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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (April 7-13, 2015)

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review

April 7-13, 2015

Baseball

- Ole Miss finished the week with a 2-2 mark to remain a .500 overall record for the season (18-18) as well as 7-8 in SEC play. After dropping a midweek game to Southern Miss in Pearl, Miss., the Rebels bounced back to claim a SEC road series over No. 1 Vanderbilt. Ole Miss dropped the first game before taking the final two games from the top-ranked Commodores. 

- Against Southern Miss, Connor Cloyd batted in the leadoff spot for the first time in his Ole Miss career, going 3-for-5 with two runs for a new career high in hits. Sophomore Colby Bortles added a pair of hits and two RBI, while senior Sikes Orvis drove in his team-leading 28th and 29th runs of the season with his eighth double of the 2015 campaign. 

- Bortles continued his hot hitting into the weekend. With Ole Miss trailing by four in the top of the ninth on Friday night, Bortles tied the game by belting the second grand slam of his career. The third baseman was also the last Rebel to hit a grand slam before tonight, going deep against Arkansas State, May 13, 2014. 

- After Ole Miss tied the game in the ninth, a two-out double by Henri Lartigue in the top of the 16th brought in the game-winning run. 

- The bullpen trio of Jacob Waguespack, Wyatt Short and Scott Weathersby combined to pitch 11 shutout innings. Add in starter Brady Bramlett, and the Ole Miss pitching staff kept the No. 1 team in the country off the scoreboard for 14 of the 16 innings. 

- Waguespack pitched three scoreless innings before Short added a pair of shutdown innings. 

- Weathersby was named SEC Co-Pitcher of the Week, the conference office announced Monday. Weathersby finished the game by lasting a career-long six innings and striking out a career-high 10 hitters. Weathersby retired 18 of the 21 batters he faced, including getting out of a bases-loaded jam with nobody out in the bottom of the 11th. 

- The 16-inning game was the second extra-inning game of the year for Ole Miss. The Rebels defeated then-No. 1 LSU in 14 innings earlier this season, rallying to tie the game in the ninth inning of that contest as well. The two games mark the first time in Ole Miss history that the Diamond Rebels have played two 14-plus inning games in one season. The 16-inning game also was the third-longest in program history. 

- One night after rallying behind four runs in the ninth and coming back to win a 16-inning thriller, the Ole Miss baseball team maintained the momentum by taking down No. 1 Vanderbilt for the second-straight game, 5-4, to claim a big SEC series on the road. With a victory over the Commodores, the Rebels improved to an impressive 5-4 against No. 1 teams in 2015. 

- Sophomore Errol Robinson provided the game-winning hit, a 2-RBI bases-loaded single in the top of the seventh, and the Ole Miss bullpen kept the Commodores off the board for the second-consecutive contest. 

- Senior Sam Smith came out of the bullpen to pitch two scoreless innings of relief, and Waguespack closed out the ninth to earn his first career save. For the entire series, the Rebels' bullpen did not allow a run to score in 15.2 innings of work. 

- Nine different Rebels recorded base hits throughout the afternoon as the team tallied 10 of them. Senior Austin Knight went 2-for-3 and added a walk to reach base three times. Holt Perdzock had a RBI double in his only plate appearance, and Cameron Dishon knocked in a run as well. 

- In his fourth career start, facing a No. 1 team for the second time in his career, freshman Will Stokes put together a career outing. The right-hander went a career-long six innings, surrendering four runs on seven hits to earn the first victory of his young Ole Miss career. 

- Ole Miss has won two-of-three series against No. 1 teams this season (Florida, Vanderbilt).

Football

- In front of a crowd of approximately 15,000 fans, Ole Miss closed out spring practice with the annual Regions Bank Grove Bowl on Saturday. The Blue team defeated the Red team 17-7, behind a pair of long touchdown passes, one by junior quarterback Chad Kelly and another by senior running back Jaylen Walton on a halfback pass.

- Kelly finished 9-of-19 for 104 yards with a touchdown and an interception. DeVante Kincade was 9-of-18 for 93 yards and also led the Blue team with 50 rushing yards on 10 carries, while Ryan Buchanan was 5-of-16 for 49 yards with an interception.

- Jordan Wilkins led all players with 62 rushing yards on six carries, while Eugene Brazley rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown.

- Damore'ea Stringfellow led all receivers with three catches for 98 yards and a TD, while Derrick Jones was the Red team's top receiver with three catches for 35 yards.

- Defensively, Fadol Brown, Issac Gross and Channing Ward led all players with 2.0 tackles for loss apiece, while both of Gross' TFLs were sacks. Cornerback Kendarius Webster finished with three pass break-ups, and linebackers DeMarquis Gates and Terry Caldwell totaled five tackles each.

Women's Tennis

- No. 25 Ole Miss won twice this past week, shutting out Arkansas-Pine Bluff 6-0 and then rallying to top Mississippi State 4-3. The Rebels earned the No. 9 seed in the SEC Championship and will face the No. 8 seed, Kentucky, in the second round Friday at 9 a.m. CT.

- The Rebels have now won 26 straight against Mississippi State.

- Sophomore Zalina Khairudinova clinched the win, rallying from an 0-3 deficit in the final set.  It marked the SEC match for her to clinch this year, as she also clinched the 4-3 win over Auburn.

- Senior Julia Jones became the seventh member of the 100-club, winning her 100th match against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  At 27-7 this year, she needs three wins to become the 10th player to record 30 in a season.

- The Rebels finished the regular season 8-3 at home.

Men's Tennis

- No. 14 Ole Miss split its last regular season matches, defeating South Carolina 4-2 in Columbia, before falling to No. 8 Georgia 4-0 in Athens.  The Rebels earned the No. 4 seed in the SEC Championship and will face the winner of the No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Auburn/No. 13 Arkansas winner in the quarterfinals Friday at 4 p.m.

- This marks the 17th time for the Rebels to finish in the top third of the SEC and receive a first round bye in the tournament.

- The Rebels defeated South Carolina for the second time this season after dropping the doubles point.  It marked the second SEC opponent the Rebels have beaten twice this year, including Florida.

- Junior Stefan Lindmark became the fifth player in program history to go undefeated in the SEC at 8-0.  He owns a 12-3 record at No. 2 singles and has won six in a row. His win at South Carolina was also his 20th of the year.

- Senior Nik Scholtz clinched the win over South Carolina, his fourth clinch in the SEC and second on the road.

- In the latest ITA Attendance Race Standings, the Rebels are ranked fourth in average attendance (290) for the season. They finished the month of March third in total attendance and second in average attendance (336).

Track & Field

- Ole Miss had a very productive Friday in Starkville at the 2015 Border Clash, as Rebel athletes claimed four event titles, produced 11 new marks that rank top 10 in school history, and had six results that moved them into the top 40 nationally this season.

- The Border Clash, which pitted four schools from Mississippi against four schools from Alabama, saw the Mississippi men prevail 98-93 and the Alabama women win 108-61.

- For the men, Jalen Miller won the 100m (10.34), Robert Semien won the 110m hurdles (13.98) and Dempsey McGuigan claimed the hammer throw title (210-1).

- Craig Engels and Holland Sherrer went 2-3 in the 800m with times of 1:48.27 and 1:48.63 that rank them top six in school history and top 30 in the nation this year.

- The women were led once again by the quartet of Nicole Henderson, Shannon Ray, Khadijah Suleman and Jhorden Hunter, who won the 4x100m relay in 44.55 that ranks them third in school history and No. 8 in the NCAA this year.

- Racquel Moses was runner-up in the 400m hurdles (59.55) and Britt Ummels was runner-up in the 1500m (4:28.61).

- Ole Miss men who rank top 50 in the NCAA are Phillip Young in the triple jump (12th, 52-2.75), Miller in the 100m (17th, 10.34), McGuigan in the hammer (17th, 212-7), Engels in the 800m (19th, 1:48.27), Sherrer in the 800m (26th, 1:48.63), Semien in the 110m hurdles (28th, 13.98), Trevor Gilley in the 1500m (41st, 3:56.60), Adam Aguirre in the high jump (45th, 6-10.75), Branden Greene in the high jump (45th, 6-10.75) and Nathan Loe in the hammer (46th, 202-3).

- Ole Miss women who rank top 50 in the NCAA are Ray in the 100m (8th, 11.41), the 4x100m relay (8th, 44.55), Kierra White in the long jump (30th, 20-1), Hunter in the 100m (36th, 11.58), Moses in the 400m hurdles (37th, 59.55) and Fabia McDonald in the long jump (47th, 19-8.25).

Softball

- The Rebels continue to show improvement in the first year under the direction of head coach Mike Smith, improving in the win column and in statistical categories upon recent previous seasons. 

- The Rebels have 35 home runs on the season after hitting only 31 home runs a year ago. Freshman 1B Alex Schneider leads the Rebels with eight home runs on the year, while 10 different players have home runs - including eight with multiple home runs. 

- Ole Miss has also successfully stolen 76 bases on the year after only attempting 60 steals in 2014. 

- The Rebels hit the 23-win mark last week, defeating Samford in a midweek contest to pass the win total from a year ago and with five wins in SEC play surpassed the win total from last season as well. It also is one win away from totaling the number of SEC wins over the previous two seasons combined by the Rebels.

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.

Previewing the Batting Lineup and Pitching Staff

Ole Miss held its annual media day on Monday inside the Diamond Club at Oxford-Unversity Stadium, ahead of the Rebels' season opener Friday at 4 p.m. against William & Mary, the opening game of a three-game series. 

Here are some notes and quotes from the media opportunity with head coach Mike Bianco and selected players, looking at the batting lineup and the pitching staff heading into the start of the 2015 season.

The Hitters:

"As we start this spring, I in a way struggled to explain to the team, something different and something exciting for you to write about," Bianco said. "But, it seems that I come back to the same sentence, it seems very similar to last year. What I mean by that is we return some big pieces on the field. 

"When you look around the field on Friday, you will see Sikes Orvis, Errol Robinson, J.B. Woodman, Austin Knight, Colby Bortles. These are some guys who certainly played big roles for us last year in getting to the College World Series. And like last year, there is certainly going to be room for some new guys to step in and help us."

Projected Defensive Lineup:

C Austin Knight

1B Sikes Orvis

2B Tate Blackman

3B Colby Bortles

SS Errol Robinson

LF Connor Cloyd/Josh Watkins/Kyle Watson

CF J.B. Woodman

RF Cameron Dishon

Speaking to the batting order, Bianco said Woodman will likely lead off, followed by Robinson, Orvis, Bortles and Henri Lartigue, who will back up Knight at catcher and be a possible designated hitter. After those five in the order, Bianco said a lot of it will be determined by lefty-righty matchups.

More on Austin Knight:

Knight has appeared in 74 games over the last three year, drawing the start in 16 games, including two games behind the plate in the College World Series as senior Will Allen moved to designated hitter due to injury. During his career, Knight has played behind two Johnny Bench Award finalists in Allen and Stuart Turner, who won the award in 2013.

Knight: "I'm very confident going into the season. I'm looking forward to getting out there and competing against somebody else. I got to play behind two very good catchers and very good people (Stuart Turner and Will Allen). Being able to learn from those guys has been great."

Bianco, on Knight: "To catch in our system, every coach on the staff was a catcher, it's tough to catch here. We're very hard on the catchers. There is a high expectation, not only for your performance, but also your leadership, getting the signals, being able to handle the staff, body language and all these other things we talk about. That's one of the reasons why Austin will be starting on Friday night. Not only can he handle it behind the plate and catch the ball and hit for us, but he's our best option as far as leadership and doing all the things we need from that position."

LHP Christian Trent, on Knight: "I was close to him last year, but Will caught the majority of my games. He's going to be fine. He's going to step up and take the place of Will. He has a good arm. He's really good at receiving the ball. As a pitcher, I'm already comfortable with him."

More on Tate Blackman:

Sikes Orvis and Errol Robinson return at their respective spots in the infield. They are joined by Colby Bortles, who played in 40 games, drawing the start in 14 games, nine at designated hitter and five at first baseman, as well as Tate Blackman, the preseason SEC Freshman of the Year by D1Baseball.com, who will start at second base for the Rebels.

Blackman: "It's a blessing to get the opportunity. I came in here as a freshman, trying to work hard on and off the field. My goal was to come in here and making a big impact my freshman year, and hopefully Friday will be a good day for me and for my team."

Bianco, on Blackman: "We think he is our best option at second. We saw a kid that didn't play like a freshman, not just with his ability, but with the way he carries himself. Tate looks like the guy that is most ready to play. He is an outstanding hitter, runs well and is a good defender. I am excited about all of the freshman.

Orvis, on Blackman: "He has a lot of talent, a lot of power, a lot of juice, and he's not afraid to mess up. He gets right in there. He's a hard-nosed player. He's going to be really good. The game speeds up on him as it does for all freshmen, but he has all the confidence in the world in himself, so he'll be fine."

More on the corner outfielders:

J.B. Woodman, the Rebels' leading returning hitter by batting average (.298), returns to the outfield, as he moves to center field, having played mostly right field and designated hitter this past season. Cameron Dishon will step into a bigger role as the start right fielder, having played mostly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement over the last two years. 

At the other corner outfield spot, what Bianco called the big question mark, as they open the season, Bianco said they will probably play a lot of guys to start with, mentioning junior college transfers Connor Cloyd and Josh Watkins, as well as freshman Kyle Watson by name. Another freshman, Will Golsan, might also figure in the mix.

Bianco, on left field: "I don't know if you need to have two games in a row or three games in a row," Bianco said. I don't know if there's a number. It's more feel. The goal over the first four weeks is to find the best lineup by the time we get to LSU on the opening weekend of SEC play. One of those guys can DH, somebody can play left, one of the other outfielders could sit a game and we can play two of those guys, so a lot of it just depends."

The Pitching Staff:

"On the mound, we are a little different than last year in the sense that last year at this time I think that was the big talk and most of the questions in the preseason press conference were about the pitching and the starting pitching, maybe for the lack of experience in the projected starters," Bianco said. 

"This year we return two of the SEC starters (Christian Trent and Sam Smith) from last year, along with some guys who have tons of experience like Scott Weathersby, Wyatt Short and Matt Denny. These are guys who gained some valuable experience for us last year."

Friday: LHP Christian Trent

Saturday: RHP Sam Smith

Sunday: RHP Brady Bramlett

Trent, on the move from Saturday starter to Friday starter: "My routine is not going to change. You're still coming to the field and do everything pregame I did last year. The role is different. Pitching on Saturday, the mindset was to win the series or push the series to a third game. I like the role of Friday because you can start the series off with a win and give your team a chance to get ahead in the series early."

More on Bramlett and Johnson:

Earlier in the spring, Bianco said Sean Johnson, a 6-foot-7 right-hander from the junior college ranks, would be a weekend, but he's been dealing with tendinitis and will be limited to bullpen work in the first weekend. In his place, Smith will move up to Saturday, and Bramlett will get the start on Sunday. Bramlett, himself, missed the last part of the 2013 season and the entire 2014 season due to recovery from a torn labrum.

Bianco, on Bramlett: "You don't know when they come off an injury where they are going to be or how they are going to be that first year back. When they are released and able to pitch you have to see how they are. 

"Brady had a really good fall. Once we got back, his three starts were probably better than any of the starters. He was pretty spotless here this January and early February. We are excited. He is a guy when we recruited him a couple years ago we knew would have a big time fastball. His slider keep coming, and he has improved his change-up. We really think he is going to have a big year."

Bianco, on Johnson: "We mentioned earlier to some of you that Sean Johnson would be a weekend starter. He came up a few days before our first intersquad game with some tendonitis in his shoulder. He is fine and he threw a bullpen on Friday. Sean will throw another bullpen tomorrow. He will not pitch in the first weekend, he just isn't in shape enough to start and log that many innings. Look for him to, at some point, get back into that starting role."

More on the bullpen:

After the graduation of Brett Huber two seasons ago, the program's all-time saves leader with 38, five different players recorded saves for the Rebels this past season, two of whom return in left-hander Wyatt Short and right-hander Scott Weathersby. Bianco also mentioned left-hander Matt Denny and right-hander Will Stokes, a freshman, as arms out of the bullpen. 

As far as the closer situation, Bianco said it will be a combination of guys, at least to start the season, similar to last season.

More from Bianco: "At the beginning, we'll go with a handful of guys and see if somebody emerges. Last year, we tried to force that a little bit. I think that guy has to just emerge. If that's the case after a certain period of time, if there's one guy we are better if he's pitching at the end of the game, then certainly we will do that. 

"We have shown an ability to do that in the past, when you look back at guys like Brett Huber, Jake Morgan, Scott Bittle or Stephen Head. If not, you can certainly win the other way, where you put the best guy out there on that particular day, much like we did last year, especially at the end of the year."

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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

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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