Fayetteville, Ar. (Ole Miss Athletics/WCBI) —
• Ole Miss swept the NCAA Oxford Regional, outscoring its opponents 41-7 over three games to secure its sixth NCAA Super Regional bid and its first since 2014.
• Ole Miss led the country in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and runs per game during the NCAA Regional round. The Rebels were also top five in walks, runs, hits and home runs.
• The Rebels earned the No. 12 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament after an impressive 4-2 SEC Tournament run.
• Ole Miss went to Hoover having lost 6 of its last 7, but playing six games in six days, the No. 7 seed Rebels went 4-2 with three wins over top-15 teams (Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia), before falling on a walk-off to top-seeded Vanderbilt in the title game. The Rebels came from behind in three of their four wins.
• Grae Kessinger (1st Team – SS), Cooper Johnson (2nd Team, All-Defense – C) and Doug Nikhazy (All-Freshman – P) took home SEC honors, giving the Rebels four or more in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2007-08.
• All-SEC First Team shortstop Grae Kessinger was named a finalist for the Brooks Wallace Award, as well as a Third Team All-American by Collegiate Baesball. Kessinger went on a 40-game reached base streak, spanning from March 8 until May 14, the longest by a Rebel since Tanner Mathis reached 41 times in 2011. Kessinger finished the regular season with 51 hits in SEC play, the most in the league. He became a second-round draft pick by the Houston Astros.
• Ole Miss had eight players selected in the 2019 MLB Draft, including four in the first six rounds—the most Rebels taken in the first six rounds since five were chosen in the top five rounds in 2005.
• Of the Rebels’ 25 losses, 21 have come by 4 runs or fewer, and 19 have come by 3 runs or fewer.
BIANCO CLIMBING RECORD BOOKS
Head coach Mike Bianco began the season fifth on the all-time SEC coaching wins chart, and since, the Rebel head coach has moved to third. When Ole Miss defeated Texas A&M 13-3 on Friday, April 26, Bianco won his 739th game as the Rebel head coach, moving him to third all-time past South Carolina’s Ray Tanner. On Friday, April 5, Ole Miss turned in a dominant 12-4 win over Florida to deliver Bianco’s 300th win in SEC play. Ole Miss has finished at .500 or above in SEC play in 15 of Bianco’s 19 seasons.
Ole Miss is 17-5 on the season in powder blue uniforms. The Rebels are 8-1 in their last nine games wearing powder blue. Ole Miss has worn powder blue in all but one game in the postseason, including each of the last seven games. The last time the Rebels wore a uniform other than powder blue was in their second game of the SEC Tournament, a 5-3 loss to Arkansas. Ole Miss will wear powder blue all weekend in Fayetteville.
Ole Miss players earned five SEC year-end honors and have already earned three All-America nods. See the full awards list on Page 10.
Eight Rebels were selected in the 2019 MLB Draft, including four in the first six rounds. The four players selected in the first six rounds are the most for Ole Miss since five were chosen in the top five rounds in 2005. At least five Rebels have been drafted in 15 of the last 16 seasons under head coach Mike Bianco. In total, 181 Ole Miss products have heard their name called in the MLB Draft, including 114 in the Bianco era. See the full 2019 MLB Draft list on Page 2.
REBS VS. HOGS
Ole Miss and Arkansas have met 96 times coming into the Fayetteville Super Regional. The Razorbacks hold a 49-47 lead in the all-time series. The series includes five meetings in 2019, with the Rebels holding a 3-2 edge.
The Rebels and Hogs put on a terrific series at Baum Stadium earlier this season. Isaiah Campbell and the Razorback pitching staff limited Ole Miss to three runs on six hits in a 5-3 Game 1 win. The Rebels came back with a nearly identical pitching performance in a Game 2 victory. Doug Nikhazy, Austin Miller and Parker Caracci combined to hold the Razorbacks to three runs on six hits as Ole Miss edged out a 4-3 win. Home runs by Tyler Keenan and Cole Zabowskiput the visitors in position, then Grae Kessinger’s RBI double off the walk gave Ole Miss a 4-3 win to even the series.
After a pair of low-scoring affairs, the Ole Miss offense erupted on Sunday. Ryan Olenek, Kessinger, Thomas Dillard and Zabowski all had multi-hit days. Zabowski drove in four runs, while Dillard and Kevin Graham each drove in two, including a homer for the freshman Graham. The game went back-and-forth early, but Tyler Myers came out and threw four scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and walking none while striking out four to earn his first career save in a 10-5 victory.
In the SEC Tournament, Arkansas prevailed in the first of two meetings as Patrick Wicklander outdueled Zack Phillips. Wicklander allowed two runs in 4.1 innings, while Phillips allowed four in 5.2. The Rebels took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning, but Arkansas claimed the win thanks to three late RBI by Jack Kenley.
Two days later, the Rebels used an excellent start from Gunnar Hoglund, who allowed just two runs on three hits over 6.1 innings, with both runs coming on a fourth-inning Matt Goodheart home run. The Rebels responded with a Kevin Graham home run in the fifth, then a game-tying RBI single by Thomas Dillard and a game-winning sac fly by Grae Kessinger in the eighth to eliminate the Razorbacks.
NCAA LEVEL OF PLAY
Ole Miss had an outstanding start to the 2019 postseason on the mond. The Rebels posted a team ERA of 2.00 in the NCAA Oxford Regional, the third-best in the nation during the regional round.
Ole Miss walked just one batter per game, the best mark in the country. The Rebels also posted the nation’s second-best WHIP (0.81) and the third-best strikeout-to-walk ratio at 7.00, as well as the fourth-fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.33).
Ole Miss tied for the fewest walks allowed in SEC play this season.
FILLING UP THE ZONE
Ole Miss enters the Fayetteville Super Regional No. 24 in the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 2.60. The Rebels are 38th nationally and fourth in the SEC with 3.36 walks allowed per nine innings.
GOOD WILL PITCHING
Will Ethridge earned the Friday night role after posting the team’s best ERA over the offseason. The junior out of Lilburn, Georgia, posted a minuscule 0.60 ERA in the fall with 18 strikeouts compared to four walks (4.50 K/BB). He kept it going in the spring, holding opposing hitters to two runs over 11 innings for a 1.67 ERA.
Ethridge turned in the best start of his career Friday night against Kentucky, going 7.0 scoreless innings with just three hits allowed, no walks and 11 strikeouts in the Rebels’ 8-2 victory.
Freshman lefty Doug Nikhazy has moved into the Saturday night role and has been electric. He didn’t disappoint in his first weekend start and first SEC start at Missouri. Nikhazy took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and exited after 7.2, having allowed no runs on two hits. Parker Caracci closed out the win, and the two combined a two-hit shutout. Nikhazy became the first Rebel freshman to start a shutout in SEC play since Drew Pomeranz on April 5, 2008, against Vanderbilt.
The lefty out of Windermere, Florida, was named SEC Freshman of the Week after shutting down Florida, going 6.0 innings with just one run allowed and six strikeouts. He turned in another terrific performance last week against Texas A&M, striking out a career-high 10 in 7.0 innings with no walks, four hits and just one earned run allowed to once again earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors. The 10 strikeouts came as the most by a Rebel freshman since Will Ethridgefanned 10 in his collegiate debut.
Nikhazy is the only player in the conference to be named SEC Freshman of the Week twice during SEC play this season. Nikhazy’s two awards and Tyler Keenan’s two Freshman of the Week nods in 2018 made it back-to-back years that the Rebels have had a player bring home the honor twice during SEC play.
At season’s end, Nikhazy earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team.
GUNNAR ON TARGET
The final starting role was taken by highly touted freshman Gunnar Hoglund. Hoglund was drafted in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates but elected to come to Oxford. The rookie out of Hudson, Florida, has lived up to his billing thus far. His fall ERA was second only to Ethridge at 1.23 over 14.2 innings of work. He was outstanding in the spring as well, posting a 6.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio, going 8.2 innings without issuing a free pass. Before his final start of the spring, he allowed just two earned runs. Hoglund turned in a quality start in his last outing at Swayze against Texas A&M, going a career-long 6.0 innings with just two runs allowed on five hits with no walks and three strikeouts to help the Rebels sweep the Aggies.
Ole Miss was the country’s hottest offense during the NCAA Regionals. The Rebels led the nation in batting average (.404), on-base percentage (.527), slugging percentage (.675) and runs per game (13.7) during the regional round. The Rebels drew the second-most walks (30) and scored the third-most runs (41). Ole Miss also had the fifth-most hits (46) and second-most home runs (9). See chart on Page 2.
REBS ARE RUNNIN’
Ole Miss enters the Fayetteville Super Regional at No. 12 in the nation and No. 3 in the SEC with 459 runs scored on the season. The Rebels are averaging 7.1 runs per game, good for 31st nationally and fourth in the conference.
Ole Miss has scored 3 or more runs in an inning 58 times this season. The Rebels have had 24 three-run innings, 11 four-run innings, 11 five-run innings, 7 six-run innings, 2 seven-run innings, 2 eight-run innings and one nine-run inning.
Ole Miss scored in double figures 20 times this season, including a season-high of 25 against UAPB. The Rebels have reached double figures in hits 24 times, including a season high of 23 in Sunday’s series-deciding 10-inning win at LSU and 20 in the NCAA Oxford Regional Championship game win over Jacksonville State.
40 SHADES OF GRAE
Junior Grae Kessinger has been on fire since the start of SEC play. He has hits in 33 of 42 games since league play started and went on a 40-game reached-base streak, spanning from March 8 until May 14. His reached-base streak stands as the longest by a Rebel since Tanner Mathis reached in 41 straight in 2011. It’s the 17th-longest streak in the nation this season.
The outstanding season landed Kessinger on the All-SEC First Team, as well as the Collegiate Baseball All-American Third Team. Kessinger led SEC in hits during conference play. He finished No. 2 in the league in batting average and on-base percentage during SEC play. The junior out of Oxford slashed .405/.472/.556 in league play with 27 R, 26 RBI and 13 extra-base hits. He was also among the top 10 in the league in doubles, total bases, slugging percentage, RBI and stolen bases.