Rebels need more offensive production against Blazers

Posted on Mar 8 2019 - 5:50am by John Macon Gillespie

Coming off a 3-2 loss against No. 14 East Carolina on Wednesday, Ole Miss baseball rounds up its nine-game homestand with a series this weekend against UAB.

This bout with the Blazers is the Rebels’ last weekend series before beginning SEC play next weekend against Alabama. Mike Bianco’s squad will also travel to Louisville next week to take on the Cardinals for two midweek games in another ranked non-conference matchup.

The Rebels split their midweek action this week, picking up an 11-8 win over Little Rock on Tuesday and dropping the pitcher’s duel to the Pirates on Wednesday.

Photo by Christian Johnson

Ole Miss was hitless on Wednesday until two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning when Thomas Dillard broke the drought with a single. The Rebels persisted to make things interesting with just one out to work with, as they pushed across two runs but left the bases loaded and failed to steal the win.

Ole Miss’s offense has cooled off somewhat in its last five games, going through dry spells against the Dirtbags from Long Beach State last weekend and almost being hitless on Wednesday. Still, the Rebels hold solid stats in the batting category with two players, Ryan Olenek and Thomas Dillard, batting over .400 on the season.

The Rebel batters will face a solid Blazer pitching staff this weekend as the staff has an ERA of 3.60. UAB pitchers have also given up a mere five home runs so far this season to combat the 16 home runs the Rebels have hit this season.

In weekend series thus far, and even in some midweek contests, Ole Miss’s struggle on the diamond has not been at the plate, but with starting pitching outside of Will Ethridge. Last weekend, the Rebels swept a then-winless Long Beach State behind a solid Friday performance from Will Ethridge and sufficient performances from starters Zack Phillips and Gunnar Hoglund in games two and three.

The Rebels’ weekend starting rotation remains in question heading into this series, but Ethridge, Phillips and Hoglund are expected to take the hill again in this series against the Blazers.

Although head coach Mike Bianco is still working out the kinks with his weekend rotation, the Rebels’ bullpen has been stout early on this season. While certain household names like Parker Caracci have struggled to find a rhythm in 2019, some lesser-known arms like Austin Miller, Max Cioffi and Taylor Broadway have found themselves playing a consistent role in the Rebel relief. Those three pitchers alone have combined for a 2.71 ERA on the young season.

UAB has had a successful season up to this point as they sit at 9-4 overall with two of those losses resulting from just one run less than SEC opponents Mississippi State and Alabama. The Blazers have two batters hitting over .400 as well in Zack Davis and Colton Schultz and have J. Paul Fullerton close behind at .395. These three batters have combined for five home runs, good for 71 percent of the team total.

Ole Miss RHP Connor Green pitches the ball at the series against Long Beach State. The Rebels will play Little Rock on Tuesday and East Carolina on Wednesday this week at home. Photo by Christian Johnson

As far as pitching is concerned, the Blazers are expected to toss Tanner Graham, Tanner Rusk and Graham Ashcraft in the starting roles this weekend. These three right-handers have a combined ERA of 1.85 and have not allowed a home run all season.

First pitch today is at 3 p.m. followed by a 1:30 p.m. start on both Saturday and Sunday.