Swayze Field saw its first game in almost a year when Ole Miss baseball opened at home with a midweek matchup against Arkansas State on Feb. 24. The Rebels won 12-1, furthering their overall record to 4-0, but Ole Miss lost its series matchup against the University of Central Florida (UCF) and dropped the doubleheader this weekend. The Rebels now sit with an overall record of 5-2, officially clipping their 20-game winning streak.
During the Arkansas State game on Feb. 24, sophomore Drew McDaniel was named starting pitcher and had a career-high of eight strikeouts. Multiple pitchers were able to come in and pitch, only giving up one run the entire game. The bullpen combined for 18 total strikeouts, the most since Feb. 22, 2020, against Xavier.
“We have pitched 16 guys in 4 games, and they’ve all pitched well,” head coach Mike Bianco said in the post-game press conference. “They’ve all competed and thrown the ball in the zone out there. Really proud of Cody (Adcock). He showed a lot of confidence.”
The hitting continued to be dominant, as senior Cael Baker hit a home run after missing the season opener in Texas due to COVID-19 regulations. Sophomore John Rhys Plumlee also hit his first career home run, and junior Kevin Graham, Baker and junior Justin Bench each had a pair of RBI’s. Graham led the Rebels offensively as he went 3-for-4 at the plate with three runs scored.
Midweek games typically help coaches better understand where players stand on the depth chart and their ability to step up when needed. The season is long and is likely to be complicated by injuries and COVID-19 issues, furthering the need for fresh faces to step to the plate. Freshman, TJ McCants was one of those players on Wednesday night.
In his first game as a Rebel, he went 2-for-5, and former 2019 Freshman All-American Kevin Graham took notice of McCants’s success.
“Really proud of TJ (McCants) tonight. Someone is going to step up when we need them to,” Graham said.
As for the weekend games, the No. 1 ranked Ole Miss baseball program dropped the home series against the University of Central Florida (UCF) this weekend while splitting the doubleheader with a 6-5 win and a 7-2 loss. The Rebels haven’t lost a series since the 2019 NCAA Fayetteville Super Regional and its first regular-season weekend series since May 16-18, 2019 against the University of Tennessee.
The Rebels lost its first game in 377 days during the first match-up against UCF on Friday, Feb. 26., 3-2.
Junior pitcher Doug Nikhazy struck out 10 batters while allowing only three hits, but the UCF Knights gave Ole Miss a stronger pitching effort and clipped the Rebels’ history-making game streak.
During the first doubleheader game, senior Tim Elko helped the Rebels to their first walk-off win of the season. The Knights responded by grasping a 7-2 victory as they kept the Rebels from gaining any kind of lead. The Knights totaled 12 hits and a hit in six of the nine innings, scoring five of them.
“We have to play better. They (UCF) beat us,” head coach Mike Bianco said in the press conference after the last game. “Just straight up, beat us. They were so committed offensively, especially in Game 3. Even pitches that were good pitches, they did a really good job on. They just played better than we did.”
The Rebels will turn their attention to a pair of midweek matchups versus the Memphis Tigers on Tuesday, March 2 at 4 p.m. and against the Jackson State Tigers on March 3 at 6:30 p.m. at Swayze Field.