The 2003 game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium when LSU took on the Rebs has long-been the loudest I have ever heard an Ole Miss crowd in my life (I was not in attendance for 2014 Alabama so please forgive me). Travis Johnson picking off Matt Mauck and running it in for an early touchdown still gives me chills to this day.
But on Saturday, Thomas Dillard sent one flying to Tupelo and the crowd at Swayze Field drowned out that memory in terms of decibels. When the sophomore from Oxford connected on a 3-2 fastball and the ball hit the blue April sky, it was all she wrote.
No. 6 Ole Miss (34-11, 12-9) battled back from a 7-4 deficit yesterday to win the rubber match and take two-of-three from the struggling LSU Tigers (26-19, 9-11) in front of 12,152 Double Decker Festival patrons, the program’s largest crowd ever.
The theme of this year’s team has been toughness. It has been their identity all year-long. And it was no different this weekend. Chase Cockrell crushed one to give the Rebs an early 4-1 lead, but some shaky pitching and defense paired with some timely Tiger hits gave up the lead and the Rebs found themselves with their backs against the wall yet again.
The good guys used a humongous 7th inning to recapture the lead and it was their relentless offense that showed toughness in the face of adversity once again. Tyler Keenan and Tim Rowe hit back-to-back doubles, Grae Kessinger worked a full count, won a battle at the plate, and drove one into right field for another RBI.
Then it was Thomas Dillard’s opportunity to bring everyone to their feet.
And as you know, if you want to come at the king, you best not miss.
SPOILER: LSU missed
The game was just a microcosm of this year’s club. The offense keeps them in it no matter the situation. No lead is insurmountable with these bats. An offense that a year ago was struggling and stifled by just about everyone, is now one of the most dangerous lineups in the country. There is no break from one to nine and everyone has the ability to get a hold of one and let loose.
The Rowe Resurgence continues.
The other mustachioed man on the team came back into the fold when Ryan Olenek went down with a shoulder injury. And since returning to the lineup, he has not disappointed. His approaches at the plate do not look like someone who only has 39 at-bats on the season. In game one, Rowe had not one, not two, but THREE doubles in the blowout victory on Thursday. Then, he returned the favor on Saturday with a clutch RBI-double to start the 7th-inning rally. This is magnificent timing for his surge to begin now because he will be a nice matchup problem for right-handed pitchers as we continue our march to the postseason.
Ryan Olenek came back and it was business as usual.
After missing two games with a shoulder injury, the Rebel right fielder came back with a vengeance. The Rebels’ leading hitter is now back up to .398 after a 2-for-5 performance yesterday. The guy now owns a 20-game hitting streak and is right behind Florida’s Jonathan India in the batting average category and the Player of the Year conversation. Barring further injury, Olenek’s presence in the lineup makes Ole Miss even more dangerous. Didn’t think that was possible.
Thomas Dillard is not human.
The guy is on a tear like no other. Despite leading the team in strikeouts, he is tied for the team lead in walks (32) and leads the team in home runs (10), RBI (47), total bases (93), slugging (.581), on-base percentage (.434), and stolen bases (13). The guy just seems to attract the big moment and he has the clutch gene, without a doubt.
He is a formidable force at the cleanup spot and Ole Miss must keep him rolling. With him crushing balls into oblivion, getting on base, working counts, and running bases, he has a legitimate case for the most impactful dude in the lineup next to Olenek.
Parker Caracci is from the Marvel Universe.
when u knew it was night night time pic.twitter.com/dyc2ePrEAz— Zach* Berry (@Zach_Berry) April 29, 2018