OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) – When the final picks were in for the 2019 MLB Draft, eight Ole Miss baseball players were off the board, the most for the program since nine Rebels were selected in 2014.
Grae Kessinger (Round 2 - Houston Astros), Will Ethridge (Round 5 - Colorado Rockies), Thomas Dillard (Round 5 - Milwaukee Brewers) and Cooper Johnson (Round 6 - Detroit Tigers) all went off the board on the first two days. On Day 3, Parker Caracci (Round 21 - Toronto Blue Jays), Cole Zabowski (Round 22 - Detroit Tigers), Zack Phillips (Round 27 - Kansas City Royals) and Houston Roth (Round 29 - Baltimore Orioles) joined the fray to make an even eight Rebel selected.
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.
Caracci was previously drafted, going in the 37th Round a year ago to the Blue Jays. The organization selected the Rebel closer once again, only 16 rounds higher this time around. Caracci has racked up 11 saves so far in 2019, one more than he did a season ago. His 21 career saves are good for fifth in program history.
The redshirt junior out of Jackson, Mississippi has put together two impressive scoreless streaks this season. He went from March 10 until April 20 without giving up a run—a streak of 14.1 innings. He enters the NCAA Fayetteville Super Regional having not given up an earned run in his last five appearances.
Zabowski is a first-time draftee who is amid a tremendous junior campaign. The Rebel first baseman is hitting .316 with 48 runs scored, 16 doubles, 11 home runs and 48 RBI. His .512 slugging percentage is second on the team. He has also flashed surprising athleticism for his size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds), as he is the only Rebel with a perfect stolen base percentage (7-for-7).
The junior out of Lawrenceville, Georgia, was a preseason First Team All-SEC selection, and he hasn't disappointed. His outstanding regular season has carried into the postseason. He hit .500 (7-for-14) in the NCAA Oxford Regional with five runs scored, three RBI, a double and a home run.
Phillips has been a key arm in the Rebel rotation in his first year in Oxford. He began the season in the weekend rotation and has since filled a hybrid starter/bullpen role. Early in the season, Phillips started the Rebels' first ever combined no-hitter, throwing three perfect innings with four strikeouts on March 20 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The junior out of Texarkana, Arkansas, passed up draft prospects last season to attend Ole Miss out of Grayson Community College. He was critical on the Rebels' run to the SEC Tournament title game. He turned in a strong start against Arkansas, going 5.2 innings with just four hits allowed against the talented Razorback lineup.
Roth has also been a critical arm for the Rebels in 2019, as well as his first two seasons in an Ole Miss uniform. He has allowed a run in just two of his last 10 appearances, including a string of six straight scoreless outings from May 1 - May 22. Roth started the SEC Championship game victory over LSU in 2018, and he turned in a strong start in the SEC Tournament this year as well, going 4.2 innings with just four hits and three runs allowed to anchor a 5-3 victory over Georgia and send the Rebels to the conference title game for the second straight season.
The junior out of Oxford, Mississippi, is 9-2 for his Ole Miss career with a 3.63 ERA. He has struck out 153 batters compared to just 50 walks. Roth made one appearance in last weekend's NCAA Oxford Regional and was near-perfect. He yielded a pair of hits but tossed 1.2 scoreless innings with two strikeouts and no walks.
All eight of the Rebel draftees will hold off on any decisions as the season continues. No. 12 seed Ole Miss will take on No. 5 overall seed Arkansas this weekend in the Fayetteville Super Regional. The best-of-three series will begin at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday, June 8, on ESPN.
Ole Miss 2019 MLB Draft Selections
Round 2 (Pick 68) | Grae Kessinger - Houston Astros
Round 5 (Pick 159) | Will Ethridge - Colorado Rockies
Round 5 (Pick 163) | Thomas Dillard - Milwaukee Brewers
Round 6 (Pick 172) | Cooper Johnson - Detroit Tigers
Round 21 (Pick 627) | Parker Caracci - Toronto Blue Jays
Round 22 (Pick 652) | Cole Zabowski - Detroit Tigers
Round 27 (Pick 799) | Zack Phillips - Kansas City Royals
Round 29 (Pick 858) | Houston Roth - Baltimore Orioles