RF Pat DeMarco or 3B Jayson Gonzalez
- 2B Ethan Paul or C Stephen Scott
- SS Conner Kaiser or RF Pat DeMarco
- C Stephen Scott or 2B Ethan Paul
- LF Cooper Davis or SS Conner Kaiser or 3B Harrison Ray
- 1B Julian Infante or LF Harrison Ray or LF Cooper Davis
Projected Pitching Match-ups:
After experimenting with the move of Ryan Rolison to Saturday and Brady Feigl to Friday, head coach Mike Bianco announced this week he will return to the rotation of Rolison on Friday, Feigl on Saturday, and James McArthur on Sunday.
Ole Miss: LHP Ryan Rolison (4-3) brings a 3.28 ERA into the game in 46.2 IP.
Vanderbilt: RHP Drake Fellows (4-1) has a 2.51 ERA this season, good enough for 10th in the SEC, with 46.2 IP.
Ole Miss: RHP Brady Fiegl (6-2) brings a 3.09 ERA into Saturday’s game over 46.2 IP. His six wins tie him at 3rd in the SEC.
Vanderbilt: Patrick Raby (2-4) has a 2.88 ERA this season in 34.1 IP.
Ole Miss: James McArthur (4-0) brings a 2.54 ERA into Sunday’s game over 39.0 IP.
Team Comparison (stats as of 4/12/18 via the SEC website):
In overall batting average, Ole Miss sits 3rd in the SEC at .303, while Vandy is 13th .268.
The Rebels have scored 241 runs this season, while the Commodores have notched 2017. Ole Miss has tallied 38 home runs (3rd best in SEC), and Vandy has hit 28. Ole Miss also leads the Commodores in doubles, 75 to 53.
Ole Miss is near the top in most of the statistical pitching categories. The Rebels’ pitching staff ranks 5th in the conference in team ERA (3.13), continues to lead the conference in strike-outs (337), and is second in the most important category: wins (28).Comparatively, Vandy sports a 3.45 team ERA, has garnered 328 strike-outs, and earned 20 wins.
Ole Miss is fielding at a .979 clip, having committed 26 errors.
Vanderbilt plays clean baseball. The Commodores have committed a league-low 19 errors and are second in the conference with a .984 fielding percentage.
Expect Ole Miss to bounce back from a tough weekend that saw the Rebels drop their first series of the season. After putting up 11 runs against Southern Miss Tuesday, the team regained its swagger. Top to bottom, there are no easy outs as the lineup Mike Bianco sends to the plate is relentless.
It’s not likely to be a sweep, but I expect Ole Miss to end the road trip on a high note, taking two of three from the Commodores.