OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics/WCBI) – No. 1 seed Ole Miss dominated in every facet in Sunday’s NCAA Oxford Regional Championship Game, routing the No. 4 seed Jacksonville State Gamecocks by a score of 19-4 to earn a spot in the NCAA Fayetteville Super Regional next weekend.
Much like Friday night’s 16-2 victory over the Gamecocks, the Rebel bats came through in a big way, jumping on the Jacksonville State pitchers for a trio of five-run innings. Thomas Dillard was the hero for the visiting Rebels, delivering both the game’s opening blow on a leadoff home run and then the nail in the coffin with a grand slam in the fourth inning.
Gunnar Hoglund wasn’t needed much in the blowout victory, but he still turned in a fantastic outing, going 5.1 innings only after he had secured a fifteen run advantage. Houston Roth, Connor Green and Max Cioffi teamed up to close it out for Ole Miss, but the real story was the Rebel offense.
Ole Miss’ 41 runs scored this weekend set a new postseason high for the program in one weekend of action. The Rebels averaged 13.7 runs and three homers per game in this regional on their way to the first Regional Championship victory since 2014.
The No. 12 overall seed Rebels now advance to the Super Regional round, where they will take on the No. 5 overall seed Arkansas Razorbacks in a best-of-three series with a trip to Omaha on the line next weekend. The Rebels have won three of five against the Razorbacks this year, with a series win in Fayetteville earlier this season and a two-game split in Hoover last week.
Dillard stepped up to the plate in the top of the first inning and didn’t stay in the box for long. He smashed the first pitch he saw deep over the right-center fence, leading the Rebels off with a bang. He became the first Rebel to hit a leadoff homer all season, and quickly gave Ole Miss a 1-0 lead.
The Rebels had an abundance of chances to put the game out of reach in early innings, but couldn’t stretch the 1-0 lead. Twice in the first and second did Ole Miss have the bases loaded, and twice did the Rebels fail to bring a man home.
Grae Kessinger and Tyler Keenan followed up Dillard’s home run with back-to-back singles, meaning the Rebels had three hits through three batters, but after a groundout and a double play, the two along with Ryan Olenek were left stuck on the base path.
The second inning featured three walks allowed by the Gamecocks – one to each Cooper Johnson, Anthony Servideo, and Dillard – but again the Rebels could not take advantage of the situation. Johnson was tagged out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch, and a groundout and a strikeout brought the inning to an end.
The third, however, was a different story. Ole Miss jumped on the Gamecocks for five runs in the frame and didn’t look back from there. The Rebels loaded the bases before Jacksonville State could even record an out, and Johnson was the first to cash in with a two-RBI single into left center.
Adams drew himself a bases-loaded walk, scoring another, while two more came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Dillard and a wild pitch that plated Servideo.
The Rebels decided they weren’t done, either, and bounced right back in the next inning to drop a six spot on the Gamecocks in the fourth. Ole Miss went single, walk, walk to load the bases for the fourth consecutive inning, and Dillard made them pay with his second big swing of the day.
The Rebel left fielder unloaded on a ball, sending it to a near-identical location as his first home run, for his second home run of the night and his first grand slam of the season. By the fourth inning, Dillard had already knocked in six runs, and he finished with seven RBI, just second to his eight-RBI performance against Tulane earlier this season.
Seeking some more insurance, Ole Miss put up six more in the sixth inning, surpassing their run total of 16 against the Gamecocks on Friday night. Every single starter made a plate appearance in the inning, with Servideo, Adams, Dillard, Zabowski, and Olenek all scoring a run. Dillard missed his third home run by just a few feet, but settled for an RBI double and his seventh run batted in of the night.
Olenek also doubled in the inning, placing him in a tie for the school’s all-time double list with 54, and he currently sits just six doubles back of the all-time record.
Hoglund spent most of his time today in the dugout while the Rebel bats were busy putting up big numbers, but when he was on the mound, he was delivering exactly what the team needed. He turned in 5.1 IP and allowed just a pair of runs on five hits, but struck out five along the way. He only exited after about two-and-a-half hours of game time, sporting a 15-run edge.
Roth, Green and Cioffi were used out of the bullpen, but only after the Rebels had all but secured their ticket to Fayetteville. In the end, Ole Miss pulled it out by a score of 19-4, and all attention now turns to the vaunted Super Regionals that await the Rebels in a little under a week.
– Ole Miss improves to 40-25 on the year.
– The Rebels are on to the Super Regionals for the first time since 2014 and the sixth time under Head Coach Mike Bianco.
– Ole Miss will match up with the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Fayetteville Super Regional next weekend. Ole Miss has beaten the Razorbacks three times this season, with a series win in Fayetteville earlier this year and one victory over them in the SEC Tournament.
– This season marks the ninth 40-win season in program history and the eighth under Mike Bianco. The Rebels have now won 40 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time 2006-07.
– The 19 runs scored today are the third-most an Ole Miss team has ever scored in NCAA Tournament play.
– The Rebels averaged 13.7 runs per game and three home runs per game this weekend.
– 41 runs scored in a regional is the most Ole Miss has ever scored in any regional ever.
– Ole Miss batters hit nine home runs in three games this weekend.
– Thomas Dillard led off the game with a home run, the first Rebel to hit a leadoff homer since Jacob Adams did it on March 18, 2018 against Tennessee.
– Dillard also hit two home runs today, his third such time in his career with multiple homers in one game.
– Dillard’s grand slam was the first for any Rebel since Michael Fitzsimmons last hit one in 2018 at Texas A&M.
– Dillard’s nine RBI this weekend is a new Regional record for Ole Miss.
– Ryan Olenek hit a double in the sixth inning, tying him with Chris Coghlan for second on the school’s all-time doubles list with 54.
– Anthony Servideo had four walks today, which ties the single-game walk record for the Rebels.
– Ole Miss improved to 17-5 on the season in powder blue uniforms. The Rebels are 8-1 in their last nine games wearing powder blue.