OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - Junior Will Ethridge set the tone early, while his counterpart Austin Miller finished it off as the Ole Miss pitching silenced the Long Beach State bats en route to a 7-2 Friday night victory. Ethridge earned his second win of the season in just as many appearances, while Miller’s career night secured his second career save and a slew of new records for the junior righty.
Ole Miss (6-2) was able to put up five runs through the first three innings at the plate and didn’t look back as the dominant bullpen arms ensured a low-scoring affair. Balls weren’t flying across the park in Friday’s series opener, but the Rebels were still able to tally nine hits off of the Dirtbag ace, Zak Baayoun.
Ethridge only went 3.0 innings in his first start since the season opener as he returned to action following a brief hiatus due to a blister on his throwing hand. He held the Dirtbags without a run, and allowed just two hits in his three innings, one of them a bunt to first base.
Junior Houston Roth was first out of the bullpen in relief of Ethridge, and was able to work two innings before Miller’s entry. The Dirtbags found marginal success off the arm of Roth, and scored their only two runs of the game in his first inning of work, the top of the fourth. Long Beach used three hits, two of them doubles, to send two to the plate, but Roth was able to work out of the jam and limit the damage with a strikeout.
Roth threw one more inning, a scoreless fifth, before Miller entered to begin the sixth. The junior right-hander went four innings without allowing a run on just one hit and three strikeouts to earn the long-inning save. His innings pitched and strikeouts recorded both set a new career high, eclipsing his previous best outing of 3.1 IP against Wright State earlier this year.
Junior Thomas Dillard has been as good as any offensive player around the nation and continued his hot start to the season with a 2-for-3 day at the plate today with a pair of singles. He upped his batting average from .481 at the start of today’s contest to a solid .515 mark.
Grae Kessinger and Jacob Adams joined Dillard with a pair of hits at the front and back end of the batting order, respectively. Adams also worked his way to a pair of RBI, the first coming in a crucial spot in the second, when he batted around Cooper Johnson on a single to right for an early 3-0 lead.
Ryan Olenek and Dillard accounted for the game’s first runs as each of them reached on a single in the first inning. Dillard’s single through the left side scored Olenek, while a Chase Cockrell single was able to send Dillard to the plate as the Rebels took an early 2-0 lead.
They bounced right back in the second when Adams’ RBI single gave Ole Miss a three-run edge, while a two-run third would give the Rebels just what they needed to hand the ball over to their dominant relievers. Dillard led off the inning with his second single in three innings, and after a Cockrell walk and some nifty baserunning from Dillard to land him at third, Johnson would drive him home on a sacrifice fly to right.
Cockrell scurried home after the Dirtbag catcher launched a ball into left field attempting to pick him off at third base, and the Rebels carried a 5-0 lead into the fourth inning.
Ole Miss picked up some late insurance runs in the eighth as Miller watched patiently from the dugout. Adams would pick up his second RBI of the night with a single through the right side, while Kessinger added another on a single to left, giving the Rebels’ their seventh and final run of the game.
The diamond Rebels will close out their series with Long Beach State tomorrow, as rain in the forecast for Sunday created the opportunity for a Saturday doubleheader at Swayze Field. The first game will begin at 1:30 p.m. CT, and the second game will begin approximately 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first.
Zack Phillips will start for the Rebels on the mound in the first game, while Gunnar Hoglund will carry the rock in the second.
- Ole Miss improves to 6-2 on the year, and 4-2 all-time against Long Beach State.
- After winning the series in California last year, the Rebels improve to 3-1 against the Dirtbags in the last two years.
- In just his second start of the year and first since returning from injury, junior Will Ethridge continued his hot start to the season. Ethridge was limited by a pitch count, but still twirled 3.0 scoreless innings with just two hits allowed and a pair of strikeouts.
- Austin Miller has been terrific in relief all season, and he only improved on his impressive season stats today. Miller entered in the sixth and allowed only one hit through the last out of the game.
- Miller’s 4.0 innings pitched is a new career high, and his three recorded strikeouts are also a career best.
- Last year against the Dirtbag ace Zac Baayoun, the Rebels only mustered four runs on seven hits. Through three today, however, they found their groove, plating five with an equal number of hits through the first nine of the batting order.
- Both Thomas Dillard and Ryan Olenek entered today with a .481 batting average, each with 13 hits in 27 at-bats. After both recorded a hit in their first plate appearances, they both evened out at a solid .500 batting average after the first inning.
- Dillard has been one of the league’s finest bats, and he continued his hot start to the season with a 2-for-3 day at the plate with an added walk and a stolen base to his line.
- Cole Zabowski swiped second in the eighth for his second career stolen base.