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Baseball Weekend Wrap-Up: Rebels drop series to Vols, but battle back for win in game three

Baseball Weekend Wrap-Up: Rebels drop series to Vols, but battle back for win in game three

Knoxville, Tenn. — The last series of SEC play found the Ole Miss Rebels in Knoxville to face the Eastern Division Tennessee Volunteers.  Ranked No. 15 in the nation, Ole Miss went into the series with a 32-21 (15-12 SEC) record, while the No. 23 Vols entered with a 36-17 (12-15 SEC) record.  Tennessee’s RPI of near 10 provided the Rebels an opportunity to improve their NCAA Tournament resume, but it was also indicative of the talented team Ole Miss would be facing. 

Game One: Ole Miss 0, Tennessee 7

(Click here for box score.)

In game one of the series, Rebel Ace Will Ethridge was tagged for five runs in his seven innings pitched and eventually took the loss, dropping his record to 5-6 for the year. Equally as frustrating was the Rebels’ inability to record hits as the Tennessee starter Garrett Stallings threw a complete game shutout, holding the Rebels to four hits.  Two of those hits were recorded by Ole Miss designated hitter Cole Zabowski who went 2 for 3.

“The big thing is having belief,” Zabowski said after the game of what his team needs to do to rebound.  “It’s easy to forget how good we are when we have a couple of losses.  And you gotta believe. You gotta believe in your teammates, you gotta believe in yourself and believe that we can get the job done,” he added. 

“It was one of those really rough nights,” head coach Mike Bianco said. 

Game Two: Ole Miss 5, Tennessee 7

(Click here for box score.)

Ole Miss manufactured two early runs in the first inning of Friday’s game. Right fielder Thomas Dillard led off the game with a double and advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt from center fielder Ryan Olenek.  Ferris Award Nominee Grae Kessinger then walked.  Dillard scored on a Tennessee passed ball.  Kessinger made it to third on the same passed ball and a throwing error, before then scoring on a groundout.

The Rebels tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth inning when a groundout scored Dillard. They later tied the game at 4-4 in the eighth when Kevin Graham doubled home Cooper Johnson.

Unfortunately, the Rebel bullpen just could not hold the Vols off the scoreboard in the eighth, allowing three runs that gave Tennessee a 7-4 lead over Ole Miss. 

Austin Miller was dealt the loss in relief, moving his record to 4-2 on the year.

In the ninth inning Ole Miss battled, putting runners on first and third with no outs. However,  the Rebels ground into a double play that slowed the momentum, although they did score a run on the play. That’s where the final score ended: 7-5, Tennessee. 

“You almost have to see it to believe it, and it’s unfortunate,” Coach Bianco said afterward. 

We saw so many things tonight that I haven’t seen in 30 years of coaching, just crazy stuff. The pressure is just immense.  Offensively, we just ran ourselves out of innings and just stupid base-running mistakes or not being able to execute, not getting runners over, or getting them in.  We just couldn’t keep the momentum in our dugout on either side of the ball.

Coach Bianco on the Rebels’ loss to the Vols in game two

Game Three: Ole Miss 5, Tennessee 4

(Click here for box score.)

The Rebels hoped to salvage the series in game three and provide some positive energy heading into the postseason.

Freshman Gunnar Hoglund threw six innings, allowing just three runs on five Volunteer hits.  Hoglund would go on to earn the win, improving his record to 2-2.  

“Wow, he was just super,” Bianco said of Hoglund’s appearance. “I don’t know if he’s been better than what he was today.” 

Olenek takes the mound! 

With the game on the line, center fielder Ryan Olenek was called to pitch the ninth inning for the Rebs. In watching, you could see the fire and determination in Olenek’s eyes on the hill.  

“My job’s to throw strikes and help the team win,” Olenek said. He did just that—sitting the Tennessee hitters down in order in the inning and recording the first save of his college career.  

“We had a lot of confidence that Ryan would come in there and throw strikes,” Coach Bianco said. 

Keenan’s big bomb

Offensively, the big blow of the game came in the third inning in the form of a three-run blast from third baseman and Ferris Award Nominee Tyler Keenan. 

Bookending the three runs in the third were single runs in the second and fourth innings.  Cole Zabowski scored on a first and third double steal with two outs in the second inning. In the fourth, Jacob Adams plated Kevin Graham via a sacrifice fly.

What’s Next for Ole Miss?

The Rebels now head to the SEC Tournament in Hoover as the No. 7 seed. They will take on No. 10 seed Missouri Tuesday afternoon in Game 2 of the Tournament scheduled for a start time of approximately 1:00 p.m. 
Should Ole Miss prevail over Missouri, the Rebels will enter the double-elimination portion of the tournament and play Arkansas at approximately 1:00 p.m. Wednesday.  With a loss in Tuesday’s game, the Rebels would await their expected placement in the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Tournament selections will be announced Monday, May 27 at 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPNU.

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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