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Rolison, Golsan Power Rebels to 5-4 Win Over Auburn

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More often than not this season, Ryan Rolison's outings have gone as his fastball command has with the success of the former and latter mirroring one another. On this night--a crucial 5-4, series-opening win over Auburn, which elected to save ace Casey Mize for the second game--the command of that pitch was masterful for the immensely talented lefty. After an uncharacteristically shaky outing at South Carolina last weekend, he gave a hearty 6.2 innings of two-run baseball, striking out five and walking four. Ole Miss needed every bit of it as it held off the Tigers.

"Really it was just my fastball command being better," Rolison said. "I was able to get over a slider when I needed to tonight and was able to fill it up."

He cruised through the first two frames, requiring just 17 pitches before slipping out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third by way of a strikeout, in which he blew an elevated fastball past Steven Williams, and then a nifty play from third baseman Tyler Keenan. Rolison exited the mound with a fist pump as the Rebels preserved an early lead and escaped with no damage.

"I needed to make the big pitch and I haven't done that in the past," Rolison said. "I was able to get that fastball in there for a big strikeout and was able to get out of there with no damage."

Rolison exited the game in the sixth inning after throwing his 95th pitch and looked on as Parker Caracci got the last seven outs after relieving Houston Roth, who faced two batters.

"I thought he was really good," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He was really sharp tonight."

Rolison was spotted the early lead thanks to Will Golsan demolishing an 0-2 fastball offering from Tiger starter Davis Daniel over the left field wall in the second inning. The senior captain sandwiched that and an RBI base hit in the fourth around a Nick Fortes solo shot to a similar spot in the third. Golsan was 2-for-4 on the night with the trio of runs driven in.

"I was sitting fastball and trying to just adjust to a breaking ball," Golsan said. "I happened to get my hands out and was short to it."

Ole Miss needed efforts from places across the diamond to gut this thing out. Keenan made two run-saving plays at third base to get the Rebels out of threatening innings. Keenan drove in the game-deciding run in the sixth by cracking a two-out double down the right field line. Parker Caracci--four days removed from the longest outing of his career--got the last seven outs of the game after the Tigers plated three in the seventh and preserved a one-run affair with his ninth save of the season.

"It's the same thing we have been seeing all season," Golsan said. "He fills up the zone with his fastball and his curveball. He is un-hittable. It is great to see."

A team that had let a couple of one-run games slip recently, but also one that has been good in that department for most of the year as a whole, buckled down for seven more outs.

"I think sometimes it is just the time of the year," Bianco said. "He pitched really well at the beginning of the year. If you run out there in enough of those close games sometimes it doesn't work for you. He hit a two-week span where it didn't work out as much. Some of that may be our fault. Maybe before that we shouldn't have let as many runs score. Maybe after that we should have scored a few more runs. It would be hard to believe we would be where we are without the way he has pitched."

Ole Miss will face Mize on Friday as it goes for its fifth SEC series win of the year.

"It's always nice going out and get the first one of the series," Golsan said. "Tomorrow is going swing day and Casey is going to good. We are going to have to come out, bear down and compete."

Rebels Roll Over Pine Bluff, Head To South Carolina This Weekend

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Ole Miss did not lose an out-of-conference baseball game at Swayze Field this season, cementing that note with a 10-3 drubbing Arkansas Pine Bluff on Wednesday.

The Rebels are 23-2 in non-conference games this season with one remaining in two weeks at Arkansas State. Here are some news and notes from the game as this team prepares to travel to Columbia this weekend to take on a South Carolina club playing its best baseball of the season.

- Grae Kessinger went 4-for-4 on this day with a double and three runs scored. He's hitting .311 and has been as productive and active in the leadoff spot as head coach Mike Bianco could ask this season.

"I am feeling good at the plate," Kessinger said. "This game is going to have its ups and downs but it is all about keeping a level head and that is what I am trying to do, not doo too much and be yourself."

The sophomore shortstop has 52 hits on the season and is slugging at a .417 mark.

- Dallas Woolfolk turned in a flawless eighth inning in which he struck out two hitters and flung fastballs consistently at 94 miles per hour. He was also flipping his secondary stuff into the zone and looked more like the power weapon out of the bullpen Ole Miss has been accustomed to seeing after struggling a bit in recent weeks.

"I felt pretty good," Woolfolk said. "I cannot thank the coaching staff enough for sticking behind me. You find out how to grow in times of struggle."

Woolfolk says he lost confidence for a bit but quickly regained it and thinks his velocity has been on the uptick as a byproduct of that. He's a vital piece to the Ole Miss bullpen down the home stretch of the season and today was certainly a good sign for him and the ballclub.

"That came back naturally with confidence," Woolfolk said. "It has helped me get along this rough ride, but I am back. It has been about clearing the mind, having positive thoughts and getting back to my roots."

Bianco was pleased with what he saw from the All-American as well.

"He was impressive," Bianco said. "He is a piece that is nice to have in the bullpen. He looked more confident not only with velocity but with command. He looked more like himself."

- Bianco bore more good news concerning the bullpen on this night. He said Houston Roth threw in the bullpen and will travel with team this weekend. The sophomore right-hander has been hampered the last two weeks with a hamstring injury and appears to be getting healthier from Bianco's report.

"I think he will be ready to throw this weekend," Bianco said. "He threw a bullpen today and looked good, looked strong."

- Anthony Servideo mashed his first collegiate home run well over the right-field bullpen in the second inning. Servideo played second base and shortstop late in the game and looked sharp defensively. 

"You can see how good he is," Bianco said. "He made a couple of excellent plays in the four-hole and covers so much ground. He can swing it too. He had a good fall offensively and will be a good offensive player for us."

Ole Miss returns to action on Friday against the Gamecocks. First pitch is set for 6:00 p.m. CT.

Rowe's Three Hit Night Powers Ole Miss To Win Over LSU

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A grin spread across Tim Rowe's face as he stood in left field speaking to a group of reporters. These were the types of nights he envisioned going into a season that's seen some hurdles pop up in his path. He went 3-for-4 with three doubles and helped Ole Miss pummel LSU 14-3 to take game one of a crucial late-April SEC series.

He smacked one to the right-center gap in the second to open the game, another in the fourth that put the Rebels in position to tie the game at two after Tyler Keenan trotted home on a wild pitch.

The final one helped catalyze an eleven-run sixth inning for the Rebels, serving as the proverbial knockout blow to a feeble LSU bullpen who didn't help itself out in relief Zack Hess. John Kodros didn't record an out and was ousted after Rowe's damaging double. He came to the plate twice in that inning alone. The Tiger bullpen has struggled mightily in the last three weeks, compiling an era north of 16.

"It was awesome to keep rolling through the order," Rowe said. "We knew we had them."

Kodros' successor, Matthew Beck, bungled a pair of dribblers back to the mound to pave way for Nick Fortes and Will Golsan to plate a pair of two-run singles that piled the deficit to 9-3.

It's been a frustratingly idle season so far for the senior from Hernando, Miss. He's been sidelined by a nagging hamstring injury early in the season saw him get buried to a degree by a plethora of hot-swinging bats that Mike Bianco couldn't afford to take out of the lineup in favor of the left-handed slugger at the time.

"I am proud of him," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He starts the year with a pulled hamstring and really kind of gets behind some guys like (Chase) Cockrell, Ryan (Olenek) and Keenan. It was just tough to get him back into the lineup. But we have an injury and he steps in immediately and has had a ton of hits. I am really proud of him."

A partially torn labrum in the non-throwing shoulder of Ryan Olenek provided an opportunity for Rowe to get into the lineup. He hasn't wasted a pitch. He's got six hits in two games and is 6-for-7 with four doubles.

"It hasn't been that frustrating because I love seeing my teammates succeed," Rowe said. "It's just unfortunate how I got into the game with Ryan Olenek getting hurt. I am just trying to take advantage of the opportunity."

Staying engaged is no easy task when one comes into a season with high hopes as Rowe did only to have them mired by a muscle in his right leg.

"It's a little hard to wait," Rowe said. "You've just got to do what you do every day and put the work in on your own time."

Tonight was the type of night he envisioned so many times in the winter, a late April showdown with two SEC West heavyweights in front of a capacity crowd, swatting fastballs into the gap helping his team at the plate. His six hits in two games is a feat difficult in and of itself but even more daunting given that his at-bats in game action have been sparse because of his health.

"It's not difficult at all," Rowe said. "I just take my approach from batting practice straight into the game."

Once Olenek is able to come back healthy, Rowe at a minimum provides a great deal of pop and a left-handed bat for Bianco off the bench.

"It's great having another bat and left-handed bat at that," Bianco said. "When you have competition it makes it good for anyone. As much depth as you can have is key."

Ole Miss starter Ryan Rolison dazzled for his sixth win of the year and went seven innings for the third time in four starts. Rowe's night wasn't lost on him either.

"It's impressive to see him come off the bench like that with not a lot of at-bats," Rolison said. "I am really looking forward to him keeping it rolling."

For Rowe, it's about finding a way to help this team any way he can. Being healthy is a certainly a plus for the slugger and his team going forward.

"I feel great," Rowe said. "Credit to (trainer) Josh Porter. He got me back."

Rebels Clobber Arkansas State, Remain Unblemished In Midweek

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Unblemished in midweek games in 2018, Ole Miss' maturity and sense of focus surfaced again in the form of seven runs in the first two innings in a 10-3 bludgeoning of Arkansas State to move to 11-0 in such contests this season.

The Rebels picked up their 30th win overall and improved to 22-1 in non-conference games, neither of which are easy feats. It is a testament to this team's maturity and the focus it brings to the park each day. Head coach Mike Bianco thinks it is more than that as well.

"It is maturity, but what does that mean? It means you show up and you're present," Bianco said. "You don't take nights off and you are super focused. Beyond that, it has a lot to do with the offense. The offense shows up. We have talked so much about it, but the offense shows up every day. They don't have a ton of runs one day and have a couple tough games. Every day we put innings together and give ourselves a chance to win."

That offense arrived early and blitzed Arkansas State starter Zachary Patterson and took control of the game in the first two frames.

The Oxford duo of Thomas Dillard and Grae Kessinger homered in this game. Dillard demolished a fastball that curled inside the right field foul pole and sailed into disappearance. Kessinger, three batters earlier, deposited a similar looking fastball over the left field fence. It made for a four-run second inning that put the Rebels in cruise control the remainder of the way.

"I just didn't know if it was going to go foul," Dillard said. "I hit a similar one against Arkansas that went foul but there was a little more wind. I was just hoping it stayed fair."

While Dillard snapped a dry spell with his eighth homer of the season, Ryan Olenek stayed hot, extending his hitting streak to 16 games before exiting the contest in the fifth after fouling a baseball off of his toe. Bianco said the junior right fielder will be fine. Olenek is on a torrid pace in SEC play, batting over .500 with 30 hits. He will continue be a key cog in this offense as the team dives into the back half of its SEC schedule.

Ole Miss also found maturity on the mound from a senior and a freshman.

Jordan Fowler scattered five hits and surrendered just one run in five innings. He picked up his fourth win of the season as his solidly consistent freshman campaign rolled on. The left-hander most always looks composed and in control of the baseball game when he is on the mound. He struck out four.

"We wanted to get him some innings and tonight he was terrific," Bianco said. "He was in the strike zone, a lot of first-pitch strikes, fastball on both sides of the plate, two different breaking balls, a handful of changeups. I thought he was terrific."

Senior Will Stokes gave an inning and two-thirds, allowing just one hit and no runs. Stokes is a veteran presence who has done a little bit of a lot in his career and is an important piece of a bullpen that has been the backbone of this team for most of the season.

"Mindset is always to fill up the zone," Stokes said. "That is what I always try to do is make sure I hit my spots, put it in play and let my fielders handle it."

After yet another midweek win, the Rebels turn back to SEC play. Ole Miss hosts Georgia this weekend. First pitch Friday set for 6:30 p.m. CT.

Rebels Return Home For Four-Game Week

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With an eight-game road trip in the rearview, Ole Miss plays its next nine games in the state of Mississippi with back-to-back weekends at home to jumpstart the second half of SEC play.

The Rebels dropped two of three to both Mississippi State and Vanderbilt the last two weekends with the last three losses coming on one-run fashion in the final at-bat. Ole Miss held a lead going into the ninth inning--or the seventh in the case of the last two in a rain-shortened doubleheader in Nashville--in each of those contests, but were unable to close out the game.

Much focus is put on the bullpen in close situations like that, but on Tuesday the Rebels were quick to point out they have to be better as a team in those situations.

"We have to be better," head coach Mike Bianco said. "The takeaway really is in the eye of the beholder. We obviously have not been good enough. Each of our last three SEC losses we have had opportunities to close it out and we didn't. But prior to that people were talking about this being the best bullpen we have ever had. The glass-half-full side of it would be that we've seen it, we just haven't executed well. It is a combination of a lot of things. The biggest thing is guys doing their jobs."

To Bianco's point, Ole Miss is 7-4 in one-run games and before a six-hour span on Sunday afternoon that mark was 7-2. It's not as if this is a theme with this team, but the Rebels would like to make sure it doesn't become one.

"You can't blame the bullpen or just one guy," Ryan Olenek said. "One pitch can change the whole game. We are just trying to work to get better as a team. It is not necessarily the bullpen or one thing, it is a couple of mistakes we need to tighten up."

Some of it is merely the ever-teetering fortune that comes with the game of baseball. A ball finding a hole or a pitcher being squeezed on a close ball-strike call can alter the outcome greatly in close-game situations.

"Some of it is just baseball," Bianco said. "Some balls have found holes and made it more difficult. How to change that fortune is to make better pitches."

Ole Miss sits at 8-7 in league play at the halfway mark and right in the thick of things in a crowded SEC Western division. A large reason for that is the torrid pace Ryan Olenek is on. The junior outfielder is hitting .508 in league play with seven extra-base hits, two home runs and 11 driven in. Olenek has been consistent for the Rebels throughout his career. He's always been an aggressive hitter at times to a fault. This year, he thinks he's been able to harness that aggression without helping the opposing pitcher out.

"I made it kind of hard on myself sometimes the last couple years by swinging at bad pitches," Olenek said. "This year I have had better pitch selection."

Bianco's watched Olenek grow from a budding freshman whose hot bat he couldn't take out of the lineup down the stretch in 2016 to one of the best hitters in the conference. Olenek is second in the SEC with 56 hits on the season, just one knock off of the league lead, and 30 of those have been in league play.

"He's always been aggressive, but he's been able to get better pitches (this year) and to be overly-aggressive chasing pitches out of the zone," Bianco said. "If you pitched him really tough I think sometimes he would get himself out by being overly-aggressive. I think that is one thing. The other is that he feels good about himself and is playing with confidence. When you dod that you tend to barrel up a lot of balls."

True freshman Tyler Keenan isn't far behind. He's hitting .350 in conference play with four home runs. He has been as consistent as one can be as a freshman in this league.

"I go up there looking for one pitch and if I get it I am going to swing," Keenan said. "If not, I am going to fight until I do."

A lot of newcomers fall victim to the uptick in velocity and the quality of breaking balls, but he's plunged forward through the slew of adjustments pitchers have thrown his way and the different ways he's been pitched too. This past weekend, it was the Commodore staff hurling more off-speed stuff at him and trying to jam him inside. Keenan hasn't missed a beat.

"A lot of freshmen a don't freshmen don't play like they are capable of and the reason is the mentality," Bianco said. "They make the game different and more difficult than it has to be. There is a lot of pressure playing in front of large crowds, and they let it affect the way they play the game. Tyler is a great competitor, enjoys the game and those moments. The guys who are really good figure that out quickly.

Ole Miss hosts Arkansas State on Wednesday and will hand the baseball to freshman lefty Jordan Fowler. Bianco said he'd like to save Houston Roth to come out of the bullpen this weekend to add some depth as well as get Fowler more extended outings. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT.

Rebels Set To Battle Pair Of Rivals In Four-Game Week

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After blazing through a stretch of seven games against top 15 opponents at 5-2, No. 3 Ole Miss is now facing a week in which it will play teams it is extremely familiar with and teams it considers its rival. The Rebels will trek to Memphis Wednesday night for a game against the Tigers at AutoZone Park before heading to Starkville for the weekend set against Mississippi State.

Mike Bianco made a minor tweak to his rotation to begin this week by flipping Ryan Rolison and Brady Feigl to have Feigl pitch on Friday night and Rolison on Saturday. Bianco pointed to Feigl's dominance on the mound through the season's first seven weeks as the reason for the switch.

"Brady has pitched so well," Bianco said. "Ryan hasn't pitched bad, just maybe not as dominant as Brady through the seven starts, and I thought this was the right time to do it, especially with the way the weeks fell to give him normal rest."

The Rebel skipper wanted it known that this is a fluid situation, as are most lineup-related things with any ball club over the course of a 56-game slate.

"Someone asked me this morning if it was permanent," Bianco said. "Nothing is permanent. The rotation is what it is this week, same with the lineup. Ryan understands and Brady understands. To use Ryan's quote from the beginning of a press conference, 'We have three Friday night guys throwing.' We are just trying to win baseball games and put the guy in there who is throwing the best."

Feigl has been lights-out this season, benefitting from improved slider command and being aggressive with hitters. The junior right-hander is 6-1 with a 2.23 ERA and has been good virtually every time he has grabbed the baseball this season.

For Rolison, it's just been a couple of minor mistakes that have led to innings slipping away from him. Bianco didn't seem too concerned with the recent minor struggles of his uber-talented left-hander and thinks he will get back on track this weekend in Starkville.

"Most of his outings it has just been an inning or two," Bianco said. "To be honest it has been mostly good fortune or bad fortune, however you want to say it. Not taking anything away from Arkansas, but a couple home runs that aren't usually home runs on this field and a tough first inning where he made a couple bad pitches with two strikes and they get base hits and score a couple runs. Ryan has given us great efforts."

Ole Miss wasn't lacking for confidence going into the daunting stretch it just came out of, but it only grows with each win. Bianco is pleased with how his team has found a multitude of ways to win baseball games and thinks that is evidence of a sense of toughness and maturity good teams in the SEC are equipped with year-in and year-out.

"I don't know if I learned more, but it really hammered home the feeling that we are tough," Bianco said. "They have won a lot of different types of games, games where they have had to score, where they have had to pitch and defend. We have fallen behind where we came back. We've won where we had a lead and held on."

Perhaps the most glaring piece of evidence to Bianco's point is how his team has responded when things haven't gone their way.

"It is not like we've had everything go our way," he said. "Certainly, we have had good fortune like everyone, but we also have had instances the other way, whether it is a call or a 50-50 pitch that maybe didn't go our way, but we have handled it. That is my takeaway. They've shown a lot of maturity and toughness that you need to have in our league."

Ole Miss begins this stretch of rivalry games on Wednesday and doesn't expect any letdown after its grueling late-March schedule. Bianco said his team is well-aware of the importance of each game, particularly when the opponent is in their backyard.

"The thing we want to do is play well," Bianco said. "If we do that everything will take care of itself. It is not foolproof. You can play well and lose, but you have a much better chance of winning. I hope that is the mindset because that is what has gotten us to this point. This week we are playing teams that are our rival. Anytime you play your rival it is a big game."

Houston Roth will get the baseball against Memphis Wednesday. First pitch from Autozone Park is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT.

Rebels Notch Series Win Over Fifth Ranked Arkansas

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OXFORD, Miss - Four-innings of offensive infused chaos was extinguished over the final five outs by the right arm of Parker Caracci. A marathon of a baseball game culminated with the sophomore's second multi-inning save in as many nights as Ole Miss was the last one standing in an 11-10 war over one of the best lineups one through nine in college baseball.

"They're definitely one of the best offensive teams we have faced," Caracci said. "You just have to try to hit your spots. If you leave it over the plate they will most likely make you pay for it."

The Rebels secured a series win over Arkansas to cap off a stretch of seven games against top 15 teams at 5-2.

Six innings of grueling from Ole Miss starter James McArthur was largely lost in the haze of the 19 runs scored in the final four and a half innings of the baseball game. The junior right-hander came off the mound in the fifth after retiring his 10th consecutive hitter to a 1-1 tie. Ole Miss plated four runs to give him a cushion and three more in the sixth to hand him an 8-2 advantage. He fought through some errant breaking balls with a heavy dosage of fastballs he kept away from the Razorback barrels and turned in an outing he worked hard for.

"A whole lot of fastballs," McArthur said. "Couldn't really get the breaking ball over. I was able to make some really good pitches with my fastball, get quick outs and have some quick innings."

A solo shot in the seventh inning from Daniel Fletcher ousted McArthur leading 8-3 with nine outs needed to end the baseball game.

"I think you don't understand how good he was until you saw what happened after he left," Clement said. "Now he's out and baseballs start flying all over the yard on a hitter's day to hit. I think that just shows you how good he was. I know it gets lost because it was 11-10, but he was really good."

Chaos ensued over the next three innings as Arkansas plated seven runs off a bullpen that had been dominant all season. The Hogs homered three times to counter a pair of three-run innings from Ole Miss with a couple four spots of their own.

"We owe a lot of our wins to the bullpen this year," Clement said. "If we can pick them up every once in a while we will be fine."

It all led up to Caracci coming in with one out in the eighth inning in an 11-10 game. Aside from a leadoff double in the ninth, Caracci recored five easy outs and sealed a series victory over a top five team.

"Don't let the guy score," Caracci said with a grin when asked about his approach after the double.

Twice this weekend, he put out a fire to seal a pair of wins. He has six saves this season and five of them have come in the last nine days.

"He was spotting up and doing a great job," Olenek said. "He is just a special kid."

Ole Miss needed all hands on deck this weekend, from Olenek's seven-hit weekend with a dislocated finger, to Caracci's back-to-back saves to a quality outings from Brady Feigl and James McArthur against the most dangerous lineup in the conference. Tyler Keenan clubbed a three-run home in the seventh to make it 11-6.

"We just compete," right fielder Olenek said. "The situation doesn't matter. Even if we are up, we had a six-run lead, it is never enough. We keep on scoring."

Ole Miss would need all of those runs.

The Rebels' confidence continues to rise with each win. Ole Miss has shown an advanced sense of maturity that is evident in its 8-2 record in one-run games.

"Toughness is one word," Olenek said. "We know we are a really good team and hard to beat."

Cole Zabowski homered twice this weekend as the Rebels popped 27 hits in an effort to keep pace with the Razorbacks. Ole Miss showed it can win in a variety of ways, salting away a 5-4 win last night and swatting two home runs and ten hits in a slugfest.

"You can start to feel the vibe in the dugout of just how good and tough we are," McArthur said. "We just have to stick together and keep getting better."

The Rebels are 25-4 (6-3) and currently sit at the top the SEC west standings after three weekends. The team took a road series at Texas A&M before taking out the Razorbacks on Easter weekend, two teams widely considered to be the cream of the crop in the western division and in the conference along with Ole Miss. It has back-ended to home series, rebounding after dropping the opening game to Tennessee and the Razorbacks.

"Our confidence was high coming into the year," Olenek said. "We know how good we were and how well we can hit. We have always been pretty confident.

Confidence wasn't lacking before but is continuing to become abundant with each win becomes more tangible evidence.

"Our goal is to keep our head down and keep going," Clement said. "That is the way you have to take it. We just try to keep plowing ahead."

Feigl Neutralizes Hog Bats As Rebels Even Series

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One through nine, there is an argument to be made that Arkansas possesses the most potent lineup in the Southeastern Conference. Seven of its nine hitters are batting .320 or better. Every hitter but one has an OPS of .800 or better.

There is no remission, no place allowing an opposing pitcher to breathe for a moment or skate by on a sailing or elevated mistake.

"They fight and battle," Nick Fortes said. "They don't miss pitches over the plate. You have to be perfect with them. They're a good hitting club and you have to make pitches."

The team is slugging .537 and has clubbed 47 home runs. It had homered in 12 straight games until meeting Ole Miss' Brady Feigl, who scattered seven singles over 5.1 innings in a 5-4 Rebel win to even the series. Feigl moved to 6-1 on the season. He limited hard contact. Three of the singles did not leave the infield.

"You know who you're playing," Feigl said. "Arkansas has one of the best lineups in the SEC. It is one of the best we will face all year. One thing we always preach is that we play ourselves so it doesn't matter who is in the other dugout."

He largely neutralized a group of bats who'd inflicted terror on some of the nation's best pitching thanks to a changeup he leaned on more heavily than he has in any other outing this season, along with a good fastball and slider to complement it.

"That always makes you happy," Feigl said. "The defense was tremendous tonight. That is what helped the most along with the confidence to fill up the zone."

He survived a second inning in which the Hogs tagged him for two runs to take a 2-1 lead on an infield single and a ball that squirted through the left side. The junior righty became more aggressive after that and blanked them in the final three frames he was in the ballgame.

"Coach pulled me aside after the second and told me I wasn't doing anything wrong, I just was kind of passively attacking them," Feigl said. "He said to go after them. Go let your best stuff have it and let the chips fall after that. The biggest thing is to fill it up and use your best stuff in the zone. After he told me that it started working a little better."

The fastballs came more frequently in the later innings. Feigl left to an ovation in the sixth and a bullpen combination of Greer Holston, Dallas Woolfolk and Parker Caracci held off the Razorback offense for the final eleven outs.

"I thought he was terrific," head coach Mike Bianco said. "They're really good, and like us, can put an inning together. I thought it was a good mix of all three pitches. He used his changeup more today than he maybe has all year and went to his fastball later in the game. He was terrific."

This was a back-and-forth game in which each team led in the first three innings. Ole Miss made enough plays on both fronts, like Fortes who clubbed a hanging breaking ball over the left field fence to extend Ole Miss' lead to 5-2, two precious runs the team would need. He also hosed the tying runner going from first to second in the eighth inning that helped Caracci slip out of a jam.

"It had just enough," Fortes said. "I thought I was going to have to leg out a double so I am thankful it went out. I have been struggling a little bit and it helped us get over the top."

Caracci responded from a hectic eighth inning by striking out the side in the ninth in overwhelming fashion to preserve the one-run win. The sophomore fireballer has shown the ability to overpower some of the best hitters in the country with a fastball that creeps up to 97 and a slider with a lot of bite.

"Parker is something special," Ryan Olenek said.

"It just shows his composure," Fortes said. "He knows he has some of the best stuff in the country and the some of the best I have ever seen. That eighth inning he was trying to do a little too much, and in that ninth he was doing what he has done all year: mowing guys down and filling up the zone."

Ole Miss will attempt to take the series with James McArthur on the hill tomorrow against Arkansas' Kacey Murphy. First pitch is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT.

Dillard's Three-Run Blast Helps Ole Miss Notch 10th Comeback Win

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As Southern Miss' left-hander Adam Jackson jogged out of the right field bullpen in the 7th inning in a 5-4 game his team led, Thomas Dillard switched his grip and hopped over to the right side of the plate for the second time in the game.

Golden Eagles' skipper Scott Barry played the numbers game with Dillard once before in the fifth when he called on southpaw Mason Strickland to face Dillard in a two-on, one-out scenario. The Rebel left-fielder came into the ballgame hitting just .179 from the right side, a number due more than anything else to the fact he only had 32 plate appearances and 28 at-bats from the right side compared to 75 and 60 on the left.

"I started off kind of slow right-handed and I have been picking it up lately," Dillard said. "I don't blame them for playing the matchup."

Strickland extinguished Dillard with a whiff on a breaking ball in the fifth. Jackson did not have the same experience. Dillard demolished an 88 mph fastball deep into the left-field seating for a three-run shot. It gave Ole Miss a 7-5 lead and marked the end of a comeback that saw the Rebels score seven unanswered runs to erase a five-run deficit for the first time since May 14, 2016.

"I think people are looking at the numbers," Bianco said. "Especially with (lefty Cole) Zabowski behind him, I think it is sometimes easy to go to the left-hander. I don't know if it is more Thomas or it is the combination of turning him around and going left-handed with Zabowski too. We all know Thomas can hit right-handed. The numbers may not stand out right now, but last year it was the opposite. So it is not one of those things. I think by year's end it will probably even out."

Dillard knew it off the bat as the ball sailed well over over the 365 sign in left field.

"It felt really good," Dillard said. "I think that was the first ball I have hit out of here to left field in my career. It felt good to hit it out there."

The sophomore slugger has clubbed seven home runs this season and has worked hard on hitting from the right side recently. It was his second from the right side this season.

"It is getting a lot better," Dillard said. "That at-bat I was sitting towards the right side of the field and then the first pitch I got a foot down later. I told myself to try to get my foot down and hit it over the batter's eye. I got the head out a little earlier than I wanted but still put a good swing on it."

The swing propelled Ole Miss in front, and after surviving a tight situation in the ninth that Parker Caracci slipped out of with a fly ball to strand men at the corners, the Rebels notched their 10th come-from-behind win of the season with a 7-6 decision over 14th ranked Southern Miss.

Each of the 10 comebacks have had their own anatomy, but each one keeps building toward an attitude and a confidence that's morphing into an identity.

"With this team, we always have that bullet in the gun like Coach B says," sophomore pitcher Houston Roth said. "Seventh inning we put up a four-spot. We are never out of a fight, ever. There is never a moment where we are beaten, down or defeated."

Roth ate up five innings in relief of starter Jordan Fowler who struggled when the Golden Eagles blitzed him for four runs in the first inning. He scattered six hits and gave up just one run.

"Stuff happens," Roth said. "Fowler gave up a few hits. I knew going in I was going to have to go a long way and act like a starter. It wasn't going to be one inning and shut it down. I knew that. I have starts under my belt. I just went out there and did what I did."

He mixed a lot of changeups and breaking balls to keep Southern Miss off balance.

One thing that has delighted Bianco is how these comebacks have come to fruition. It's come from all over and taken a multitude of guys.

"I think we just continue to fight," Bianco said. "They've all been different things. One, you obviously have to have a good offense. Once again, we put a couple of big innings together with three and four-run innings tonight. You also have to be able to pitch out of the bullpen. We have been able to do that with a lot of different guys."

Tonight, Chase Cockrell's two-out, 2-RBI double in the fifth helped spark the three-run fifth Bianco alluded to. Greer Holston then put together 1.2 innings of shutout ball to pave the way for Dallas Woolfolk and Caracci to preserve the game in the eighth and ninth.

The ability of Ole Miss' bullpen to come in and immediately cease further offensive carnage makes it a hard team to put away. It's what has helped breed the air of the confidence this team exudes even when it gets in a hole like the 5-0 deficit on this night.

"Our pitching staff, no matter what they've done early in the game, they will come back and shut it down," Dillard said. "Our hitters have done a great job of keeping with the at-bats no matter what the score is. If you just chip away, chip away you will have that one big inning. We will go ahead eventually and the pitching staff will hold it."

Ole Miss returns to action on Thursday against Arkansas. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT.

Rebel Bats Eager For Challenge of Texas A&M Arms

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This weekend's series at Blue Bell Park between Ole Miss and Texas A&M will feature two teams that mirror each other in a lot ways.

Both clubs pitch it well and are one and two in the SEC in team ERA with the Rebels carrying a slight edge at 2.19 to the Aggies' 2.32. Both teams are also hitting exactly .300 as a team through 22 games and one weekend of conference play.

Two veteran rotations will square off against each other beginning with sophomore lefty Ryan Rolison facing junior Aggie right-hander Stephen Kolek, a four-pitch guy with a good fastball and a wipeout slider. Kolek made 10 SEC starts a year ago for the Texas A&M, going 2-4 with a 4.55 ERA.

"It's always fun getting into SEC play facing the best arms," Thomas Dillard said. "These are the things you look forward to when you commit to Ole Miss."

Friday will feature Brady Feigl, Ole Miss' junior righty, who has been consistently dominant through the first month of the season. Feigl scattered four hits and one run over 6.1 innings in a win over Tennessee last Saturday to move to 5-0 on the year. He'll square off against lefty John Doxakis, a big 6-foot-4 frame who can hit 94 with good secondary stuff. Doxakis is 3-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 27.1 innings this year.

James McArthur and Mitchell Kilkenny will round out the series on Saturday. Ole Miss faced Kilkenny out of the bullpen a year ago, and he's been dominant for the Aggies this season with a 5-0 record and 1.32 ERA in 34 innings.

"We have all heard about their arms," catcher Cooper Johnson said. "They've got three really good ones and it is going to be a challenge. As a catcher, I definitely respect that, a good pitching matchup.

This will likely be a tight series with two teams that have a lot of arms. The Ole Miss staff surrendered just one run over its final 20 innings of baseball last weekend after dropping the series opener to Tennessee. Pitching was thought to be the core strength of this team going into the season, and it has certainly shown the ability to lock opponents down for extended stretches over the course of a weekend.

"With the three guys we have on the weekend, it is a pretty reassuring feeling," Johnson said. "You only have to score a couple of runs. Obviously, you want to score nine runs every time, but with the level of competition we face, it is tough to do that. It is definitely reassuring to know if we string a couple innings together and score some runs, our starters will take us deep into the game and we have a lot of guys in the bullpen who can come in and shut it down."

This will be the first time the Rebels will enter an SEC road environment this season =. Mike Bianco thinks his team is eager for the challenge.

"They're very similar to us statistically in the sense they do a lot of things well," Bianco said. "They pitch it well. All three of their starters are really good and it should be a good challenge for us. Going on the road and the first tough environment for us. There should be good crowds with a top-10 matchup. I think these guys are excited."

Ole Miss last won a series in College Station two trips ago in 2014, when it clinched the SEC West on its way to Omaha. First pitch on Thursday is set for 6 p.m. CT and will air on SEC Network.

"They're a good team like and have played good competition like we have," Johnson said. "I think we are just focused on playing the game and ourselves, taking it day-by-day and competing."

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

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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.

Feigl Continues Dominance as Rebels Even Series


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Mike Bianco balked on declaring Brady Feigl's 6.1 inning, nine-strikeout outing on Saturday against Tennessee his best one, but that's mostly because there have been ample to choose from.

The junior right-hander has been consistently dominant sandwiched in the middle of a lethal weekend rotation. He improved to 5-0 on the season by stifling the Volunteers in a 7-1 Ole Miss win, scattering four hits over six-plus innings with his only blemish coming on a first-pitch fastball to Justin Ammons in the sixth.

"It's hard to say it is the best because he has been so, so sharp," Bianco said. "It's hard to be critical of what he just did, locating the fastball on both sides of the plate and to throw all three pitches. Even today he used the change up a bit. I am proud of him. I am proud of this effort."

Feigl fanned nine hitters and walked just one. He's struck out 34 and walked three batters this season, a remarkably consistent pace at this juncture in the season. As Bianco alluded to, he's been able to work his fastball on both sides of the plate and compliment it with a change up. But it has been the slider that has been the catalyst to all of those swings-and-misses.

"I have been able to funnel it in more," Feigl said. "It is playing up my other pitches. With Fortes or Cooper behind the plate, they make them look a lot better back there."

The pitch is one that's always been the wipeout call for Feigl, but also one in the past he has struggled to harness consistent command for. Before the season started he mentioned that pitch as being a large factor in his consistent success. He is in full control of it and is reaping the benefits of its bite.

"The slider is such a swing-and-miss pitch," Bianco said. "I thought at times last year he just couldn't get it in the zone enough. It doesn't make for a bad year. It just makes for him to sometimes to be on his heels. This year it is obviously in the zone a lot more. It has helped his other pitches. It has helped him be more free with his fastball and freedom to use his change up like he did today."

Ole Miss hasn't been punched in the mouth often this year, once in the series opener at Long Beach State and once on Friday night to open this SEC series, but each time Feigl has led the charge in issuing a responding blow. He's connected each time.


"That's why we do it," Feigl said. "That's why we go out there to Long Beach.. The biggest thing is to be able to punch back. It's swing day. It's the offense, the defense and the pitching. We did that today."

There wasn't much stress on his shoulders today due to his brilliance, but the made pitches to get off the field when trouble beckoned. A fastball inside in the sixth inning induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to escape a bases loaded no outs jam. A similar situation to what Ole Miss found itself in in the seventh inning of Friday's game. Tennessee was able to get two hits and take control of the game. Today, the Rebels thwarted any momentum it could've gained.

"That's huge," Bianco said. "Those are game winners. You look back at those plays and wonder what a difference that would made. Last night they hit a double in the gap and today they would've been back in it. Those are huge plays."

Feigl jogged off the right side of the mound with a fist pump as demonstrative and precise as his arsenal of pitchers were on this Saturday afternoon.

"Feigl is terrific," Grae Kessinger said. "You know what you're going to get and it is just fun to watch him do his thing."

Kessinger had a three-hit day to bring his hit total to six on the weekend and helped Ole Miss ambush Tennessee starter Garrett Stallings by putting up two runs in the second, one in the third and three in the fourth. Jacob Adams roped two extra-base hits down the right field line in the second and fourth innings that produced 3 RBIs and gave Feigl a cushion. Kessinger had two RBIs himself and is now hitting .393 on the season. The Rebels evened the series at one apiece.

James McArthur will go tomorrow in the rubber game at noon.

SIDEBAR: Rebs Sweep Green Wave with 6th Inning Deluge

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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: Ole Miss Takes Two from Tulane

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It was not quite the typical day at the ballpark for No. 9 Ole Miss, but it was certainly an efficient one as the Rebels put two in the win column over Tulane after Friday night's game was postponed in the fifth inning due to rain.

Game one of this series resumed at noon Saturday with Ole Miss clinging to a 2-1 lead. Will Ethridge replaced Ryan Rolison because of the overnight delay and put up scoreless sixth and seventh innings while Cole Zabowski and Cooper Johnson put a pair of 1-0 offerings in the seats in the bottom of the seventh for some needed insurance. Zabowski sent a fastball over the center field wall and Johnson placed a breaking ball in the Ole Miss bullpen in left field as part of a three-run inning that resulted in a 5-1 lead for the Rebels.

Ethridge ran into some trouble in the eighth when back-to-back doubles turned into a three-run shot from Matt Rowland that made it a 5-4 game, but Will Stokes and Dallas Woolfolk put the clamps on the Green Wave rally and secured the final six outs Ole Miss needed for the win.

After a 45 minute intermission between games, Ole Miss put up arguably its most efficient win of the year in which the offense exploded for nine runs and Brady Feigl turned in six innings of two-hit ball on just 73 pitches. Fiegl overcame an unearned run in a first inning that saw him strike out all three hitters and put together as efficient of an outing as he's had during his career.

"I think efficient is not even fair," Mike Bianco said. "He was super dominant against what I consider to be a good offense. It was a tough day to pitch with the wind gushing out and I thought he was electric, maybe the best outing he has had here and that is saying a lot."

The junior righty found his slider in the early innings and mixed the changeup in during the second and third time through the order. Feigl moved to 2-0 on the season.

"A big part of what they talked to me about is attacking the zone and trying to get ahead because it makes things a lot easier," Feigl said. "I think it definitely helped."

Oddly enough, Feigl's exit was due mostly to a long, five-run sixth inning the offense put together that blew the ballgame open. He certainly did not mind.

"When your offense does that it is hard to complain," Feigl said with a grin.

That's been the story in five of the six games the Rebels have played this season. The offense has backed the pitching staff with ample breathing room to operate, and the most encouraging sign to Bianco is that it is coming from all over. It's started at the top of the order with Grae Kessinger's 11 hits in six games. Kessinger homered in the bottom of the first in game two and sent a double off the left-center wall that brought another run across in the fifth. The sophomore shortstop has been as productive as Bianco could possibly ask for in the leadoff slot through six games. 

Kessinger has taken an aggressive approach of jumping on fastballs early in counts and it's paid dividends.

"I am seeing it well and being aggressive," Kessinger said. "My swing feels good and it is all just working right now. Everything is going well and I just want to stick to my approach and keep being aggressive."

He's seeing pitches when he needs to, though. He worked a full count walk in the first game and has only struck out twice in 18 at-bats so far this year.

"I thought him answering in the first inning after we went down was huge," Bianco said. "He has had a lot of big hits for us early on this season."

Zabowski homered for the second time this year and Johnson's was the first of his career. Chase Cockrell went 2-for-3 in game two. He and Zabowski are a couple of batters in the middle of the Ole Miss order that have shown some pop along with Tim Elko and Tyler Keenan, which encouraged the Ole Miss head coach.

"You're expecting that from some of those young guys in Elko and Keenan," Bianco said. "We have some physical hitters in the middle there. He is off to a good start and swinging it well."

Aside from a lapse or two in a couple innings, Ole Miss has defended well this year and particularly this weekend. Thomas Dillard, Will Golsan and Olenek made plays that potentially saved runs in the outfield. Fortes started a huge 3-6-1 double play that got the Rebels out of a slippery spot in a one-run contest in the eighth inning of game one.

"I thought we were outstanding on defense," Bianco said. "One of the things I challenged and we wanted to improve was outfield defense. It's not that we were bad but the great teams have difference makers out there. We have a catcher and two shortstops out there and they make the regular play. Today, they made some great plays with Golsan making a couple of sensational plays as did Olenek, and Thomas made a great play on Friday night. Those change the game."

First pitch for game three is slated for game three is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT on Sunday.

SIDEBAR: Kessinger and Fortes Team Up to Top Tigers

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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."

SIDEBAR: Rolison, Rebels Roll Past Winthrop in Opener

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OXFORD, Miss - A dominant summer in the Cape Cod League brought forth some lofty expectations for Ole Miss' Ryan Rolison, something he's never shied away from.

The sophomore lefty certainly lived up to them on opening day as he put together a dominant 12-strikeout performance in five innings of one-hit ball in a 7-3 win over Winthrop.

"I felt great out of the gate," Rolison said. "I was able to find my fastball out of the gate along with my slider."

Rolison battled his way through a 22-pitch first inning and cruised for the final four frames he was in the game. He filled up the zone and went straight at the Winthrop lineup with 55 strikes in 81 pitches.

"I had a little bit of adrenaline in the first inning with it being opening day," Rolison. "But I was able to battle, found my slider and just filled up the zone."

The Eagles put only three balls in play against Rolison, who faced 18 hitters on the night and walked just two. He kept the Eagles off balance all evening with his fastball, slider and a changeup he's worked hard to develop further in the offseason.

"It was kind of boring in left field honestly," sophomore left fielder Thomas Dillard said jokingly. "He struck out 12 in five innings. A guy like that is fun to play defense behind. He stays in the zone and his stuff is just electric. On a Friday night like this, that is definitely the guy you want on the mound."

Rolison didn't put his defense to work too much, but that was just fine with third baseman Tyler Keenan, who made a dazzling play on a ground ball in the seventh inning with Houston Roth on the mound.

"Ryan is filthy," Keenan said. "That is all I have to say. He's one of the best pitchers in the country, one of the best in this league. He's just nasty."

Rolison exited after a pair of strikeouts in the fifth, which was part of a pitch-count plan, according to head coach Mike Bianco, given that it is early on in the season.

"There are times where he made it look pretty easy," Bianco said. "That's why he has all the accolades. He has great stuff. He pitched well tonight."

Keenan and Dillard had a productive day in their own right. Keenan's first collegiate hit came in his first at-bat. The freshman third baseman crushed a fastball down the right-field line that plated two and gave Rolison an early cushion.

"They were working lefties inside," Keenan said. "I kind of capped it a little bit, got the first two RBIs to get us going it felt good."

Dillard went 3-for-4 and his trio of hits was a nice start to the year for a guy who is expected to be a productive force in the middle of the lineup this season. It certainly helps for confidence early in the season. Dillard said he saw a lot of off-speed pitches hitting in the four-hole and certainly did well by taking what was given to him. 

"It felt really good," Dillard said. "Last year didn't go how I wanted it to go. I have just been focusing on forgetting about the past and putting the ball in play to help my team out by not striking out. I think I did a good job of that today, but I need to come back and be even better tomorrow."

Ole Miss got the timely hits on this night. All nine Rebels recorded a hit. Keenan and Cooper Johnson got two apiece. Ole Miss was able to put together at-bats with two outs. A pair of two-out base knocks from Dillard and Nick Fortes in the third set the table for senior designated hitter Tim Rowe to demolish a ball over the fence in right-center for a three-run home run and the team's first long ball of the year.

"We were able to get the timely hit tonight, the two-out hit," Bianco said. "We bunched hits together which we did not do last year. We talk about maxing it out. There are so many in-game battles we didn't win last year. We had opportunities and we didn't finish off innings in the field or at the plate. We did that tonight."

After two quick fly ball outs to start the frame, the Rebels forced Winthrop starter Zach Peek to unravel quickly and blew the game open early on. Peek was chased after five innings. He was charged with six runs on eight hits. 

Houston Roth relieved Rolison in the sixth and went three innings in which he let up two runs that were both unearned on two hits. Will Stokes finished the game off in the ninth and the Rebels moved to 1-0.

"We played pretty well tonight," Bianco said. "It was a nice night offensively because it came from some different people."

Bianco Previews 2018 Team At Media Day

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By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com

Mike Bianco spoke with a sense of excitement in his voice as he stood at a podium in the Diamond Club seating area at Swayze Field at media day. Ole Miss opens its 2018 season against Winthrop on Friday afternoon.

The Rebels return seven starters in the field from a young group last season and also return the bulk of their pitching both in the rotation and bullpen.

Bianco gave a preview of a potential starting lineup, starting with the outfield. Thomas Dillard will be the opening day left fielder, Will Golsan will be in center and Ryan Olenek will man right field. Olenek played center field in 2017, but Bianco anticipates the junior to play some infield as well and preferred to have some stability in center field, hence the flip between Golsan and Olenek. Aside from that, it is the same outfield personnel-wise from last year.

With Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman being the only everyday position players Ole Miss needed to replace, both of the open positions are in the infield at second and third base. At third base Bianco said both Tyler Keenan and Tim Elko could see action there this weekend. Both are freshmen and Keenan bats left-handed. Jacob Adams and Anthony Servideo will be the primary candidates to replace Blackman at second base. Servideo is a true freshman out of Miami, Florida, and Adams is a junior by way of Crowder Community College. A healthy Grae Kessinger returns at shortstop and Nick Fortes will play first base after sliding over to that position from catcher last year. Cole Zabowski could also see time at first base as well. Sophomore backstop Cooper Johnson will be behind the plate for the Rebels as well.

Bianco said lefty Tim Rowe and right-hander Chase Cockrell will see time at DH this weekend, giving him two solid bats with some power and a match-up option depending on the opposing pitcher.

"Chase had a great fall, and Tim showed us what he could do last year, and look for him to add to that his senior campaign," Bianco said.

Ryan Rolison will grab the baseball for the Rebels on opening day. The sophomore lefty is coming off of a dominant summer in the Cape Cod League and has plenty of experience pitching in the SEC after sliding in to the rotation early on in SEC play last year.

"Last year, as good as we were on the mound, we weren't good enough to compete on Friday night in the SEC," Bianco said."And if you want to compete in our league, you have to compete on Friday night and I think Ryan gives us the best shot to do that right away."

Rolison's developed his changeup as a formidable third pitch along with a really good breaking ball.

"It has come a long way," Rolison said. "I feel comfortable throwing it for a strike in any count. I have gained a lot of confidence in it."

Junior righty Brady Feigl will start on Saturday and fellow junior right-hander James McArthur will be getting the nod on Sunday. Feigl got a taste of the rotation a year ago, but was mostly an effective option for Bianco out of the bullpen and all 12 of McArthur's outings in 2017 were weekend starts.

"The biggest thing for me going back into the fall was gaining consistency with my slider," Feigl said. "When I was good last year, I had my slider. It bumped up all of my other pitches."

This group has 14 upperclassmen compared to six from a season ago and has a lot of talent on the mound mound in particular.

All-American closer Dallas Woolfolk and senior Will Stokes are experienced pieces on the back end of the Ole Miss bullpen and the team also returns the likes of sophomores Will Ethridge and Houston Roth who were effective for the Rebels out of the pen as freshmen. Bianco said freshman left-hander Jordan Fowler turned some heads in the fall and that fellow freshman Max Cioffi pitched well, too. Throw in an experienced junior in Connor Green and Cal Ripkin Summer League Pitching MVP Parker Caracci, and Bianco will have a number of options to go to in the later innings.

"When you look at the pitching staff, they really did pitch it pretty well last year," Bianco said. "I think we were ranked fourth in the SEC in ERA, and we return seven of the nine best earned run averages from last year. An experienced staff, and experienced position players usually makes for a pretty good team."

Ole Miss tweaked the top of its lineup a good bit last year as it tried to find a natural fit at leadoff hitter. Golsan and Olenek spent time hitting in the leadoff spot, but ideally Bianco would like to slot them behind the leadoff guy and is hoping one of the candidates at second base could assume that role.

"Leadoff is the tough one," Bianco said. "I think there's a good chance that one of those second basemen, maybe Servideo or Adams leads off opening day, but we'll have to play with it. Some of those other guys that run well probably aren't your prototypical leadoff guy, like Olenek and Golsan. They're good hitters, but I think Servideo and Adams did that for us, and I think they're ready for that position."

Bianco is excited with the fact he returns a lot from last year's team as this was not the case this time last year with the number one-ranked recruiting class headlining a slew of newcomers. There's a nice blend of experience and depth on this team.

Break Out the Powder Blue


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By Tate Hawkins, Student Assistant, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

You've seen it all over athletics and campus. From jerseys, hats, helmets, and even to T-shirts that get tossed into the crowd. Fans have clung to this over the past few years with their attire. Now, what are you thinking about? If you're thinking of a color, then you are absolutely correct. Over the past few years, the Rebels' alternate color of powder blue has become a fan favorite. Now, the beloved color will be featured by the Ole Miss baseball team throughout the 2016 season.

Powder blue was first donned by an Ole Miss sports team during the 1948 football season when the color was on the football helmet. Worn up until 1977, then again from 1983-1994 the powder blue was beloved by Rebel fans. The color made a surprise comeback in 2014 when the Ole Miss football team wore powder blue helmets identical to the ones worn in 1989 to honor the late Chucky Mullins who lost his life after battling being paralyzed from a hit in a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on October 28, 1989. Mullins received a wide outpouring of support from the Oxford community and Rebel fans nationwide, symbolizing the family aspect that Rebels of all ages love to this day.

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The powder blue helmets were worn four times during the 2015 football season. They were featured when the Rebels went to Tuscaloosa to beat Alabama, followed by games against Vanderbilt, Memphis, and in the Sugar Bowl victory against Oklahoma State. Then in last week's series finale against FIU, a 16-5 win, the Rebel baseball team warmed up in its traditional white with navy pinstripes before making the switch into all powder blues before taking the field. Coach Mike Bianco said that the jerseys "were something we've been planning for a while, and we're glad to see that they turned out well." Players loved them as well. J.B. Woodman described them as "the coolest uniforms in college baseball," while Wyatt Short said that he didn't "have words to describe my feelings," when the jerseys were unveiled. The powder blues were broken out again in the rubber game against No. 2 Louisville, who wore a red uniform combination that resembled the Houston Astros' jerseys during the Nolan Ryan era. Now, fans have had their own opinions of the jerseys: some love the idea, and some are not so fond of it. However, the history and tradition behind the color means more to Rebel fans than the idea of just having a cool uniform.

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If you haven't seen the jerseys I'm talking about, you have a few options to get a look for yourself. You can come out to a home game this season; the powder blues have been worn on Sunday of the first two weekend series. You can check out the pictures on the Ole Miss Baseball's social media accounts (Twitter: @OleMissBSB, Facebook: Ole Miss Baseball and Instagram: olemissbsb.). If neither of those are your forte, think Stan Musial-era St. Louis Cardinals.


Welcome Back to Baseball

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By Tate Hawkins, Student Assistant, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to one of the best times of the year. After a wonderful fall for Ole Miss sports it's time to grab your gloves, caps, and your lawn chairs (if you're heading to the outfield). The grass has been cut, and the dirt has been dragged, oh and 10,000 of your closest friends are going to be with you: it's baseball season in Oxford!

Baseball can only begin with one of the most memorable days of the season, Opening Day. The gates of Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field opened for it's 28th Opening Day and saw its beloved Rebels get a 9-2 win over the Florida International University Panthers. Besides the play on the field, Opening Day comes with its own special set of emotions and events. This year, Opening Day fell on February 19, marking exactly 28 years to the day that the first baseball game was played at O-U Stadium. 

Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field became the host of Ole Miss Baseball February 19 1989 when the Rebels swept a doubleheader against Cumberland University in front of a crowd of 1,016 fans who braved the bitter cold weather conditions. On that day, George H.W. Bush was President, a gallon of gas cost $1.12, Darrell Waltrip won his only Daytona 500 while racing on gas fumes, and you could get a hot dog at the ballpark for under a dollar (don't forget $1 hot dog nights during midweek games this season). For this year's opener, scenarios were a little different. The first pitch of the season was thrown on a sunny 70-degree day, and there were 3,000 students in right field to accompany the total attendance of 10,129, the largest Opening Day crowd in school history. Donald Trump's running for President, we race solo cups in the fourth inning, a gallon of gas will cost you $1.53, and a hot dog will cost you $5 (excluding Dollar Dog nights of course). Buy hey, it's still Opening Day.

However, some things are better left unchanged. David Kellum is still the voice of Ole Miss Baseball on the radio after 37 seasons and describes the event as "one of the best days of the year." He and his wife Mary spend their weekends in the ballpark broadcast booth together and "love it." The Kellums love Opening Day because it's the chance to "get back in the saddle" after a long offseason.

Junior Brady Bramlett described being the Opening Day starter as "an awesome experience, especially with the crowd today - you felt the energy as soon as you stepped on the field." Head coach Mike Bianco said he was "proud and excited" of the team's play on Opening Day due to the "heightened excitement" behind the day. That excitement can be accredited to the chance to see new talent, see the veterans show their experience, have the for Rebel greats return, and even possibly the fact that 10,000 people were in attendance. "That number's crazy," said Bianco regarding the attendance. 

Aside from all the excitement, we can be hopeful from last year. The Rebels finished last season after being eliminated from postseason play in the Regional round and hope to return to Omaha and College World Series glory just like they did in 2014. With a lot of those team members being in the junior/senior years of eligibility, and a 3-game sweep over FIU on opening weekend, the season looks bright. So clear your schedules, rally the family, order your tickets and get to Swayze a few times this season. Here's to Rebel Baseball being back, and here's to 2016.





Observations from the Best Seat in the House -- April 12

The baseball team claimed claimed their second series of the second over the nation's top-ranked team in dramatic fashion. The football team wrapped up spring practice. And the men's and women's tennis teams closed out their respective regular seasons and will compete in their respective SEC Tournaments this week. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- For the baseball team, the weekend turned on one swing of a bat, a grand slam off the bat of Colby Bortles to tie Vanderbilt 5-5 in the top of the ninth Friday night. The Rebels later won the game in the 16th inning and carried the momentum and claimed the series with a 5-4 win in the series finale Saturday.

"Over the years, we have played really well against the No. 1 team, and we have come out on the right side of a lot of those games," said head coach Mike Bianco. "But I don't know if I have ever been more proud of a team to come on the road against the No. 1 team, after losing a midweek game, and face a team this talented; we just played great all weekend long."

- In case you missed it, check out the highlights of the Rebels' 6-5 win Friday night, including the game-tying grand slam by Bortles and the go-ahead RBI double by Henri Lartigue in the top of the 16th.

- It was the Rebels' second series win over a No. 1 team, improving to 5-4 against the nation's top ranked team with a 2-1 mark against Florida and Vanderbilt and a 1-2 mark against LSU. And as Chase Parham of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com noted, it was the first time Ole Miss back-ended an SEC series win since 2011 against South Carolina. The Rebels also back-ended a series win over Louisiana-Lafayette in the Super Regionals last year.

- Tip of the hat to the Ole Miss bullpen, which threw 15.2 scoreless innings this weekend, highlighted by senior Scott Weathersby, who went a career-long 6.0 innings and allowed just two hits with one walk and a career-high 10 strikeouts. He came into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 11th inning and struck out the first two batters he faced and then got the third batter to fly out to end the threat.

- Freshman Will Stokes, making his fourth career start, put together a career outing and earned his first career win. He went a career-long six innings, giving four runs and scattering seven hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

- With the series win, Ole Miss back to .500 overall (18-18) with a 7-8 mark in league play at the halfway mark of the Southeastern Conference series. The Rebels have 20 regular season games remaining, including SEC home series against Alabama, Mississippi State and Texas A&M and SEC road series at Auburn and Missouri.

- Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball puts the Rebels "in solid at-large position despite their .500," due in part to their No. 1 strength of schedule in the nation entering Saturday and two marquee series wins over top-ranked foes.

- The football team wrapped up spring practice with the Grove Bowl on Saturday. The Blue team, quarterbacked by Chad Kelly, got the better of the Red team, quarterback by Ryan Buchanan, by a score of 17-7. The game featured big plays for both teams, including a 66-yard touchdown pass from running back Jaylen Walton to wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow on a halfback pass. Check out the recap, final stats and more here.

- Head coach Hugh Freeze said he would have given Buchanan a slight lead at quarterback going into the Grove Bowl, adding that even if he says that he had the lead, it was so minute and so small and so far from being over, and he may feel differently after watching the film from Saturday. Freeze also entertained the possibility that the competition might continue a couple of games into the season.

- Other than Freeze saying that Buchanan held a small lead entering the Grove Bowl, the most interesting thing to come out of the post-Grove Bowl media opportunity was co-offensive Dan Werner, who said they tweaked a few things in the running game, specifically that they got some ideas from some other teams that run similar offenses. The running game, based on what coaches have said and what we have seen in open scrimmages, appears to have taken a step forward.

- Someone asked me who would be my MVP of the Grove Bowl. I would say probably either Jordan Wilkins, who finished with 62 yards rushing on just six carries, including a 28-yard run, or Stringfellow, who hauled in three receptions for 98 yards, including that 66-yard touchdown reception. 

- Perhaps the play of the Grove Bowl was cornerback Tony Bridges, who appeared to have gotten beat by the receiver, then recovered and broke up a deep pass down the sideline. Both him and fellow cornerback Tee Shepard impressed throughout the spring.

- The men's tennis team earned a split on the final weekend of Southeastern Conference play, including a key 4-2 win on the road at South Carolina that helped the Rebels earn the No. 4 seed and a double-bye in the SEC Tournament this week. Ranked No. 14 in the nation, Ole Miss can likely play their way into hosting for the NCAA first and second rounds.

- Junior Stefan Lindmark finished the season undefeated in the SEC (8-0), becoming the fifth player in school history and the first since 2009 to go undefeated.

- The women's tennis team won both its matches this past week, sweeping Arkansas-Pine Bluff 7-0 and defeating Mississippi State 4-3. With a win over UAPB, senior Julia Jones became the seventh player in program history to win 100 singles matches. With the win over Mississippi State, the Rebels have now won 26 straight against the Lady Bulldogs.

- Check out Josh McCoy's photo galleries from this past week. He was all over Grove Bowl week, from the Chucky Mullins Courage Award ceremony, to the Grove Bowl, to the other activities on campus.

- Check out Ole Miss Sports Productions' season recap videos for your Ole Miss men's basketball and women's basketball teams. Great work as always by their talented team.

- The major league baseball season began this past Sunday, and six former Ole Miss players began the season on opening-day rosters. That number has now grown to seven with the recent call-up of Matt Tracy, giving the program an SEC-best seven former players on major league baseball rosters.

- I sat down with Director of Athletics Ross Bjork to discuss the state of Ole Miss Athletics. Look for the full question and answer with him on the official website early this week . We discussed a wide range of topics that will be of interest for fans.

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    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

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

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