Besides two wins against a top ten team, the most impressive aspect for Ole Miss so far is how well its pitchers have done. Saturday four of them – James McArthur, Andy Pagnozzi, Dallas Woolfolk, and Will Stokes. Friday night David Parkinson and Stokes.
Notice anything? Not a newcomer has pitched. None of the pitchers in the No. 1 ranked recruiting class have taken the mound on Swayze Field. That’s likely coming on Sunday, but only after veteran Brady Feigl starts and goes as long as he can go.
Ole Miss beat East Carolina 3-2 Saturday after a 5-4 Rebels win Friday. Sweeping the Pirates, ranked among the nation’s best teams following a Super Regional appearance last season, would be a major February coup for Ole Miss. A series win with two victories is something to take from here into a midweek game against Arkansas State Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Oxford. But the Rebels want more.
I asked Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco last Monday night on Rebel Yell Hotline that since we already knew who his starters this weekend were, who would the starter against ASU be on Tuesday. His choices are likely all freshmen – either Ryan Rollison, Greer Holston, or Will Ethridge; probably the one to start Tuesday is the one who doesn’t pitch any Sunday against East Carolina.
Ole Miss has done a lot of things well the first two days of this season. Winning twice has been the result of that. I liked Ryan Olenek in the leadoff role today, but who wouldn’t after a 2-for-5 day and scoring a run, just making things happen, much like we saw from him at times last season? Will Golsan, the team’s quiet producer now into his third season, produced again today – 2-for-3, a walk, a RBI, a run scored, good right field play.
There’s been only one UM error so far in two days. That was Tate Blackman early on Saturday, a ball that got under his glove as he moved to his right and tried to backhand it and throw across his body to first. Only he didn’t get it. Tough play and that happens from time to time to those middle infielders.
Colby Bortles has only one hit through two days, but it was an important sixth-inning solo homer to pull Ole Miss to within a run at the time. It didn’t necessarily look like it was going to leave the park but did so in the left field corner.
Thomas Dillard with a 2-for-4 day and Chase Cockrell with a 1-for-3 day and a walk. Newcomers both. And Cooper Johnson 1-for-2 but with a second day of stellar defensive play behind the plate. It’s obvious his reaction time is instantaneous and his snap throws like lasers.
Sure, it’s easy for players to glow and gloat a bit after a series win and with still a Sunday game to go. But the team appeared focused after the Saturday victory and intent on getting one more. A sweep of Coach Cliff Godwin’s Pirates would be a major positive start to the early season.
If the Rebels pitch it as well Sunday as they did Friday and Saturday, they’ll probably get that sweep, too.
Ole Miss RHP Andy Pagnozzi
On entering with bases loaded and one out in the fifth and ECU up 2-0 but getting his team out of it with a double play: “There was miscommunication on the pitch. It was supposed to be a fast ball. I don’t know what happened. I threw a curve ball and it worked out somehow.” On what Bianco said after the double play: “He said ‘It was supposed to be a fastball but that’ll do.’ He didn’t seem to mind too much.”
Ole Miss 3B Colby Bortles
On if he knew his home run ball was out of the park: “I was praying it was out. I was trying to sway it back to fair territory. It looked foul for a long while. But the wind kinda helped push it over the foul pole.” On what ECU starter Evan Kruczynski was doing to keep the Rebel hitters off balance: “He was really good mixing up pitches. Kinda a soft tossing lefty. Wasn’t overpowering but had a really good changeup. We stuck to our approach and finally got him out of there.”
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco
On Pagnozzi getting the double play ball to keep the Rebels close at 2-0 in the fifth: “You feel good when you’re going to a guy like Andy, a freshman All-American who has been in that situation plenty of times last year. But certainly that was the biggest play of the day.” On the miscommunication Pagnozzi mentioned: “I called a fast ball. Cooper (Johnson) said he called a fast ball. Andy threw a curve ball. We’re glad Andy was right.” On Dallas Woolfolk after Pagnozzi: “He looked like a big league closer in there, throwing the ball 93 to 95 and mixing in a slider and facing the top of their lineup; they’re so offensive. And Will Stokes, I really didn’t know he was going to pitch today. I thought coming to the ballpark probably give him the day off because he threw two innings last night, about 20 pitches. He said he felt great, and I said ‘I would only use ya if it’s really close in the ninth.’ When you’re best guy says he’s ready to go, you gotta go to him.” On starter James McArthur: “Terrific but disappointing he didn’t get through there and really end it on his terms. But he knows he pitched well today. Sat in the low 90s, which is him. Threw a lot of strikes with a slider and a couple of changeups. He held a very good offense down. If we get over on a bunt, maybe that inning is different. If he makes another pitch, maybe that inning is different. His pitch count was down. Maybe he could have gotten to the seventh inning. But I thought he was really good today.” On Ryan Olenek in the leadoff spot: “He brings so much energy. He can lead off and he’s a sensational player. He doesn’t take a lot of pitches so he’s not your traditional leadoff guy. Certainly he can bunt, he can run, he’s aggressive. I like him. We’ve got to figure out the lineup. The good news is we have a lot of depth and some different lineups we can run out there, and we’ll continue to do that.” On Will Golsan: “He’s always been rock steady for us. He’s the ultimate team guy. I think he’s going to have a big year for us.”