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Friday Bases Loaded: Historical perspective on the Rebel winning streak

Bases loaded is back! Every Friday (and the rare Thursday), we’ll take a look at four pressing storylines heading into the weekend of Ole Miss baseball. Coming off a midweek 8-1 win over Memphis, the 11-1 Rebels have five more games before the start of SEC play, beginning this weekend against Princeton.

Remember back to the start of the season, when some preseason baseball polls didn’t rank the Rebels and D1Baseball sat them at No. 25 in the country? Things sure changed fast.

Now having won 11 consecutive games, Ole Miss is arguably the hottest team in the nation. The Rebels have eight quadrant one wins on the early season, and are now ranked No. 9 by both D1Baseball and PerfectGame.

This weekend, the Rebels welcome 0-4 Princeton to town, a chance to quite literally break some records. Here’s four things to keep an eye on with the Tigers in Oxford.

First Base: Putting historical perspective on the Ole Miss winning streak

Ole Miss has won 11 baseball games in a row. This has happened only four times in the Mike Bianco Era (since 2001), most recently when they won 12 straight in 2013. That 12 is the Bianco Era record, happening twice, in 2002 and 2013.

Before Bianco took over in 2001, it had been since 1964 when the Rebels last had a stretch of 11 or more consecutive wins. Dating back to 1893, Bianco’s four such stretches matches all of the prior stretches before him. Tom Swayze had three 11-game win streaks, including the Ole Mis record at 17 straight games in 1960, a season they went 22-3. The only other such streak from someone not named Swayze or Bianco came in 1923, when Ole Miss won 15 straight under Pete Shields.

So in theory, if Ole Miss beats an 0-4 Princeton team on both Friday and Saturday, Bianco will break his record with 13 straight wins. Getting very ambitious and looking way too far ahead, Ole Miss could tie the all-time record of 17 on Friday, March 13 against LSU.

Second Base: New faces stepping up in the bullpen

Braden Forsyth was named the SEC Co-Pitcher of the week for his work this past weekend on the road. The Rebel sophomore is pitching in his first year in a Rebels uniform after spending one year at Meridian Community College in 2019. Now, Forsyth is the Rebel closer. In five appearances this season, Forsyth has four saves and has allowed only one run in 6.0 innings of work. But he’s not the only new face shining in the bullpen.

Wes Burton, a freshman from Santa Monica, Calif., also seems to have carved out a role as a middle reliever for the Rebels. Bianco called on the true freshman for 2.1 innings against the No. 1 team in the nation, Louisville, in his first ever appearance. He allowed a single run against the Cardinals, his only allowed run in three appearances and 5.1 innings of work thus far as a true freshman.

Third Base: Don’t read too much into the final scores this weekend

Princeton has not won a baseball game. They’ve only played four baseball games, all against Penn State at a neutral site. They rank No. 242 nationally by RPI, and are objectively not a good baseball team. Now yes, baseball can be a silly sport where the worst MLB teams in the history of the sport will still win one third of their games.

Even Ole Miss lost a game last year to a North Alabama team playing their first-ever season of Division I baseball and still hosted a regional. But that was a midweek game, and the weekend games featuring one’s top three starters usually go much more to script. If Ole Miss hangs 17 runs on Princeton one game, it’s really not a big deal or a sign of anything whatsoever.

At Bat: Can Tyler Keenan build on a strong weekend in North Carolina?

There was never a question of who would start at third base to open the season. Tyler Keenan started all 68 games in 2019, 67 of them at third. It was his position. It’s probably not fair to say that Keenan was struggling to start the season, but he definitely wasn’t the same guy who had an on-base percentage of .420 as a sophomore.

Keenan opened the season 8 for 31 (.258) batting, hitting one home run over the opening eight games of the year. The numbers weren’t terrible, but it wasn’t what you wanted from a guy hitting in the heart of the lineup. Last weekend playing in his home state, Keenan went 7 for 13 including two more home runs. He’s now tied for second on the team with a .333 batting average with an on-base percentage of .429. Keenan isn’t going to hit .538 every weekend, but his been weekend is a good sign moving forward.

Weekend schedule, where to watch:

Friday: 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network +
Saturday: 1:30 p.m. on SEC Network+
Sunday: Noon on SEC Network+