Bases loaded: Ole Miss splits with Wright State in opener

Posted on Feb 18 2019 - 5:50am by Josh Gollihar

Rainy weather kept Rebel baseball from earning its first series win, or loss, of the season when Sunday’s game was washed away.

The Horizon League team bounced back from a lopsided Friday loss to punish the Rebels for a lack of energy on Saturday. The quick introduction to this year’s edition of the Diamond Rebels offers an idea of what to expect this season.

Ole Miss Zack Phillips pitches the ball against Wright State last Saturday. Photo by Katherine Butler

First Base: Thomas Dillard will be key to a productive Ole Miss offense

Offensively, Thomas Dillard is going to be the best of a talented lineup. The junior comes off a season during which he led the team in walks, stolen bases and home runs, and he does not seem to be slowing down. He was easily a bright spot in the Rebels’ opening weekend. He hit safely five out of six times, with two of those five hits for extra bases – a double and a no-doubt-about-it homerun on Saturday.

In addition to his hits, Dillard added three walks and was successful on his one attempt to steal a base. His stature as an all-around offensive weapon still seems to ring true.

Second Base: Max Cioffi can step up in Houston Roth’s absence

Long-relief pitcher Houston Roth was in the competition to be a starter on the weekend; however, coach Mike Bianco values Roth’s ability to stabilize a game for three or four innings when the starter gets in trouble, so he decided to leave him in the bullpen.

Furthermore, Roth injured his non-throwing shoulder in practice when he fell trying to cover first base. This left a vacancy in the bullpen for the foreseeable future that may be filled by Max Cioffi.

Cioffi came into the game on Saturday after debut starter Zack Phillips struggled to get out of the third inning. The sophomore hurler limited Wright State to just one hit over 3.2 innings.

He mixed in five strikeouts while keeping the opposition scoreless, allowing Ole Miss to rally late in the game. Cioffi offers Ole Miss a second body able to provide the same ability that Roth does. This offers flexibility in the rotation.

Third Base: Will Ethridge must be consistent in Friday starter role

Friday was Will Ethridge’s first opportunity during his time at Ole Miss to be the headline guy on the pitching staff. His first inning was lengthened after he committed an error trying to field a ball down the first-base line.

After throwing 29 pitches in the opening frame, the junior pitched 5.2 innings of shutout baseball. He surrendered four hits and had five strikeouts. In his first crack as a weekend starter, his improvement over the course of his outing could prove to be a valuable learning experience for Ethridge as he puts more starts under his belt.

If this team is going to reach its predicted heights, Ethridge will need to give his best most Fridays.