This young Rebel team continues to impress and surprise. A week after sweeping a top-10 ECU squad, Ole Miss (7-0) made quick work of UNC-Wilmington over the weekend. Ole Miss, led by a .327 team batting average, just seemed to constantly find ways to score and respond anytime the visiting Seahawks threatened. Whether it was a clutch base hit or a big fly, Mike Bianco’s young squad has shown resiliency in the first two weeks of the season against two very talented teams.
The Rebs continue to be paced by freshman Thomas Dillard at the plate. The young man from Oxford is hitting .500 and absolutely destroyed his first ever homerun as a Rebel on Friday. He continues to display a mature approach at the plate and is showing power and finesse to all fields. Not too far behind Tank is fellow freshman Cole Zabowski, who’s hitting .450 and already has six RBI on the year.
Memphis (4-2), which lost two of three to Tennessee to start the year, responded by sweeping Illinois State last weekend. This Tiger team is led by junior outfielder Tyler Webb (.292, 2 RBI), sophomore outfielder/pitcher Colton Neel (.286, 3 RBI) and senior infielder Trent Turner (.286, 5 RBI). Ole Miss has historically struggled against Memphis, though the Rebs swept the home-and-home series last season.
2 big questions
1. Can Will Ethridge make a case for a weekend spot?
The true freshman from Georgia came to Oxford rated as the No. 33 freshman prospect in the nation by D1 Baseball and wasted no time making an impression. In his collegiate debut last Tuesday against Arkansas State, the freshman struck out 10 in just 5.0 innings. The Red Wolves aren’t necessarily the toughest of opponents but the way Ethridge effortlessly sliced and diced through their lineup was a sight to see. His mixture of mid-90s fastballs with devastating sliders was too much for ASU and you can expect him to attack Memphis all the same.
Is he ready for a weekend starting spot, though? The velocity and sharpness of his off-speed argues that he’s getting there. With a few more midweek starts, Ethridge could make a case to see more innings on the weekends. He showed he had the ability when he tossed a perfect ninth inning against UNCW on Saturday, striking out two.
2. Who is the next freshman to step up?
The No. 1 recruiting class has shown it’s ready to contribute immediately. Last weekend, it was Bryan Seamster stepping up to break Sunday’s tie with a monster home run.
Who will be next to step into the big moment? The two most likely candidates are pitchers Greer Holston and Houston Roth. After two weeks, the two have combined for a 0.00 ERA, pitching 3.2 innings in four appearances. The duo have held opponents to a .250 batting average and have struck out eight batters.
The two couldn’t be any different as Holston is a power righty while Roth attacks hitters with intricate precision. They’ll have plenty of opportunities to be difference makers this season, in the midweek and on the weekends.
How to watch
First pitch: 4 p.m. CT
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com
Game-time weather: 76°, cloudy, 10% chance of rain
Ole Miss: RHP Will Ethridge (1-0, 3.00 ERA)
Memphis: RHP James Muse (0-0, 0.00 ERA)