The Ole Miss Rebels baseball team looked down and out three times this weekend. Thursday night, the No. 5 Rebs were down 4-1 after Ryan Rolison was chased, and they pulled it out of the fire behind timely hitting and elite relief pitching.
Friday was a tough loss, but some late-inning heroics from Michael Fitzsimmons and more elite relief pitching showed that trademark fight we’ve seen all season long. Despite said fight, the good guys dropped game two, 7-6, and the top 15 rubber match was set for Saturday afternoon.
Then, once again, Mike Bianco’s club fell behind early and the Rebel starter was chased early, yet again. But, as the story would unfold once again, you guessed it, the 22-3 (4-2) Rebels found a daggum way to win yet another close ball game against a damn good baseball team. On the road.
The Aggies (19-6, 2-4) have to just be sick to their dam stomachs after a weekend that was damn near close to a sweep. All three games were decided by one run and the home team just might have gotten that sweep if it wasn’t for the 2018 edition of the good guys being a resilient group of Undertakers.
A good friend of mine who played college baseball told me something this weekend that makes a lot of sense and is damn spot on when it comes to talking about this year’s baseball team.
“To have a good college team you need seven dudes you can trust.
To be dominant you need eight.
Ole Miss has nine dudes and they can all bump at least 93 (mph).”
He’s got a point.
- Parker Caracci 98
- Dallas Woolfolk 97
- Will Ethridge 96
- Brady Feigl 95
- Greer Holston 95
- Will Stokes 95
- Ryan Rolison 94
- James McArthur 93
- Houston Roth 93
And that heat was on display all weekend in Texas. The starters may have had rough outings that you won’t gawk at the box score about, but it was the rest of the arms who were all on display. Throwing absolute smoke and stifling the Aggie hitters.
Thursday was the first look that the nation got of Parker Caracci. We all have seen him for a few weeks now and marveled at his cannon. But, SEC Network televised game one and the rest of the world witnessed his dominance.
Karate Kid sat comfortably ALL WEEKEND at 93-96 mph and even touched 98 at one point. He earned both saves and was an absolute force, striking out some of A&M’s best with straight cheese.
Will Ethridge had his gun show on display as well, mixing in his frisbee-like slider with his own 96 mph heater. He worked in long relief in both wins and helped to level out the Aggie hitters before turning it over to Caracci.
And even more of a sight to behold was Dallas Woolfolk stepping out of his comfort zone and pitching some relief as well. But, not in the closer role. He looked craftier than he has in his first few appearances this year and he was able to bridge the gap from starter to relief.
This group of flamethrowers are going to be HUGE for Bianco and Carl Lafferty moving forward. I think that goes without saying.
The hits just keep on coming.
In all three games, Ole Miss fell behind early. But the offense never wavered. The Aggies starters were all impressive yet Mike Clement’s troops never quit. As a team, the Rebs are hitting .299 and are driving the baseball with conviction. They already have 30 home runs on the season and we’re not even to April. They slapped 47 dingers all of last year. And they’re running the bases with conviction as well, stealing 32 bases through 25 games. That’s six bases behind the 2017 squad if you’re keeping score at home.
But, it’s not all about numbers. They look much more comfortable at the plate, working counts much deeper, fouling off close calls to stay alive, and getting the big hit at the right time when last year it would simply be a rollover ground ball or pop out.
Chase Cockrell is still thriving (.434), Grae Kessinger (.355) and Thomas Dillard (.330) continue their renaissance tour, and Ryan Olenek (.322) is quietly rounding into form. And most importantly, Will Golsan (.250, 20 RBI) is starting to emerge.
The offense was sparked big-time by dingers from Cole Zabowski (.311, 5 HR, 16 RBI) and Tyler Keenan (.267, .489 slugging) on Saturday and don’t look now but JUCO transfer Jacob Adams (.320, .500 slugging) has taken hold of the nine-hole and second base.
If this team is going to go far, the bullpen is key. As we all know, games are won down the stretch in May and June with pitching. But, you’ve got to score runs and you’ve got to get timely hitting in tough spots. This weekend, Ole Miss showed they could do that in bunches.
Who are these guys?
This team has a different vibe to them. It’s a swag. Last year’s team had some here and there but it never really flowed through everyone. But this team, you see it. From first-year dude Parker Caracci strutting off the bump like Denzel Washington, to freshman Tyler Keenan pissing on a fastball to dead center and pimping the BOOM celebration at the plate like he’s been there before, to Cole Zabowski literally pimping everything at the dish, this team has “it”.
Zbo pimped that double hard lol pic.twitter.com/BUnWsv1EGv— Red Cup CARACCI (@RedCupRebellion) March 24, 2018
Swagger goes a long way in sports. And baseball is no different. It is a game that is won between the ears. Mental toughness counts for so much and right now in late March, the Rebels are oozing “it”.
Swagger can also be contagious. And I think it’s safe to say that everyone is joining in.