As pitching continues to lead the way for the Rebels, SEC play begins, and Ole Miss needs their bats to wake up. The Rebels managed to scatter 10 hits in their midweek win over Nicholls down in Biloxi, but now the competition stiffens this weekend as Vanderbilt comes to town.
While the non-conference part of a team’s schedule usually eases them into the more difficult aspects of conference play, this hasn’t been the case for the Rebels. Ole Miss faced five ranked opponents, including the #1 and #6 teams in the country. A battle-tested team, Ole Miss’ young group should be no stranger to the big stage and have a chance to take control of the SEC, beginning with this weekend’s series.
Success this weekend will start on the mound, as it has for the Rebels in their four-game shutout streak. David Parkinson (3-1, 2.52 ERA) took home SEC Pitcher Of the Week honors for his 8 inning, 1 hit performance against Furman last weekend. The junior LHP will take the mound tonight and look to set the bar high for the Rebel pitching staff once more.
Brady Feigl (2-1, 3.91 ERA) will give it a go on Saturday. Feigl shined last weekend as well going 8 innings and allowing no runs in his best outing as a Rebel. Freshman Will Ethridge (1-0, 1.15 ERA) has quickly established himself as a dominate presence on the mound, striking out 26 batters in just 15.2 innings of work. Ethridge will make his first weekend start on Sunday.
When called upon, the bullpen has continued the dominance. Connor Green, Houston Roth and Sean Johnson all made scoreless appearances against Nicholls. Last week against Furman, Will Stokes and Dallas Woolfolk shut the door at the end of games. Pitchers will eventually run into a rough outing, but when they do, it’s good to have an effective bullpen like Ole Miss’.
At the plate is where things get a bit more complicated. The Rebels have been inconsistent, to say the least, ever since their trip to Houston. The 10-hit performance against Nicholls was their best offensive performance since the loss to Memphis in February. Tate Blackman has emerged as the offensive catalyst on Tuesday and now holds a team-high .314 batting average.
Will Golsan and Ryan Olenek have been consistent throughout the year hovering around the .300 mark. Combined with contributions from players like Michael Fitzsimmons and Colby Bortles, who has 13 RBI, the Rebels have been able to edge games out thanks to the pitching staff. No team will have every player on a role at once, but if just a few Rebels can bust out of their slumps this weekend, the Rebels have a chance to take the series from the Commodores. Look for Cooper Johnson to match his play in the field with a strong weekend at the plate to improve on his team-low .167 average. Other names to look out for are Thomas Dillard, and Cole Zabowski, who’ve both cooled off after red-hot starts to the season.
Vanderbilt comes in with a 12-6 record and ranked 15th in the country. Kyle Wright will start the series. Wright (0-2, 5.40) has had a tough start to the year, and the Rebels may be able to capitalize on that. The Commodores will send lefty Patrick Raby (2-2, 1.40 ERA) to the hill on Saturday. Reigning SEC Freshman of the Week Drake Fellows will close out the series for Vandy. While Ole Miss has their fair share of talented freshmen, Vanderbilt has one of their own in Fellows. With an ERA of 1.00 in 27 innings pitched, Fellows will be a difficult pitcher to chase on Sunday.
First pitch of tonight’s game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday’s game will begin at 1:30 p.m. and Sunday’s matchup will start at 3 p.m. This weekend also marks the return of Friday Night Fireworks to Swayze Field!
Tonight’s game looks like it’s under no threat of inclement weather, but the same can’t be said for Saturday with a flip of the coin chance of rain. Sunday looks to be all sunshine, which could mean a double header if Saturday’s game gets rained out.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.