Ole Miss baseball clinches opening SEC series, improves to impressive 19-2

Posted on Mar 18 2018 - 6:52pm by Logan Conner

After dropping the first game of this year’s SEC opening series against Tennessee, Ole Miss erased all doubts Saturday and Sunday by posting dominant wins over the visiting Volunteers.

On the mound for Sunday’s finale, James McArthur threw six innings without allowing a run, putting the team en route to a 5-0 Ole Miss series clincher. The right-hander controlled the game and posted four strikeouts before handing the reins over in the seventh to Parker Caracci, who held the Volunteers scoreless for the rest of the day.

Offensively, the hitting remained hot. To lead off the game for the Rebels, Jacob Adams hit a solo shot over the right field wall. He scored again in the fifth inning when Ryan Olenek doubled to left and put Ole Miss up 2-0. Olenek finished the day 2-4 with an RBI.

The Ole Miss baseball team celebrates after defeating Tennessee 5-0 on Sunday. Photo by Christian Johnson.

As the pitching kept the Volunteers at bay, sophomore Cole Zabowski extended the lead to three with a solo home run of his own in the sixth. To ice the series cake, Thomas Dillard added on with a two-run blast, and Ole Miss carried the 5-0 score to victory.

Twenty-one games into the 2018 season, Ole Miss now finds itself 2-1 in SEC play and currently sits at No. 6 in the nation, thanks to an overall record of 19-2. After series against Eastern Illinois, Georgia State and Tennessee during Spring Break, the Rebels will look to continue their streak of great play against New Orleans on Tuesday.

Entering the spring break week on a four-game win streak, the Rebels were adamant about maintaining their positive momentum in a home series against Eastern Illinois. In a doubleheader that featured 7-2 and 4-0 wins, the Rebels controlled the Panthers at the plate and dominated both sides of the field. Sophomore Thomas Dillard continued his strong season with another home run and four runs scored throughout the 18-inning marathon. The following Sunday, Ole Miss completed its sweep of the Panthers with an emphatic 7-3 win.

During the week, the Rebels traveled to Atlanta for a series with Georgia State. The Georgia State Panthers came into the series on fire after sweeping Samford in Birmingham. Despite out-hitting the Rebels in Game 1, Georgia State’s Panthers failed to continue their success, and Ole Miss was able to win its eighth game in a row, 5-3 on Thursday. After falling behind early, the Rebels took the lead in the sixth inning and rode the play of pitchers Will Ethridge, Parker Caracci and Dallas Woolfolk to a win.

After squeezing out a first-game victory, Ole Miss returned Wednesday and dominated Georgia State in a 16-2 win. The Rebels scored the first 14 runs and only allowed two hits, both in the eighth inning. Six Rebels recorded multi-run games, and four recorded multi-hit games. With the win, the Rebels were able to tie the best win percentage in the NCAA at .944.

After finishing non-conference play with one of the best starts in Ole Miss baseball history, the Rebels opened their conference schedule with a series at Swayze against Tennessee over the weekend.

Despite entering Game 1 with wins in 17 of the last 18 games, the Rebel bullpen struggled to stop the Tennessee offense Friday. After beginning the game with a two-run first inning, the Rebels were able to hold Tennessee to only two runs through the sixth inning.

Then things got crazy.

Ryan Olenek signs baseballs for young fans after the game against Tennessee on Sunday. Ole Miss defeated Tennessee 5-0. Photo by Christian Johnson.

In a classic Friday-night shootout, the seventh inning consisted of a combined 10 runs: six by the Volunteers and four by the Rebels. After allowing two runs in the first six innings, pitcher Ryan Rolison allowed three more in the seventh and was replaced by Ethridge, who also saw three Volunteers score. Ole Miss was unable to recover from the explosive inning, and Tennessee handed the Rebels their second loss of the year.

On Saturday, the Rebels were able to bounce back from the close loss with a series-tying 7-1 win. Pitcher Brady Feigl continued his impressive season with another stellar performance and only allowed four hits and one run through six innings. Led by three-run offensive performances by Grae Kessinger and Jacob Adams, the Rebels showed no sign of slowing down en route to their 18th win of the season.

After clinching the Tennessee series Sunday, the No. 6 Rebels have made an early statement on the national stage; this year, Ole Miss is gunning for Omaha. Rebel baseball will now turn its attention to a Tuesday morning home matchup with New Orleans, with the first pitch scheduled for 11 a.m.