On a sunny, yet chilly, Tuesday afternoon in Oxford, No. 10 Ole Miss brought its winning streak to six after an 11-8 win over the Little Rock Trojans.
Jordan Fowler got the ball to start the game for the Rebels as he did in Ole Miss’s midweek game last week. This time, however, he had a much cleaner outing than his 1.2 innings against UT Martin.
Although it came while Ole Miss was facing lower-level competition, Fowler’s performance on Tuesday is nothing to scoff at. He pitched four full innings without surrendering a single hit, striking out three in the process.
“It was nice that he threw the ball into the strike zone,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “At the end of the day, I think he hit three guys and walked two. You just have to play better than that.”
The Rebel bats showed more of the same against the Trojans, as they feasted on early scoring opportunities. Ole Miss was able to help out Fowler’s cause by racking up 7 runs in the first four frames. The team was led by Anthony Servideo and Tyler Keenan, who combined for 5 RBIs on 3 hits during those frames.
The leader and power bat of the Rebel lineup, Thomas Dillard, is starting to be feared more than ever when making a plate appearance. Coming into Tuesday, Dillard was batting .436 with 6 homers and 19 RBIs, not to mention his 1.000 slugging average.
With two on and one out in the first inning, Dillard was intentionally walked, signaling a shift in how opposing coaches and pitching staffs view his at bats. Dillard ended the game 1-2 with 3 walks and 2 runs scored.
“You have to hit behind him, it’s just part of it,” Bianco said. “He has to be patient, but the more you hit in front of him and behind him, the harder it is to (walk him).”
The fifth was a different story altogether for Fowler, though, as he allowed 4 earned runs on 2 hits and a walk. He was relieved in the fifth by Max Cioffi, who would give up 2 hits but manage to work his way out of the inning without Little Rock further cutting into the lead.
“I was thinking to get ahead (in the pitch count) first of all and just fill up the zone” Cioffi said. “In this weather, it’s tough to hit, so if you can fill up the zone you should be good.”
After escaping the jam in the fifth, Cioffi continued his impressive outing on the hill for the next 2.2 innings, finishing the day with a line of 0 ER on 5 hits, 7 Ks and 2 walks.
“He was about the only one that gave us a shot,” Bianco said.
Ole Miss insured its victory in the seventh, adding another 4 runs to the scoreboard and reaching double-digit runs for the fifth time in 12 games. Moreover, the Rebels have yet to score fewer than five runs in any game this season.
Little Rock made a late offensive surge, scoring 4 in the ninth inning, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. Ole Miss took the 11-8 victory.
“I hate to sound negative after a win,” Bianco said. “We didn’t play well today. Just a really sloppy game by us.”
The Rebels have a quick turnaround after the victory over Little Rock, as No. 18 East Carolina comes to Swayze this afternoon. The matchup will be Bianco and Co.’s greatest test so far in 2019, although it was announced on Tuesday that East Carolina’s star sophomore Alec Burleson will not play in the game.