Diamond Rebs Hitting the Road to T-town
The Ole Miss Diamond Rebs (17-4, 3-0 SEC) have packed their bags and taken their show on the road to Tuscaloosa to face off against the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama (15-6, 1-2 SEC).
The Rebels will make their first trek east since the Keith LeClair Classic in 2020 where they swept the series in North Carolina, and they will look to do the same against an SEC West foe tonight.
The Gun Show
RHP Gunnar Hoglund will climb the hill at Alabama’s Sewell-Thomas field looking to add more to his SEC-leading 55 strikeouts on the season.
Gunnar has been dominant on the hill in 2021, and he has maintained that dominance as evidenced by his conference-leading 31.2 innings pitched. Last week he pitched 8 flawless innings while shutting out a hot-hitting Auburn team and was one runner shy of the perfect game.
FIRE US UP @GunnarHoglund!
With two RISP and nobody out, Hoglund comes back with three straight strikeouts to strand both runners and hold the tie!
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) March 20, 2021
Gunnar will face an Alabama team that powered past No. 1 Arkansas last weekend 16-1 in Game One of the series.
Tyler Ras (3-1, 3.12 ERA, 22 Ks, 7 BB) will draw the start for the Tide in Thursday night’s game. Ras has a fastball that tops out at 94 mph and has a change-up that drops the velocity through the floor to fool opposing batters. He can also go to a breaking ball that he has been working on since joining his current squad.
Doug Day is back
LHP Doug Nikhazy will return to college baseball after not seeing action since March 5th against Belmont in Oxford. Nikhazy (1-1, 4.15 ERA, 22 K, 7 BB) missed the past three weeks due to a pec injury that he suffered in the chilly tilt in his last start.
Doug will also be changing spots in the lineup to the Game Two position from the Game One position that is now occupied by Hoglund. The position change is meant to alter opponents’ lineups in the second game of a three-game series. Doug is at his best when pitching downhill. When he is effective early, he is able to barrel through an opponent’s lineup with relative ease.
In Game Two vs. the Tide, he faces Alabama’s RHP Dylan Smith (0-2, 2.70 ERA, 41 K, 6 BB). Smith is known for his change-up the most. His change-up has the ability to lift the effectiveness of his lower velocity fastball which tops out at 90-91 mph. Smith also has a 11-5 curveball that he throws with power and depth.
Diamond shattering velocity
RHP Derek Diamond will start in Game Three for the Rebels. Diamond (2-2, 3.96 ERA, 29 K, 6 BB) will look to improve on his 2-2 record on the year, but one thing was different about Doc in last week’s start.
The Deuce came to the mound at Swayze in Game Three against Auburn with a noticeable uptick in the velocity of his fastball. While his fastball normally tops out at 94 mph, it left Diamond’s hand at 97 mph. Maybe it was the Rebels’ return to a packed O-U Stadium or a radar-gun that was in need of calibration, but whatever it was, Reb fans want to see more of it.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) March 21, 2021
DD also served up his remaining three pitches perfectly as he went a season-high 6.0 innings for the win while garnering nine strikeouts.
Alabama will start LHP Antoine Jean (2-1, 1.52 ERA, 21 K, 13 BB). Jean has a three-pitch repertoire as well. He throws a fastball that tops out at 88-89 mph, and he also has an effective curveball with a 1-7 break along with a change up.
The Lights are Shining on Broadway
The Ole Miss Rebels are coming off of a 5-2 win over the Central Arkansas Bears, and they have brought some hot bats with them.
The hot-hitting duo of Tim Elko (.338 BA, 8 HR) and Kevin Graham (.377 BA, 4 HR) is complemented by Hayden Dunhurst (.339 BA, 3 HR) and Jacob “Gonzo” Gonzalez who are both heating up. After an Elko bomb that fell into right field on Tuesday, Dunhurst stepped to the plate and was not going to be outdone. He stepped into one and yanked it a bit further than Elko’s homer.
However, the real story of the 2021 Rebels is not one of the exemplary starting pitching or its hitting, but is one of its senior veteran standouts RHP Taylor Broadway.
Taylor Broadway, Brutal Double Sword. ⚔️⚔️
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 24, 2021
Broadway has been a lights-out closer for the Rebels this season. In the Auburn series he was a beast, tallying two saves on back-to-back nights. And he answered the call to the bullpen on Tuesday as he entered the game in the ninth and did not waste any time making several batters look like cartoon characters spinning themselves into the ground.
With Broadway and an Ole Miss team that is beginning to show signs of firing on all cylinders, the Rebels will get another chance to prove they are road worthy as well.
Schedule vs. Alabama
The schedule for the games are Thursday at 6 pm on ESPNU, Friday at 6 pm SECN+, and Saturday at 1 pm SECN.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)