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Diamond Rebs return to Texas to square off in SEC Clash with Aggies

Diamond Rebs return to Texas to square off in SEC Clash with Aggies

OXFORD, Miss. — The No. 12 Ole Miss Rebels return to the Lone Star State this weekend to battle Texas A&M. After going 3-0 to start the season in the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington in February, Ole Miss heads back to Texas to do battle in the SEC.

Ole Miss (32-12, 13-8 SEC) is coming off an 8-game home stand that ended with the Rebs’ third sweep in SEC play (over South Carolina), and they are determined to finish with the same result this weekend.

Like so many other venues in the conference, Blue Bell Park in College Station, Texas draws an enthusiastic crowd, and the Aggies (25-22, 5-16) historically have one of the better programs in the nation. Although the Aggies’ record is not as good this season, they are still a solid team and the Diamond Rebs must be on their A-game to clinch this series.

Game One Matchup

Ole Miss right-handed pitcher Gunnar Hoglund (4-2, 2.47 ERA) earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors for his 6.0 inning performance against South Carolina at Swayze Field last Friday. Gunnar held the No. 19 Gamecocks scoreless and allowed only 1 hit while adding 9 strikeouts to his record on the year.

Hoglund will face Aggie ace Dustin Saenz (5-5, 4.04 ERA) in Friday’s contest. A lefty, Saenz is a 6-foot-0, 178-lb. senior from Corpus Christi and has 3-pitches he uses to foil opposing batters, all of which are centered around his deceptive delivery.

Saenz has a 3/4s arm-slot and delivery that comes across his body. His delivery masks his low-90s fastball that tends to sneak up and surprise the batter, while varying his speed to change the eye-level of the batter.

Saenz has a quality curveball in the mid-70s that sweeps the plate as well as an excellent changeup at 81 mph.

The Aggies’ ace will find success when he is able to command his fastball and the changeup that shows late life and depth. Saenz has proven he can go deep into the game. He has only had two outings where he was not on target — and those games were in Gainesville and in Fayetteville. The Aggie ace will be difficult to beat in Blue Bell Park, especially if his offense provides the runs to help his cause.

Game Two Matchup

Ole Miss’ Saturday matchup features lefty Doug Nikhazy (5-2, 2.09 ERA) who is also coming off of two of the best games of his career in a nine-inning shutout of State in Starkville and versus the Gamecocks at Swayze. Last week he did not give up any walks to South Carolina in the 7-3 win.

The Aggies head coach Rob Childress decided to throw a wrinkle into the starting rotation this Saturday and will start left-hander Chris Weber in the place of Bryce Miller. Weber (1-2, 3.92 ERA) is a 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pounder with a high-3/4s arm-slot who offers batters four pitches. He has quick motion with his fastball that has extra life at 90-91 mph–and that he can push up to 92 mph.

Weber throws a two-to-eight curveball in the mid-70s along with a lively slider that takes a dramatic dive at 80 mph. He finishes his offering with an average changeup in the mid-70s. Weber is a long, lanky pitcher that can struggle to repeat his mechanics throughout his outing and that can get him into trouble.

When either of his starters get in trouble, expect Childress to call in his normal Saturday starter in senior Bryce Miller (2-2, 3.59 ERA) from New Braunfels, Texas. Miller is a 6-foot-2-inch, 190-lb. right-hander who has a quick delivery that explodes into a blazing fastball that hits 92-96 mph on the radar gun — with the gas to hit 98 mph.

Bryce Miller moved from the bullpen to the Aggies’ starting lineup in the beginning of the 2021 season and despite the longer outings, he has not lost his velocity. Miller also has three more pitches he will mix in, including a mid-80s slider that has both life and depth along with a curveball and change up in the mid-to-upper-70s.

Miller will get into trouble if he cannot control his fastball, and he has been wild at times. He is, however, a top-draft pick of the 2021 MLB Draft and very much a threat in A&M’s starting lineup. The Aggies are most likely to use Miller on Friday or Saturday as leverage to avoid losing the series early, but he may be used early and often. Given the history of him being a reliever, Miller may be plugged in any combination of two of the three games this weekend.

Game Three Matchup

Rebel sophomore right-handed pitcher Drew McDaniel (4-0, 4.57 ERA) will draw the start again this Sunday as he makes a push for that elusive fifth win of the season.

McDaniel is coming off a start against the Gamecocks last weekend where he allowed four earned runs on six hits and only one walk in 4.1 innings of work.

Drew McDaniel will get the start Sunday. (Photo: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)

A&M will likely start Nathan Dettmer (3-2, 4.24 ERA) who is a 6-foot-4-inch right-hander out of San Antonio. Dettmer has an 88-90 mph fastball with a 3/4s arm-slot with a bit of tilt on his delivery. He also offers a slider in the upper-70s and an off-speed change up that can be deceptive to the batter.

Dettmer is capable of working deep into the games occasionally but will get into trouble when he misses his locations. If he does get the early hook, look for the Aggies’ backup plan to involve LHP Jonathan Childress (3-4, 4.02 ERA) who can come in and flip the script on the Rebels’ offense come this Sunday. Childress has a fastball that tops out at 91 mph along with a curveball that is 77-81 mph and a changeup in the low-80s.

Analysis

Offensively, Texas A&M has a few potent weapons on whom they will rely to manufacture runs. Will Frizell is batting .333 with 13 home runs to his credit this year, and he has 36 RBIs that can be the difference-maker in a slugging match. The Aggies can also utilize Ray Alejo and Logan Britt who have combined for 22 stolen bases on the season and can put pressure on the Rebs’ defense when called upon.

The Diamond Rebs will serve themselves well if they can continue their offensive success by taking what the Aggies give them at the plate.

Although Texas A&M was swept by Mississippi Sate in Starkville last weekend, the Aggies only lost by one run in each of the first two games of that series, so they should not be overlooked just because their conference record sits at 5-16.

The recipe for success for the Rebs is continued production throughout the lineup from Kevin Graham, Justin Bench, and Hayden Dunhurst while having the starting rotation work deep into the first couple of games of the series.

Rebel head coach Mike Bianco will continue to bring in Derek Diamond and Jack Dougherty in middle relief, and he’ll rely on Tyler Myers and Taylor Broadway in late relief and save situations.

Game info

Game 1 – 6:30 pm on SECN+

Game 2 – 11:00 am on ESPNU

Game 3 – 1:00 pm on ESPNU

About The Author

Chad Smith

Chad holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Ole Miss and stays immersed in Rebel sports and alumni affairs. As a second-generation Rebel, he loves everything that makes the university unique and appealing. While he supports every sport on campus, his primary love is Ole Miss Baseball. As a baseball scout and creator of the only group dedicated to Ole Miss Baseball, Chad enjoys focusing on the players’ and the team's success on and off the field. The unique atmosphere created by the fans, facilities and coaching staff has transformed Swayze Field into a world-class program that others only dream of having. Chad currently lives in Lula, Georgia with his wife Danielle, his German Short-Haired Pointer Renegade "Hotty Toddy," and a cat named Boudreaux.

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