OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) – No. 8 Ole Miss both began and secured the series victory over Eastern Illinois on Friday, sweeping the Panthers in a doubleheader matchup that featured 7-2 and 4-0 wins.
Ryan Rolison (3-1) and Brady Feigl (4-0) both earned wins as the weekend starters recorded almost identical box scores, both going 7.0 complete innings while allowing minimal damage and striking out at least seven.
The Rebel bats kept pace with the Panthers, matching up with them stride for stride and combining for 14 hits on the day to stay even with Eastern Illinois’ 14 hits. Jacob Adams earned his first long ball on the day while leading the team in hits, while Thomas Dillard continued his season tear, smashing a ball to deep center and scoring four runs throughout the day.
Game 1 - Ole Miss 7, Eastern Illinois 2
The Rebels couldn’t have gotten off to a better start offensively in game one. Behind a dominant outing from Rebel ace Rolison, Ole Miss jumped on the Panthers early in the first. Grae Kessinger, Ryan Olenek, and Nick Fortes, the Rebels’ 1-2-3 in the batting order, each got aboard to open the game, plating one and jump-starting the scoring fest.
Will Golsan and Chase Cockrell contributed to the scoring with a pair of sacrifice flies, and Tyler Keenan capped the inning with a two-out double in the gap that scored Dillard all the way from first, to take a 4-0 lead out of the first inning. While Rolison kept the Panthers bottled up, Adams made his mark and got his first taste of the long ball at Swayze with a solo shot to start the second.
Not to be outdone, Dillard smashed a ball to deep center in the third inning, his team-high fourth on the year to match his home run total from a year prior, and it was all Rebels after three innings.
The Panthers’ only runs of the game came in the fourth, when Eastern Illinois loaded the bases multiple times following a leadoff single and double. Rolison capped the damage at just two following a two-RBI single with two outs, and he did not allow the Panthers another run.
Ole Miss added the insurance they needed in the fifth, following a pair of Dillard steals to put him in scoring position and awaiting a Cockrell RBI. Dillard’s three steals on the day also upped his season total to eight, by far a team leader, while Cockrell moved his batting average to .452, a team-high by more than .100 points, though the Rebel DH has recorded fewer at-bats than team leaders.
Though perhaps not his most effective outing with six hits allowed, Rolison went three more scoreless innings after his shaky fourth, logging 7.0 complete to record a new career-high from a start. The Rebel ace also struck out eight to go along with three walks and just the two runs allowed.
He turned the ball over to Austin Miller in the eighth, and the game was sealed from there. Miller faced just six batters but struck out four, a new career-high, including three in his opening inning of the eighth while not allowing a single baserunner to shut down Eastern Illinois and ensure the 7-2 Rebel victory.
Game 2 - Ole Miss 4, Eastern Illinois 0
While the Rebels relied on their bats to carry them to a Game 1 victory, it was their dependence on the pitching staff that got them through Game 2 to ensure the series win over the Panthers. Feigl was near perfect on the mound, recording 7.0 scoreless innings to go along with a new season-high of seven strikeouts and a low of zero walks issued.
The bats got off to a slow start, after being held scoreless through two innings, but the Rebels caught a lucky break in the third that allowed them to record their first two, which ultimately proved to be just enough. With the bases loaded in the third, Golsan delivered a bloop hit into shallow right field, allowing two runs to cross the plate before Dillard was tagged out trying to make it three to end the frame.
The Rebels added two more throughout later innings. A run came across following a sixth inning that saw Dillard make the Panthers pay for a leadoff walk. Dillard swiped second and pushed to third on a tag, and Cole Zabowski saw to it that he scored with an RBI groundout to improve the Ole Miss lead to three.
One more insurance run crossed the plate in the eighth, when a pair of hits from Olenek and Dillard allowed one more to score and let the bullpen take over for the save.
The Panthers truly threatened just once in Game 2, but a tremendous play in the outfield suppressed any hope of an Eastern Illinois comeback. Pinch-hitter Frankie Perrone tested the limits of Swayze with a double that came just feet away from clearing the fence, but the center fielder Golsan delivered a perfect throw to Kessinger at short, who, in turn, rocketed the ball to Fortes at the plate for an inning-ending out at the plate to keep the shutout intact.
While Feigl kept the Panthers stifled at the plate, the Rebels relied on their Saturday guy to carry them through the game. Head coach Mike Bianco remained with his starter through seven complete innings on the mound, before turning the ball over to Will Ethridge to earn the sophomore his second save on the year.
Ethridge allowed just one baserunner on a walk, and the sophomore earned his second save of the season after two innings of scoreless work to help deliver the Rebels their first shutout win of the year.
The Rebels defeated the Panthers 4-0 in Game 2 to win their sixth in a row, as well as 14 of their first 15, to finalize the series victory over Eastern Illinois.
Ole Miss will go for the sweep on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. CT, with a hiatus on Saturday due to the doubleheader.
- The Rebels improve to 14-1 on the year, matching their 15-game start in 2016.
- With two wins today, the Rebels ensured that their undefeated record vs. Eastern Illinois was preserved, improving to 8-0 all-time vs. the Panthers.
- Game two’s 4-0 victory was the Rebels’ first shutout victory on the year.
- Brady Feigl recorded a new season high in strikeouts, sitting down eight in seven innings of work.
- Jacob Adams hit his first long ball as a Rebel today in game one, as well as recorded a new career high in hits with two.
- With a solo shot in the first game, Thomas Dillard took sole control of the team’s home run lead with four. He also tied his home run total from a year ago, recording four through fourteen games in comparison with four on the whole year last season.
- Ryan Rolison recorded the most innings pitched from a start tonight in his career, going 7.0 complete innings of work, striking out eight and allowing just two runs. His Saturday counterpart, Brady Feigl, also worked 7.0 innings, striking out seven but allowing no runs.
- Dillard had three steals on the day, upping his season total to eight, a team high.
- Austin Miller recorded a new career high in strikeouts with four, despite facing just six batters in two complete innings of work.
- Today’s two games against the Panthers marks the third and fourth of a five-game home stretch that concludes with Sunday’s matchup vs. Eastern Illinois.