Rebel Recap: Ole Miss sweeps Purdue behind Rebels’ Really Big Bats
OXFORD, Miss. — One thing is becoming quite evident as this 2023 baseball season extends into its Top-10 SEC part of the Ole Miss schedule. If you’re a team intent on entering the Swayze Sweepstakes, you’d better have some deep pockets and an even deeper bullpen, because this house always wins.
In their last two home series, the Ole Miss Rebels have bounced back from a surprise attack in the opener against Maryland to win five straight home games against Big Ten competition.
Before that, there was a three-game sweep of Delaware. The Blue Hens are a respectable 6-6 since that series in Oxford and scored 40 runs this past weekend against Hofstra to open their league play.
The Rebels, meanwhile, continued their bombardment of enemy pitchers, tallying a total of 28 runs in winning a 15-7 blowout, a 7-6 walk-off squeaker, and a 6-1 late bloomer against the Purdue Boilermakers.
And while the Boilermakers did not win a game, they did at least make things interesting on occasion. They came into all three games as 4.5-run underdogs, and in game two and game three had several opportunities to make some hay, but just couldn’t find a way to cash in.
The starting rotation of Jack Dougherty, Grayson Saunier and Xavier Rivas has gotten the job done. Their aggregate ERA is 5.61 as starters and they’re averaging 4.5 innings per start. The team has scored 112 runs in support of their eleven starts, and their combined record as starting pitchers stands quite strong at 7-1.
While some may argue that pitching is the last thing to come around, Rebel fans can surely appreciate the fighting spirit that is so apparent in these three young men.
And it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the bullpen has seen extensive work in the early going. They’ve become something of escape artists, a line of Houdinis who manage to wiggle out of all the tight jams that they encounter, never letting you see them sweat.
As an example, look no further than Mason Nichols, he of the 1.00 ERA after pitching 9 innings of 3-hit ball with 11 strikeouts and only two walks this season.
Strong candidates for SEC middle relief are Mitch Murrell (8 appearances, 1-0, 3.18 ERA, 16 Ks, 3 BB), Sam Tookoian (8 appearances, 1 Save, 4.38 ERA, 20 Ks, and 9 BB), and freshman Braydon Jones. Jones has shown promise of hitting the big time (6 appearances, 2.16 ERA) provided he finds the plate a little more consistently. And there are others with excellent arm talent who will very possibly fulfill their own aspirations.
After all, there have been fifty-two relief appearances by 13 different pitchers across these first 16 games. That’s a lot of auditioning for a team that won 14 of them.
Yet, this could indeed be the recipe for the remainder of the season. The ingredients would include 4-to-5-inning starters, lefty and righty middle relievers with outstanding control, and a brilliant 3-K closer in the image of a Brandon Johnson.
That combination is in there somewhere, and this may be the week we get the chance to see it unfold.
Meanwhile, the fences are alive with the sound of music. TJ McCants hit two homers in the opener and Kemp Alderman went supersonic on one at 118 mph.
Peyton Chatagnier joined McCants and Alderman in the home run derby in the second game against Purdue, with Alderman’s second blast of the walk-off variety.
There were no homers in the third game due to Chatagnier drawing two walks and Alderman literally not being able to take his bat off his shoulder in his four trips to the plate, as the left fielder drew four walks as his 10-game hitting streak game to an end.
It’s surely of note to SEC coaches that when Alderman was awarded a leadoff walk in the 8th inning of this 3-1 game, the Rebels romped home three runs on the Boilermakers to blow a tight game wide open. There are no easy outs in this lineup. There are only players who can really hit a baseball — just not quite as hard as the .390-hitting Kemp Alderman.
In fact, Ethan Groff had the only extra-base hit for the Rebels in Game 3, a double, and Ethan Lege drove in four runs, a single-game high for the Rebel 3rd-baseman.
The Rebs enter the first week of SEC action hitting .343 as a team; their on-base percentage is .446; and their slugging percentage is .591. They’re holding their opponents to .218, .344 and .376, respectively.
Two of the three games at Vanderbilt will be televised nationally. Thursday’s 6 PM CT start will be on ESPNU and Saturday’s 11 AM finale will be shown on the SEC Network. We’ll have us some Rebel Rawhide to mix in with our March Madness this weekend. (Let’s Go, Ladies!)
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy)
David is the consummate true-freshman quarterback, first pioneering the position only a year after college freshmen were given varsity eligibility by the NCAA in 1972. In 1973, the left-handed all-state gunslinger from Sulphur, Louisiana started for the Texas A&M Aggies and earned the All-Southwest Conference Freshman of the Year award as selected by the league’s coaches. David is the first college quarterback ever awarded Freshman of the Year in the NCAA. He was only 17, and still holds the NCAA record as the youngest starting quarterback in college football history. He wore No. 8 at A&M in honor of one of his football heroes, Archie Manning.
In becoming the winningest quarterback ever at A&M, David was converted from a dual-threat QB to a triple option trailblazer. The two-time team captain led three record-breaking offenses that changed the direction of football at A&M forever, establishing once and for all the winning tradition that the Aggies had so-long desired.
As a high school head coach in Houston in the late ‘80s, David stationed his quarterback in the shotgun formation, having him reading defenses and throwing hot routes at a time when such offensive schemes were frowned upon by traditional fans and coaches. One of his quarterbacks tossed 57 passes in a single game, which stood as the all-time Greater Houston Area record for many years.
As you can tell from his bona fides, David is extremely qualified as our expert on all things Quarterback at Ole Miss. Enjoy his exclusive analysis only here at The Rebel Walk!