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Weekend Wrap-Up: Ole Miss sweeps series from Long Beach State

Weekend Wrap-Up: Ole Miss sweeps series from Long Beach State

OXFORD, Miss. — Amidst a nine-game home stand, the Rebels’ longest of the season, Ole Miss welcomed the Dirtbags of Long Beach State to Oxford-University Stadium this weekend for a three-game series. Although they were picked third in the Big West by the conference coaches, the 0-7 Dirtbags had underperformed entering the series with the Rebels–and the trend continued, as Ole Miss swept the series.

Game One: Ole Miss 7, Long Beach State 2

(Click here for box score.)

Having missed a start against Tulane last weekend with a blistered finger, Ole Miss ace Will Ethridge took the mound Friday night for the first time in two weeks. On a pitch count, Ethridge showed no signs of a lingering injury, throwing three complete and allowing no runs on two hits. 

Will Ethridge took the mound in game one for the Rebels. (Photo: Ole Miss Baseball)

Head Coach Mike Bianco was pleased with Ethridge’s outing. “He was good tonight. For not pitching for two weeks, that’s about as good as you can pitch,” Bianco commented. 

Houston Roth entered in relief after Ethridge, allowing the only two runs Long Beach would score.

Junior Austin Miller took the mound in the sixth inning and threw the final four innings of scoreless baseball. The Dirtbags managed only one hit against Miller, who earned his second win of the season. 

“(Miller has) pitched a lot of meaningful innings this year—given us some big zeros,” Bianco said. “Great night for him.”

Offensively, the Rebels scored five runs in the first three innings and never looked back. In the first inning, Ole Miss scored two runs on two RBI singles from left fielder Thomas Dillard and designated hitter Chase Cockrell.

Catcher Cooper Johnson, who doubled to lead off the second, scored the lone Rebel run in the inning on an RBI single off the bat of second baseman Jacob Adams.

The third inning saw the Red and Blue plate two runs, one via Johnson’s sacrifice fly and the other via a throwing error by the Long Beach catcher.

In the eighth inning, after four scoreless frames for the Rebels, Ole Miss recorded two additional two-out runs as Adams and junior shortstop Grae Kessinger delivered RBI singles.

Adams finished 2 for 3 in the game with two RBIs. “I stuck to the approach, didn’t try to do too much,” he said after the game. “It’s an exciting night. It’s always good to get that first win. It’s a fun lineup to be in…some great teammates I have,” Adams added.

With forecasted rain for the Oxford area, Sunday’s game three was moved to Saturday, giving the Rebs their first doubleheader of the season. 

Game 2: Ole Miss 7, Long Beach State 6

(Click here for box score.)

The Rebels would be forced to play from behind as Long Beach scored a run in the first inning of game one of Saturday’s doubleheader. In the second inning, however, Ole Miss tied the game at one in when first baseman Cole Zabowski scored on a Long Beach State wild pitch. 

In a back and forth affair, the Dirtbags would retake the lead, 2-1, in the fourth inning. Rebel batters were held off scoreboard in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. 

Junior college transfer Zack Phillips started his third Saturday of the season for the Rebels, and the lefty pitched five complete innings, allowing just two runs and recording five strikeouts.

Conner Green, who entered in relief in the sixth inning,  dazzled on the mound, facing the minimum and allowing no runs, no hits and no walks. The senior has not allowed a run, thus far, in 7.2 innings during the 2019 campaign.

Down a run entering the seventh, the Ole Miss bats came alive. Pinch runner Carl Gindl scored on a Dirtbag wild pitch. Then, preseason Collegiate Baseball All-American center fielder Ryan Olenek and preseason All-SEC third baseman Tyler Keenan hit back-to-back doubles, with Keenan’s scoring Olenek and Kessinger to give Ole Miss a 4-2 lead after seven complete.

The Rebel lead was short-lived as Long Beach roughed up Ole Miss closer Parker Caracci in the eighth inning. 

Caracci was dinged with three earned runs and left the game with the bases loaded, yielding to freshman Doug Nikhazy.  A Dirtbag double soon cleared the bases and three runs scored, giving Long Beach State a 6-4 lead after eight and a half innings. 

Conner Green (shown here against UT Martin) dazzled against Long Beach State. (Photo: Ole Miss Baseball)

The Rebels kept fighting back, scoring two runs in the eighth off Anthony Servideo’s RBI single and Kessinger’s RBI groundout.

It was a scary top of the ninth for the Ole Miss faithful. 

During the frame, Long Beach had runners on first and second with no outs, followed by bases loaded with one out, when they unsuccessfully attempted to score on a Rebel wild pitch—but it was not to be. 

An outstanding defensive play by catcher Cooper Johnson got Dirtbags’ leadoff batter Tanner Carlson out at home. Long Beach State’s Chase Luttrell then grounded out to short to end the inning with the two teams tied at 6-6. 

In the bottom of the ninth, Rebel fans were treated to the most exciting at-bat of the weekend. 

Thomas Dillard, reigning SEC Player of the Week and Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of Week, entered the batter’s box with the score tied at six and one out.

Dillard, who entered the weekend with five home runs and 16 RBIs, is always a threat to go deep. He had gone 0 for 4 on the day—until his final at bat. 

The junior took three straight balls from the Dirtbag Pitcher. With his power, Dillard received the green light to hit on the 3-0 pitch, and with one swing of his bat, the game was over. 

The “walk-off” was complete when Dillard’s home run reached the student section over the right field wall. On his way from third to home, Dillard tossed his batting helmet high into the air and met his teammates at the plate to celebrate the win.

He happened to throw the ball right down the middle, and 3-0 I’m going to swing as hard as I can.

Thomas Dillard on his walk-off home run

Game 3: Ole Miss 5, Long Beach State 3

(Click here for box score.)

After having emerged victorious in games one and two, the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader provided the Red and Blue with an opportunity for the first series sweep of the 2019 season. Although Ole Miss would never trail in the game, the pesky Dirtbags would not make things easy for the Rebels.

Freshman right-hander Gunnar Hoglund threw five innings for the Rebels, allowing just a single run on six hits.

It was Hoglund’s “best outing of the year,” said Bianco. “He pitched with a lot more confidence today.”

Offensively, Ole Miss plated three runs in the first two innings with RBI singles in the first from Tyler Keenan and Thomas Dillard, along with an RBI double from Anthony Servideo in the second.

Runs would prove tough to come by on Saturday night as the cold air and swirling Swayze winds came into play. 

Long Beach scored two runs in the sixth inning off Ole Miss reliever Tyler Myers, and the Dirtbags and Rebels were tied at 3-3. 

In the sixth inning, Dillard proved he’s not just a threat at the plate—but can also flash the leather in the outfield, as he took away a lead-off double from the Dirtbags.

Junior Taylor Broadway took the hill in the seventh for the Rebels. Over three innings, he faced one over the minimum and ultimately earned the win. 

“He was terrific . . . he’s been lights-out,” Bianco said of Broadway. 

The eighth inning proved the depth of the Ole Miss bench. After loading the bases with one out, freshman Justin Bench came up to bat. He took a 3-2 pitch back up the middle, scoring Ryan Olenek and Cooper Johnson in the process.  

The hit was Bench’s first of his career and is a sure sign of future success. “Everybody in the dugout knew he would be successful,” Coach Bianco said. “He looks like how he’s been playing every day,” he added. 

Quick Hits

  • Ole Miss improves to 8-2 on the year and 6-2 all time against Long Beach State.
  • Thomas Dillard’s game-winning homer in game one was the Rebels’ last walk-off home run since Tate Blackman did it on April 8, 2017 against Alabama. Coincidentally, Blackman was also threw out today’s ceremonial first pitch.
  • Dillard entered as the team leader in home runs with five, and extended on his lead with his sixth of the year in game one.
  • Junior Zack Phillips set new career bests in game one with 5.0 innings pitched and five strikeouts.
  • Senior Connor Green has been one of the most dependable arms in the Rebel bullpen this season, and he didn’t disappoint in game one today. He has still yet to allow a run all year, after going 2.0 scoreless innings today with no hits and a pair of strikeouts.
  • Ryan Olenek trailed just Cooper Johnson in doubles with two, but took sole possession of the team lead with a pair of doubles in the first game.
  • Taylor Broadway got his first career win after going the final 3.0 innings of the second game.
  • Justin Bench had his first career hit in a very opportune moment, bringing in two go-ahead runs on a single in the eighth inning.

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

Next up for Ole Miss

The Rebels’ home stand continues with weekday action on Tuesday and Wednesday.  LIttle Rock visits Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT), and former Ole Miss assistant coach Cliff Godwin and his East Carolina team come to town Wednesday at 6:30 p.m (CT). 

The weekend series against UAB will feature the last non-conference weekend series at Swayze. Action starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday night and resumes at 1:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

Hotty Toddy!

Postgame video

Here is postgame video after the Rebels’ doubleheader win over Long Beach State. (Video: Archie Breland, The Rebel Walk)

Head coach Mike Bianco

Thomas Dillard

Justin Bench

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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