After dropping its first series of the season at Mississippi State last weekend, Ole Miss baseball will look to bounce back with a matchup against Southern Miss on Tuesday night. Sitting at No. 5 in the nation with a 27-6 overall record and second in the SEC with a 7-5 conference record, the Rebels will travel to Pearl with three losses in their last seven games, including a pair in Starkville.
In a cold and rainy series against the Bulldogs over the weekend, the Rebels flashed greatness in some moments and struggled significantly in other. Game 1 was ugly, and despite taking an early 2-0 lead, Ole Miss fell 13-3. Starter Brady Feigl couldn’t find his touch in the atypical baseball conditions, which gave State an opportunity to take early control and never let go.
After the opening loss, Ole Miss bounced back in Game 2 with a convincing 6-1 win. In his longest and strongest outing of the year, pitcher Ryan Rolison went seven innings and threw nine strikeouts while only allowing one run.
In Game 3, the in-state rivals fought to the bitter end of one of the memorable matchups between the teams in recent years. After trailing early, the Rebels took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning with a homerun from Tyler Keenan. Two innings later, Mississippi State struck back and took a 4-3 lead.
Coming to bat at the top of the ninth inning, Thomas Dillard and Cole Zabowski scored to put the Rebels ahead 5-4 with a half inning left to play. The Bulldogs tied the game in the bottom half and sent it into extra innings. Despite an incredible game-saving catch by Dillard in the tenth, the Rebels were unable to stop Mississippi State and lost 7-5 on a walkoff homerun in the 11th inning. The series loss marked the first of the season for the Rebels.
The No. 13 Eagles enter Tuesday night’s matchup at 22-9 on the season. With four losses over the course of their last nine games, the Eagles travel to Pearl searching for a big win and to avenge the early-season loss in Oxford, when the Rebels came from behind in a shootout to win 7-6. With national rankings on the line, Ole Miss’ pitching staff will certainly hope to limit the Eagles’ punchy offense this time around.
In the season’s earlier matchup, it was a three-run homerun by Thomas Dillard that launched the Rebels past the Eagles. In Pearl, the Rebels will look to Dillard again as the game-changer. Dillard has proven himself to be the team’s greatest power-hitter, accounting for seven homeruns, 38 hits, 33 runs and 32 RBIs. Another massive game from Dillard could very well be the decider in what will be a highly-contested game.
On the mound, head coach Mike Bianco is turning the game ball over to Houston Roth. The sophomore has four wins under his belt and has not yet pitched a loss. An ERA of 4.00 is deceptively high and tends to get overshadowed by his 48 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched this year. Expect Roth to work the zone early – mixing equal parts power and control – and force the Southern Miss batters to earn every hit.
First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday in Pearl.