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Rebels Smash Trio of Home Runs, Stifle Tennessee Bats In SEC Series Win


OXFORD, Miss. - A heavy dosage of mid-90s fastballs was the remedy for James McArthur's six innings of two-hit baseball in a 5-0, series-clinching win over Tennessee on Sunday afternoon. The junior right-hander worked both sides of the plate, as well as the top and bottom of the strike zone, keeping the Volunteer offense off balance for the entirety of his outing.

"Filling up the zone with fastballs," McArthur said of his day. "A whole lot of fastballs today, working up in the zone and bringing it back down to the knees when I need to. A lot of fastballs and attacking hitters with them."

McArthur found a rhythm from the first pitch on and really didn't have many stressful innings aside from stranding a pair of runners twice in the first three frames. Tennessee struggled to barrel up the lanky righty's heater and sparsely made hard contact as he worked in enough breaking balls to keep them honest.

"I thought he was terrific," Bianco said. "I think sometimes you can get caught up in the strikeouts because we can strike some people out. He had four today. When you are in the SEC and go six innings without giving up a run and really only a couple hard hit balls, he really controlled both sides of the plate."

Parker Caracci took the baseball from McArthur in the seventh and struck out seven hitters in the final three innings as the two combined for a four-hit shutout. After a six-run seventh inning doomed Ole Miss on Friday night, its pitching staff gave up just one run over its final 20 innings of baseball.

"We knew could pitch," Bianco said. "I am just proud of the way we responded after we gave up eight on Friday. Certainly, that had a lot to do with our fielding and only having one inning in which we couldn't get off the field. To answer after that, to swing it really well and pitch it really well over the last two days and play clean defense says a lot about how we are playing."

McArthur received an early cushion when Jacob Adams demolished a 1-2 fastball inside over the right field fence in Ole Miss' first at bat of the game.

"It's awesome," McArthur said of his early cushion. "First at-bat and you put a run up on the board, you can't ask for much more than that."

Ole Miss hit three home runs on the day, coming from Cole Zabowski in the sixth and a two-run shot off the bat of Thomas Dillard in the eighth to put the game away. Ole Miss scored 18 runs this weekend and Adams was 6-for-10 with five RBI and two runs scored.

"Really just staying agreossive and hunting fastballs and adjusting to the off speed," Adams said. "Just aggressive with my approach."

He has looked sharp at second base. After sitting out of fall practice with a broken foot, Adams thinks he is getting more comfortable at his position.

"I definitely have gotten more comfortable as the season has gone on," Adams said. "Just getting confident with certain plays I have been able to make in practice and carrying it over to the game. I felt pretty comfortable over there."

Adams is hitting .366 with a pair of home runs and now a six-hit weekend in his SEC debut.

"Just a great weekend," Bianco said. "There's a kid who was here this fall but didn't get to play. He kept his head up and when he has gotten his opportunities he has played really well."

The Rebels' other six-hit weekend came in just two games for shortstop Grae Kessinger, who did not play on Sunday due to injury. Anthony Servideo manned shortstop in his place and Adams hit in the leadoff slot. Bianco said there was a chance Kessinger could've played today but elected not to as a precaution. He believes the sophomore will not be out for an extended period of time.

Caracci's dominance allowed Ole Miss to rest veteran closer Dallas Woolfolk this weekend, a guy the team will heavily rely on to get through the grind of an SEC season. This was a good start to the weekend for this team and its confidence. Bianco was happy with how the Rebels responded to a Friday night defeat and was pleased with how Ole Miss played in all three phases after that.

The Rebels return to action on Tuesday morning against New Orleans before hitting the road for a series at Texas A&M next weekend. First pitch on Tuesday is slated for 11 a.m.

SIDEBAR: Rebs Sweep Green Wave with 6th Inning Deluge

The timely hits just keep coming for No. 9 Ole Miss. 

A Thomas Dillard walk loaded the bases one at-bat after Ole Miss had chased Tulane starter Keegan Gillies who had turned in six innings of one-run ball scattering four hits to that point. Senior center fielder Will Golsan dug in and laced a 1-1, 90-mph offering into left field for a two-RBI base hit that gave the Rebels their first lead of the day.

"I was just trying to stick to my approach and keep finding solid contact," Golsan said. "One finally fell. You just have to stay within yourself, tell yourself it is going to come and keep competing up there."

Two batters later Cooper Johnson lifted his second home run of the weekend into the left field bullpen to blow the game open at 6-2. It was the second day in a row Ole Miss put up a five-spot in the sixth inning and let its bullpen seize control of the game the rest of the way. This team has frequently found the timely hit when needed through the first seven games of this season and Sunday was just the latest piece of evidence to back it up.

"I knew I had it off the bat," Johnson said. "The vibe in the dugout is that the offense is going to move runners along, get a bunt down or do something. One through nine there aren't really any holes. It's a pretty safe and reassuring feeling. You don't have to do something special every single time. Someone is going to have your back behind you or in front of you. It is pretty special."

Johnson's first two career home runs both came this weekend as a highlight to what has been a much quicker start at the plate for the gifted sophomore catcher.

"It's just confidence," Johnson said. "Hitting before the game and in the mornings, sticking to the process and not trying to do too much. See the ball and hit the ball. Trying to find a fastball early in counts and adjusting to the breaking ball."

His head coach has seen Johnson hit well the last two fall seasons and seen him rebound from some natural freshman struggles from a year ago.

"Last year was a little tough on him," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He plays with emotion and wants to do so well, to fall off a little offensively last year, that hurt him. But he has gotten off to a great start this year and really looks good."

The first five innings the story was on the mound. James McArthur battled through an early run in the first to put up four scoreless frames to match Gillies, whose lone blemish came in the fourth when Dillard demolished a fastball well over the right field wall. McArthur exited the game in the sixth with the Rebels trailing 2-1.  He scattered six hits and yielded a single earned run in an outing stronger than the box score would lead one to believe.

"I thought he was really good today and that is a really good offense over there," Bianco said. "They pressure you in a lot of ways. They get a lot of good swings off and some scary swings. They are very physical in the middle of the lineup. They have six or seven guys in the middle of the lineup that you really have to pitch to. I thought James was excellent."

Jordan Fowler and Greer Holston helped the Rebels strand a pair of runners in two different innings and Dallas Woolfolk's fourth save completed Ole Miss' second consecutive sweep to start the season 7-0 for the second time in as many years. 

"I think you have to take it for what it is," Bianco said. "I think last year they didn't know what to expect.  They had a lot of success in the first couple weeks and with all the accolades coming in I think people kind of anointed us and we didn't handle the adversity when it came. I think guys are a little more weathered than this year, but we will see. I like the way we are playing."

Ole Miss has played well in all three phases early on this season. The rotation has given up just two earned runs in 32.1 innings so far this season and the bullpen has put the clamp down on offenses to follow them in the late innings. The lineup is hitting well from Grae Kessinger--who has 13 hits in these seven games--at the top all the way down behind him. The middle of the order has proved to be physical and was the driving force behind the pair of five-run sixth innings the last two days. 

"I think this has a different feel," Johnson said. "We are a really close team. Just the depth, the defense and offense and with our pitching staff. I have never played on a team like it. It is really special."

Ole Miss returns to action on Tuesday at home against Murray State before hitting the road for the first time this year next weekend with a three-game set at Long Beach State. First pitch on Tuesday is slated for 4 p.m. CT.

SIDEBAR: Kessinger and Fortes Team Up to Top Tigers

Sitting atop the Ole Miss lineup and the first to dig into the batter's box, a conscious effort to be aggressive early in counts from shortstop Grae Kessinger has led to a productive beginning to his sophomore campaign. And on this day in particular, it netted a 4-for-5 day at the plate with three runs scored in an 8-6 win over Memphis.

"I'm just trying to be aggressive," Kessinger said. "That's really all it is. Let the swings take care of itself. Don't overthink it and just play ball like I have my whole life."

Kessinger tattooed the first pitch he saw in the game to left field. His second at-bat he laced a double early in the count that put Memphis in a second-and-third situation with no one out.

"He's getting a lot of good swings off,"  head coach Mike Bianco said. "I even said that in the first two games when he didn't necessarily get a ton of hits but was getting good swings off. That has really been the difference this year. Last year, he looked like a freshman at times. This year he is getting a lot of hits like tonights and getting some really good swings off."

It isn't just fastballs either in the leadoff slot. He got inside a breaking ball for the extra-base hit and took it the opposite way down the line in right.

"First-pitch breaking ball he hit well tonight," Bianco said. "He is really seeing it well."

The benefit of Kessinger's production as the leadoff hitter? Nick Fortes for starters. Kessinger's first hit set the table for Fortes to demolish a first-pitch fastball over the left field fence and give starter Houston Roth an early cushion.

"It was a fastball right where I like them," Fortes said. "I knew that one was out."

The junior catcher made Memphis' second-and-third predicament in the third inning prove costly as well when he clubbed a changeup into the Ole Miss bullpen for his second home run of the night. It blew the game open at 5-0 in favor of the Rebels in the third.  Fortes was 3-for-4 with six RBI.

"I kind of needed that breakout game," Fortes said. "I needed a night like tonight to get me going."

Ole Miss plated four runs total in the third, and it was enough for Roth to leave the game after four innings with a 6-2 lead. Roth struck out six in his 77-pitch outing, and his lone blemish came in his final inning when he left one up in the zone to Tiger hitter Kevin O'Keefe, whose two-run shot put Memphis on the board. The sophomore righty battled through some long innings when the Rebels were scoring runs and Memphis was changing pitchers to earned the win in his first career start.

"I felt good," Roth said. "I wasn't fatigued as the game wore on."

Memphis slowly clawed its way back into the game to a degree with a run in the fifth to make it 8-3 and one more in eighth to shave the deficit once more. Will Stokes took the ball from Greer Holston in the eighth and inherited a two-on, no-out situation with the Tigers trailing by four. The senior righty whiffed O'Keefe--who had already homered in the game--for a big first out and then induced two fly balls to allow Ole Miss to escape the jam.

"I really thought that was important," Bianco said. "If you're going to have a good bullpen, guys have to come in and put that fire out. Come in with runners on when the fire is hot and deliver some pitches. Will did that."

Memphis threatened with two more in the ninth, but All-American closer Dallas Woolfolk relieved Stokes in his second inning of work and put out the last necessary proverbial fire to preserve the team's fourth win of the year. 

It's the third time in four games Ole Miss has recorded double-digit hits. With the well-documented struggles at the plate in 2017, this has certainly been a positive sign for Bianco in the early stages of the season.

"We think we have a good offense," Bianco said. "What I am really proud of is we've done it with a lot of different people. It hasn't been the same guys every night."

Fortes described the early success at the plate best, attributing it to guys getting experience under their belt and growing as hitters as they get deeper into their careers.

"We are a little more mature," Fortes said. "We are not letting at-bats early in the game get to us late. We are learning and adjusting as the game goes on and I think that has been the biggest difference."

The Journey to this Point...2016 Ole Miss Baseball


By Tate Hawkins, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

In case you missed it, or you've been focused on the winter sports, Ole Miss Baseball is already five weeks into the 2016 season. After an 8-2 win over UT Martin on Tuesday, the Diamond Rebels are 20-2, tying its best 22-game start in program history.

The Rebels roll into the second weekend of SEC play and the first at Swayze after winning nine of their last 10 ballgames. Ole Miss sits in the top 10 of all six major college baseball rankings across the country, sitting as high as sixth in the Collegiate Baseball national poll and making them one of four SEC teams in the top 10.

Ole Miss got off to its hot start early by winning seven of the first eight games in Oxford, including a sweep over Florida International, taking two-of-three against then-No. 2 Louisville, as well as midweek wins against Arkansas State and Memphis. Then, the Rebels went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to participate in the 2016 Chanticleer Classic, winning all 3 of their games. Ole Miss posted victories over Ball State, then-No. 18 Coastal Carolina, and Cincinnati outscoring the three opponents a combined 22-6.

Following the weekend road trip, it was back home to Swayze where the Rebs would continue their winning ways by picking up sweeps over Southeast Missouri and Grambling State, taking a 12-game win streak into the first weekend of SEC play.

Ole Miss opened conference play by taking two-of-three from the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, winning on Saturday and Sunday and bringing their record to 19-2. The Rebels followed the victorious weekend with a midweek win over UT Martin. 

The impressive start has been accredited to masterful pitching and hot hitting. The Ole Miss pitching staff boasts a club ERA of 2.42 led by weekend starters Brady Bramlett (2.03), Chad Smith (3.91), and Sean Johnson (1.96). The bullpen features relievers David Parkinson (1.35), Dallas Woolfolk (0.00) and Andy Pagnozzi (2.42), and closer Wyatt Short (0.87) who has five saves. The Rebel hitters are led by Tate Blackman (.347, 2 HR, 21 RBI), Henri Lartigue (.339, 1 HR, 9 RBI), Colby Bortles (.329, 3 HR, 19 RBI) and J.B. Woodman (.325, 4 HR, 21 RBI). The Rebels have put 20 baseballs over the walls for homers, led by J.B. Woodman and Cameron Dishon who both have hit four dingers of their own.

This weekend, the Rebels host the 20-2 South Carolina Gamecocks, who are ranked as high as No. 10, for their first home SEC series of the year. The three-game slate is set for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in observance of the Easter Sunday holiday. So dye your Easter Eggs fast and postpone the egg hunt to Sunday because the baseball needs the support of Rebel Nation for this weekend's big top-10 matchup. Pack Swayze and be ready for the bottom of the fifth...

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Recent Comments

    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

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