After a walk-off win against Murray State on Tuesday night, the Rebels travel to California this weekend for a best-of-three series against Long Beach State. The Rebels currently sit at 8-0 for the first time since 2008, and are No. 9 in the country after wins against Winthrop, Memphis and Tulane.
Tuesday night’s homestand against Murray State was one of the most chaotic nine innings in recent Rebel history. Despite trailing 4-0 after the top of the first inning, Ole Miss was able to bounce back with five straight runs through the fifth. After both teams traded blows in the seventh and eighth innings, the game entered the ninth tied at six. After Thomas Dillard led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, both Cooper Johnson and Tyler Keenan were walked, loading the bases. Thanks to a wild pitch, Dillard was able to steal home in a photo finish. The run sealed a memorable 7-6 win for the Rebels and added momentum to this weekend’s series.
The Long Beach State 49ers, popularly known as the Dirtbags, have a record of 3-6 and are fresh off of a 16-4 win at home against Arizona State. However, the Dirtbags are in the middle of a tough stretch featuring six losses in eight games. The Rebels will be the second top 10 team that Long Beach State has faced this season and the Dirtbags should prove themselves a strong opponent for the undefeated Rebels.
As for the Ole Miss offense, key players include shortstop Grae Kessinger and left fielder Thomas Dillard. Out of the players who have played in all eight games this season, Kessinger leads in batting average with .452 and also leads in hits with 14. In the game against Murray State, Kessinger scored two runs in the fifth and seventh innings.
The only Rebel to out-perform Kessinger in the home matchup was Dillard, who scored three runs in the fourth, fifth and ninth. Dillard currently sits just behind Kessinger in batting average with a .385. Dillard also leads the Rebels with nine runs scored and six RBIs. This weekend, the Rebels’ offensive success will likely start and stop with Kessinger and Dillard. Strong performances from the duo could give the Rebels a great chance to continue with another.
The Rebels will be lead in the bullpen by starters Brady Feigl, Ryan Rolison and Houston Roth. Fiegl and Rolison are both 2-0 in starts this season, while Roth has one win as a starter under his belt. Rolison leads the Rebels’ pitchers in strikeouts with 21, while Roth and Feigl are right behind with 16 and 12, respectively. This trio has the opportunity to take control of this weekend’s games.
As the Rebels continue improving and inch closer to conference play, the team looks more like a national contender each day. Another impressive showing in Long Beach would go a long way toward moving up the NCAA rankings. While the season may have just begun, the Rebels have proven that they are better than ever – and the rest of the SEC and nation should take note.
Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Long Beach, California.