After a series in California and midweek matchups against Austin Peay and Arkansas-Little Rock, the No. 8 Rebels will host Eastern Illinois in a doubleheader Friday. Previously scheduled as a standard weekend series, Ole Miss Athletics announced that, due to the threat of inclement weather, the series would be rescheduled with a Friday night doubleheader followed by the rubber match Sunday.
Friday’s first game will start at 3 p.m. with the second will following about 45 minutes after. Sunday’s first pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Despite suffering their first loss of the season last weekend against Long Beach State, the Rebels have responded well with four wins in a row. After a convincing Game 3 win at Long Beach State, the Rebels have dominated their last two matchups: an 11-4 win against Austin Peay and a 10-2 win against Arkansas-Little Rock. Now, Ole Miss will take that positive momentum to a pair of matchups against Eastern Illinois, who currently sits at 5-5 fresh off a three-game losing streak.
Eastern Illinois was outscored 21-11 as Georgia State ran away with a sweep last weekend. Despite starting the season with two losses, the Panthers then rolled five straight wins, including a sweep at Memphis in February. Ole Miss will prove to be the greatest test that Eastern Illinois has faced all year, and the Ohio Valley Conference contenders will have to play a near-perfect series to stay in contention.
The Rebels enter the series at 12-1, boosted by the team’s current four-game winning streak. They are also an impressive 10-0 at home and have only conceded more than four runs at Swayze twice. After reaching double-digit scoring on March 4 for the first time since last May, the Rebels have averaged 11 runs per game over their last three matchups and have accumulated nine multi-run innings in that span. The Ole Miss batters have exploded recently and continue to punish unsuspecting pitchers.
Ole Miss sluggers Thomas Dillard and Grae Kessinger have led the offensive charge. Dillard currently leads the Rebs in total hits with 14, as well as total runs (13) and home runs (three). On Tuesday night against Austin Peay, Dillard had arguably the most impressive performance by a Rebel this year, hitting a pair of home runs and adding four RBIs to an already stacked stat line. Dillard followed up his incredible performance with a two-run outing Wednesday night against Arkansas-Little Rock.
Kessinger’s bat has added five hits and three runs in the last three games, including a three-hit and two-run outing in game three of the Long Beach State series. Kessinger’s consistency may prove invaluable as the Rebels hope to close out late games, something they often fell short of in 2017.
Sitting at No. 8 in the nation, the Rebels have proven themselves to be one of the NCAA’s premier programs in college baseball. But the season is still young, and this Ole Miss team has plenty of work to do cementing that status.