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Weekend Wrap-up: No. 9 Ole Miss completes series sweep of UAB

Weekend Wrap-up: No. 9 Ole Miss completes series sweep of UAB

OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss baseball’s final non-conference weekend series brought the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) to Swayze. The Conference USA Blazers entered the three-game series with a 9-4 record, including series sweeps of SIU-Edwardsville and Holy Cross as well as a series win over Radford.

Ole Miss swept the series with the Blazers and moves to 12-3 on the season. Here’s a wrap-up of all the action.

Game One: Ole Miss 15, UAB 9

(Click here for box score.)

Inclement weather forecasted for Friday evening caused first pitch to be moved up from 6:00 p.m to 3:00 p.m.

Buoyed by the most explosive offensive inning thus far this year, the Rebels cruised to victory in the series opener.  In the second inning, alone, Ole Miss sent 14 batters to the plate. First baseman Cole Zabowski started the scoring with a two-run home run that scored junior Ryan Olenek.

Rebels’ designated hitter Kevin Graham, who received his first start on Friday, made his first hit count, hammering a 400-foot, three-run homer that scored Cooper Johnson and Chase Cockrell.

“I got one I could drive, (at) 2-2,” Graham said excitedly after the game.

We knew we were going to put up our runs, (and) our pitchers were going to hold them for us.” 

Ole Miss freshman Kevin Graham

But the Ole Miss bats were not yet done in the second. Grae Kessinger doubled, followed by an Anthony Servideo RBI double, a single from Thomas Dillard, and an RBI double from Olenek. 

Coming off his home run earlier in the inning, Zabowski continued to put runs on the scoreboard with an RBI single. Olenek scored the ninth and final run of the inning when Cockrell grounded into a fielder’s choice.

“It was a good day for a lot of people,” said head coach Mike Bianco. 

Always proud of guys in their first start when they play well, but a lot of guys played well.  Oley (Ryan Olenek) continues to swing a hot bat, Z-Bo (Cole Zabowski) with a big home run and several RBIs, and Grae (Kessinger) gets a few hits for us. Just a good day offensively.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco

Quality at-bats

After the game, Coach Bianco noted his team had 17 quality at-bats in a row. 

So what is a quality at-bat, also known as a “QAB?” It’s a statistic often mentioned but not found in the box score. 

On briancain.com, former Ole Miss assistant coach Cliff Godwin, now the head coach of East Carolina, defines a quality at-bat as: “…an at-bat that makes a positive contribution towards our team goals.”

Godwin goes on to explain further that a quality at-bat can consist of:  

“…executing a hit and run, sac bunt, sac drag, squeeze; executing a bunt for a hit; walk, hit by pitch or catcher’s interference; moving a runner from second base to third base with no outs; driving in a run from third base with less than two outs; any RBI; all hard hit balls; 8+ pitch at-bats; and, finally, when you see four or more pitches after you are down 0-2 in the count.”

“You’re going to score a lot of runs when you have 17 quality at-bats in a row,” Coach Bianco said after his team’s game-one victory. . 

The other multi-run inning for the Rebels occurred in the sixth, when Ole Miss plated three runs on a double-steal of home and on two RBI singles.

In the opening game of the series, Olenek led the Rebels, going 3-5, while Graham notched a team-high four RBI. 

On the mound

Starter Will Ethridge showed no ill effects from an early-season finger injury, pitching five complete innings and allowing only one earned run on five hits.

“I thought he pitched really well and the finger’s in good shape,” Coach Bianco said. “(This) sets him up for next week.”

Game Two: Ole Miss 13, UAB 4

(Click here for box score.)

Saturday’s game was also affected by weather, as the 1:30 p.m. start time was pushed back to 7:45 p.m. Despite the time delay, the Ole Miss bats remained hot as the Red and Blue scored multiple runs in four different frames. 

Though the Rebels didn’t score in the first, they got going in the second as they notched three runs via an RBI double off the bat of catcher Cooper Johnson, a run scored on a wild pitch, and an RBI groundout from Jacob Adams.

After two complete, Ole Miss led the Blazers, 3-1. 

The big blow arrived in the third inning in the form of a two-run home run off the bat of third baseman Tyler Keenan. Keenan increased his season home run total to five. 

Additional hits in the third include an RBI single from Zabowski, an RBI sacrifice fly from Johnson, and an RBI hit-by-pitch from Kessinger that helped stretch the Ole Miss lead to 8-2.

In the fourth, Zabowski hammered a two-RBI double that gave Coach Bianco’s team a 10-2 advantage. 

In the seventh, Tim Elko and Carl Gindl each hit doubles that resulted in two more runs for the Rebs, moving the score to 13-2 in favor of the home team. 

The Blazers would score two in the eighth inning but would fall far short of a comeback.

Saturday starter Zack Phillips looked solid on the mound, allowing just one earned run on six hits and one walk, paired with seven strikeouts over seven complete innings as he earned his first win as a Rebel. 

This is the Zack Phillips we’ve been waiting for,” Bianco said. “(He) goes six innings without a walk—picked up a new pitch, a cutter/slider, (and), boy, it was a big pitch for him.

Coach Mike Bianco on pitcher Zack Phillips

Game Three: Ole Miss 2, UAB 1

(Click here for box score.)

Dillard hits his 7th home run of the year. (Photo: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Runs would be hard to come by in Sunday’s game, the complete opposite of the two previous games in the series.

After five scoreless innings—that saw the Blazers take a 1-0 lead in the third—the Rebels finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth. 

Thomas Dillard took the first pitch he saw, a 97 mile-per-hour fastball to dead center field, for his seventh home run of the season.

Dillard’s hit tied the game at 1-1 and extended the junior’s hitting streak to 17 games, going all the way back to last season. 

“I was just going up there looking for a pitch out over the middle of the plate,” Dillard said. 

I knew he was going to try and challenge me. So, he happened to throw it right over the middle and I just put a good swing on it. 

Thomas Dillard on his game-tying homer

The Rebels added an insurance run in the seventh when Servideo scored after a single from Keenan and a fielding error by the UAB right fielder.

On the mound: 

Freshman Gunnar Hoglund threw 3 ⅓ innings, allowing a single run on four hits. In relief, Conner Green improved his record to 3-0, while Parker Caracci, who entered in the eighth, recorded a five-out save, his second save of the weekend. 

Gunnar Hoglund pitched 3 1/3 for the Rebels, giving up one run. (Photo: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Caracci was aided in the eighth inning by an offensive interference call after replay indicated the UAB batter stepped into Johnson’s throwing lane to second base, ending the Blazer threat in the inning. 

The Ole Miss bullpen—Austin Miller, Green, Doug Nikhazy and Caracci—held the Blazers hitless from the fourth inning all the way to the ninth. 

“I’m really proud of what Parker did today,” said teammate Dillard. 

“(We) pitched it really well, good defense after the first,” Coach Bianco said. “The game probably was actually was won by the offense (based on the ability to rest the bullpen previously in the weekend).”

Quick Hits

  • Ole Miss improves to 12-3 on the year, and 16-10 all-time versus UAB.
  • This will be the Rebels’ second sweep of the year, with three-game victories over UAB and Long Beach State.
  • Almost a month into the season, Connor Green has still yet to allow a run, earned or otherwise, in six relief appearances on the season. Green turned in 1.1 innings of scoreless baseball today after inheriting a bases loaded situation in the sixth inning.
  • Green picked up his third win of the year today, matching Will Ethridge for the most on the team.
  • Parker Caracci earned his second save of the year after working the final 1.2 innings of this ballgame.
  • Thomas Dillard extended his hitting streak to 17 games today with a home run in the sixth inning. He now has a team-high seven homers on the season.
  • With two more intentional walks today, Dillard has now been intentionally put on first five times this year.
  • Austin Miller has been terrific in six appearances out of the bullpen, and he continued his stellar season with 2.1 scoreless innings today, lowering his ERA to 0.50.

(“Quick Hits” are courtesy of Ole Miss Baseball.)

Next Up: 

The Rebels hit the road for a two-game midweek series against current No. 8-ranked Louisville.

An interesting note on the Cardinals: Louisville features a former Rebel assistant at head coach in Dan McDonnell as well as player Ben Bianco, son of Coach Bianco. 

Ole Miss begins league play this coming weekend as Alabama visits Oxford-University Stadium for a Friday-Sunday series. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday night and 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 

Chris Muller
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 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.

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 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.

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