Another weekend at Swayze Field, another sweep for the Ole Miss Rebel baseball team. After a 4-0 start including a sweep of #6 East Carolina, the Rebels hosted the Seahawks of UNCW. The Seahawks came in at #23, but the Rebels weren’t phased facing their second ranked opponents in as many weekends. A high-octane offense, combined with strong performances on the mound has the Rebels flying high at 7-0 to begin the year.
David Parkinson followed last week’s winning performance against the Pirates with yet another sharp outing against the Seahawks on Friday night. Parkison retired the first 12 batters he faced and allowed the Rebels to build their lead in route to a series-opening victory.
As Parkinson cruised through the first few frames, the Rebels jumped ahead in the 2nd inning. With the bases loaded, a patient at-bat by freshman catcher Cooper Johnson led to a walk and the first run of the game. The scoring continued by way of a Grae Kessinger RBI single, and a Ryan Olenek sacrifice fly. Will Golsan continued his hot streak at the plate as well, knocking in the final run of the inning. The 4-0 lead was added to in the 3rd inning after Chase Cockrell’s solo home run, the first of his career.
The Seahawks were able to chase Parkinson in the 7th inning after a solo home run opened the inning, followed by a base hit that nearly cleared the center field fence. An error by Kessinger at short allowed another run to cross, but relievers Connor Green and Dallas Woolfolk were able to get the Rebels out of the inning. With the lead cut to 5-2, the Rebels weren’t done at the plate. After Colby Bortles walked to open the bottom of the 8th, freshman Thomas Dillard belted a home run to put the game out of reach at 7-2.
Woolfolk remained in the game to finish the job, and the Rebels emerged victorious. With the win, Mike Bianco picked up his 635th win with Ole Miss. He passed former Auburn coach Hal Baird for 7th all-time on the SEC wins list.
An 11 strikeout, 2-hit performance from starting pitcher James McArthur highlighted a pitcher’s duel early on Saturday. The 6’7 sophomore was in complete control, bringing a no-hitter into the 5th inning. McArthur retired 17 of 18 batters to start the game and went 6.0 innings.
The Rebels were unable to capitalize on McArthur’s performance early on, although they had runners in scoring position. An unlucky sequence in the 3rd inning saw a hard hit liner from Will Golsan snagged by the third baseman, who turned a quick double play. A Cooper Johnson sacrifice fly plated Dillard in the 4th, giving the Rebels a 1-0 lead. The Rebels would strike next in the 6th, Colby Bortles tagged from 3rd on a deep fly ball hit by Ryan Olenek. A 2-0 lead and a commanding effort by McArthur saw the Rebels in charge once again. UNCW plated a run in the 7th, and McArthur’s day was done. Able to keep the lead at 2-1, Greer Houston and Ryan Rolison picked up their teammate and put the Rebels back in the batter’s box.
Bortles’ strong day at the plate continued with an RBI double in the 7th to put the Rebels back up by two. Closer Will Stokes came into the game for a 6-out save, but that’s when things got interesting. A 3-run home run by UNCW’s Nick Feight gave the Seahawks a late 4-3 lead. Without missing a beat, the Rebels didn’t panic, and they went back to work in the bottom of the frame. Tate Blackman re-energized the deflated Swayze crowd with an RBI single to tie the game at 4-4. With a man on and 2-out, Bryan Seamster triggered a beer shower in right field as a blast put the Rebels on top 6-4. RBIs from Bortles and Cole Zabowski made it 8-4, and the Rebels slammed the door on the Seahawks to clinch the series. Despite the blown save, Will Stokes picked up the win.
Keeping with the theme of the weekend, Ole Miss starter Brady Feigl turned in a solid performance. The sophomore starter gave up just three hits in 5 innings to pick up his first win of the season. With a steady arm on the mound, the Rebels went to work at the plate.
In the 3rd inning, the Rebels broke the scoreless tie with a Ryan Olenek 2-RBI single to get things going. Zabowski drove in a run and set the stage for Colby Bortles. Bortles smacked a 2-run home run to put the Rebels in front 5-0. The Seahawks would get on the board in the 5th, and Feigl was replaced with Andy Pagnozzi. The Rebels would pick up an insurance run in the bottom of the 5th, and two more runs in the 7th thanks to RBIs from Golsan and Bortles. An 8-2 lead heading into the 9th looked to be more than enough, but the Seahawks quickly closed the gap.
Connor Green was brought in, and before he could record a single out, four runs had crossed the plate for UNCW. Bianco was forced to use another arm to get the Rebels out of a jam. Dallas Woolfolk got the Rebels out of the jam and picked up his third save of the season. The Rebels escaped with an 8-6 victory to remain undefeated on the season.
The highlight of the weekend was the 5-run 8th inning on Saturday to battle back and win the game. The determination of such a young team is a promising thing to watch. Facing adversity early in the season will allow the Rebels to be battle tested later in the year. On Friday we told you to look for Blackman and Bortles to break out of their slumps in a big way which they did. Bortles contributed 5 RBI and a home run, and Blackman piled up four timely hits throughout the weekend. JUCO transfer Tim Rowe impressed in his Sunday debut, going 2-4 with an RBI as the Rebel DH.
The freshmen continue to impress, especially Dillard and Zabowski. Dillard is currently hitting .500 and Zabawski is sitting at .450 with 6 RBI. There are few holes in the Rebel lineup, and they should make any opposing pitching staff nervous.
The Rebels are no slouches on the mound either, as all three starters turned in excellent performances. A few shaky moments in the bullpen nearly derailed the Rebels efforts this weekend, but Woolfolk and Will Ethridge kept the Seahawks at bay. The Memphis Tigers will come to Swayze on Tuesday for a mid-week matchup. The Rebels will then head to Houston for the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic. The Rebels’ tough schedule will follow them on the road as they will take on Baylor, #10 Texas Tech and #1 TCU.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.