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Baseball Preview: Ole Miss

A traditional power has had a fall from grace this year. Can the Tigers take advantage against Ole Miss?

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAR 13 Oral Roberts at Ole Miss - Game 2 Photo by Kevin Langley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On March 14, the Ole Miss Rebels were 13-2 and were the top ranked team in the America. The Rebels were on fire, and it looked like they were surely going to have another successful season. Since then, the Rebels are 11-17 and are in dead last in the SEC West. This week the Tigers will make the trip down to Oxford hoping to take a series they might have felt was a death sentence just a couple of months ago, so let’s break down the Rebels.

Pitching

With Gunnar Hoglund off to the MLB draft last summer, the Rebels have struggled to find a strong replacement in the Friday night role this year. This weekend, they’ll turn the ball over to Dylan DeLucia who’s settled into the role recently. Despite bringing in a 4.14 ERA in 50 innings this season, DeLucia should be full of confidence having gone 7 innings or more and allowing 2 ER or less in each of his last three starts.

Stuff-wise DeLucia brings a pretty typical mix in for a college pitcher. He’s got a fastball, slider, and changeup that’ll he mix up against hitters. He’ll sit low 90s with his heater and feature a heavy dose of sliders to righties, but will mix in more changeups against lefties. He also loves a high fastball for a strikeout pitch. Despite his recent success as a starter, DeLucia has struggled at times in his bullpen role, so there’s hope for the Tigers they can rough him up.

Hunter Elliot may only be a freshman, but he’s contributing for the Rebels early in his collegiate career. In 37 innings, Elliot has a 3.41 ERA with 53 strikeouts and has moved from the bullpen to the rotation in the last couple of weeks. In his last two starts, Elliot has thrown 10 innings, allowing 4 ER and striking out 14.

For a true freshman, Elliot is unique in that he has four pitches he’s comfortable throwing already. With his fastball, he’s going to sit right around 90, but he will mix in a good slider, curveball, and changeup. Lefties will see mostly fastball and slider, but righties can expect the full array of pitches from the freshman. The good news for the Tigers is that Elliot is rarely stretched out in games, and if they can get to him early, they’ll make a dent in the Ole Miss bullpen.

Derek Diamond will present the most hittable of the three weekend starters for Ole Miss. In 49 innings this year, Diamond has a 6.43 ERA with 43 strikeouts. In each of his last three starts, he’s given up 4 ER or better, and he’s had just one outing all season in which he went 5 innings or more and allowed 2 ER or less.

Expect fastball, breaking ball, changeup from Diamond as well. His heater will sit in the low 90s and like DeLucia he’ll mostly be fastball/slider to righties, but will incorporate his changeup against lefties. Diamond’s start will represent a super-winnable game for the Tigers, and if they are to find any success in this series, this Sunday game will be a must win.

Here’s what the rest of the Ole Miss pitchers have done this year:

via OleMissSports.com

Hitting

Atop their lineup, the Rebels get things going with a guy that loves to get on base. Justin Bench is a senior utility man, and he’s near the top of their club in OBP at .401. Bench is tied for the team lead in hits, third in walks, and has also drawn 9 HBP this year. His job is to get on for the next couple of guys I’m going to talk about, and he does a great job of it.

With only 2 HR on the year, there isn’t much to worry about with Bench and the long ball, but he’ll still try and jump on pitchers early in counts. Despite not striking out often, if you can get Bench into a 2-strike count, he has a tendency to chase sliders away, and you’ll mostly have to live there to Bench anyways. Because of his ability to draw HBP, pummeling Bench away in the zone becomes essential, and it plays into his tendency to pull the ball on the ground which can lead to roll overs.

Here’s an example of Bench simply being that barrel to ball guy as he perfectly executed this hit-and-run against Arkansas:

Right behind Bench in the lineup in SS Jacob Gonzalez who’s having quite the year at the dish. He’s slashing .287/.443/.667 which is good enough for an 1.110 OPS. He also has 14 HR and 37 RBI which are both second best on the team. As only a sophomore Gonzalez is still getting better and should be a high draft pick in his future.

With his sweet lefty swing, Gonzalez murders right handed pitching (look out Spencer Miles), but like most lefties he’s struggles with sliders away (please expose this Tony Neubeck). He also is the most patient hitter in the Rebel lineup, so don’t expect him to beat himself. With 40 walks and jut 21 strikeouts this year, Gonzalez has ideal plate discipline.

Here’s a game-tying HR Gonzalez hit in the 9th inning against MISST earlier this year:

Bench and Gonzalez hit 1-2 in the lineup, but everybody knows the man that hits third. 1B Tim Elko is Ole Miss baseball. He’s the captain, and he’s been contributing for the Rebels for years, even doing damage last year on a torn ACL. He’s the kind of guy everyone in college baseball can root for.

However, Elko is much more than likable player, the dude is a freak at the plate. This year he’s slashing .314/.415/.667 with 17 HR and 54 RBI. Plain simple the man loves hitting the ball hard and driving in runs, and expect him to do that against the Tigers no matter how they pitch him.

The best way to attack Elko is a heavy dose of changeups. As a primarily fastball hitter, Elko can get fooled by changeups, but again there’s no promises with this guy. The only real drawback for him is that he does strikeout quite a bit having K’d 55 times season.

Just look at how far this baseball traveled. OH MY GOODNESS!

Here’s what all of the Rebel hitters have done this year:

via OleMissSports.com

Game Schedule

Friday | 6:30 pm | SEC Network +

Saturday | 6 pm | SEC Network +

Sunday | 1:30 pm | SEC Network +