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Oxford Regional Preview: A look at the Diamond Rebs’ opponents at Swayze this weekend

Oxford Regional Preview: A look at the Diamond Rebs’ opponents at Swayze this weekend

OXFORD, Miss. — Postseason baseball is finally here! Oxford Regional action begins today at 3:00 pm as No. 3-seed Florida State takes on No. 2 seed USM. That game will be followed by No. 4 seed SEMO versus the Regional host Rebels at 7:00 pm.  

This Regional will likely be one of the most competitive in college baseball this weekend. Here’s a preview of the teams joining the Diamond Rebels in Oxford. 

No. 4-seed Southeast Missouri State

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco tapped pitcher Derek Diamond to draw the start against Southeast Missouri State (30-20, OVC 17-10) on Friday night.  

The Redhawks will start Dylan Dodd, their southpaw out of Danville, Illinois. He should be in the minors right now had it not been for the shortened five-round MLB draft of last year.  

Dodd (9-1, 2.78 ERA) is without a doubt SEMO’s ultimate weapon.  On the year, he has tallied 113 strikeouts to only 14 walks.  He pitches from a high 3/4s arm slot with a good bit of tilt that makes his release point disguised from the batter. His fastball velocity hovers in the 89-90 mph range, but he has been clocked at 95 mph at times. 

Dodd’s money pitch is a low-80s change up with good depth that he throws in any count, making him very unpredictable. SEMO’s ace also offers an average slider and curveball that he will throw in just to keep the opposing batter guessing.  

Southeast Missouri State is one of the best 4-seeds in the entire NCAA Regional field and will not be taken lightly. SEMO has the arms to navigate through and win the Oxford Regional, so the Rebels must be a bit more selective in their pitches. Fastball hunting and keying on the changeup may be the best way to attack Dodd. By hunting the fastball and change, Dodd may be forced to throw his breaking balls which are not his best offering.  

Look for the Ole Miss offense to keep a somewhat aggressive approach at the plate that could force SEMO’s ace into the dugout.  

The Redhawk offense has two batters above .370 batting average in Tyler Wilber and Jevon Mason (100 minimum AB), and Wade Strauss is the only batter with more than 10 HRs on the season at 14 total.  When you add in Andrew Keck, Danny Wright, and Connor Basler, who combined for 37 stolen bases this season, it is a good bet that SEMO will try to beat us in small ball.

No. 3-seed Florida State

The Florida State Seminoles (30-22, ACC 20-16) are loaded when it comes to pitching. FSU has three starters who have combined for 302 strikeouts on the year.  

Ace Parker Messick (7-2, 3.32 ERA) will likely be used to minimize the USM offense on Friday, which would push more responsibility on Conor Grady (5-2, 3.90 ERA) and Bryce Hubbart (6-5, 3.98 ERA) to keep Florida State from elimination if Friday does not go the Seminoles’ way.  

Florida State’s program is rich in college baseball tradition, and they know how to win in the postseason. The Noles have three players who can hit the long ball in Mathieu Nelson (22), Elijah Cabell (14), and Robby Martin (11). 

It is imperative that when the time comes for the Rebels to play FSU, the Ole Miss offense needs to stay hot and bat for average instead of waiting on the long ball, themselves. The Rebels do not want to flirt with this Seminoles team with a game that hinges on a one or two-run lead in the final three innings of the game.

No. 2-seed University of Southern Mississippi

We have already established the Oxford Regional has likely the best 4-seed in Regional action this weekend.  It is also very likely Oxford will host the best 2-seed in the Regionals as well.  

USM (37-19, CUSA 22-9) has a very strong all-around team. The Golden Eagles from Hattiesburg have a lot of depth in their starting rotation and in their bullpen, as well.  

USM will likely start their ace Hunter Stanley (6-3, 2.42 ERA) on Friday vs. FSU in the opening game of the Oxford Regional. Stanley has tallied 119 strikeouts this year while only walking 16.  With that strikeout to walk ratio, the Golden Eagles will be difficult to beat when the Seminoles play them on Friday.  

On Saturday, USM will most likely use Ben Ethridge (6-1, 2.65 ERA).  Ethridge pitches from a high 3/4s arm slot with a long quick action and shoulder tilt.  All of these moving parts fool the hitter’s eye into thinking his mid-to upper-80s fastball is coming in at a much higher velocity.  

Ethridge has excellent command, and he also offers an 11-5 curveball with good depth. To complete Ethridge’s repertoire, he throws a 75 mph change with fading action.  

The Golden Eagles’ bullpen is deep, as well, so it will be important to get out ahead of them early and hit aggressively.  Pitch count with a pitching staff that is this deep is a useless statistic.  Therefore, look for the Rebs to swing away.

Summary

This weekend, the third season starts — following non-conference and league play. Three teams will travel to the mecca of college baseball that Coach Mike Bianco has helped create and that Ole Miss calls home. 

The diamond will come alive for four more days before the Super Regional round. Southeast Missouri State, Florida State, and USM all have the ability to win the Oxford Regional, but as this Ole Miss team showed in the SEC Tournament, the Rebs intend to excel and advance with one of the most potent offenses in college baseball and a reemerging bullpen that will help them compete with any team in the nation.  

The action begins on Friday at 3:00 pm between No. 3 seed Florida State as they take on No. seed USM. That game will be followed by No. 4 seed SEMO versus host Ole Miss at 7:00 pm.  

This series will likely be one of the most competitive in college baseball this weekend, so fasten your seatbelts, Rebs, and Hotty Toddy! 

Click HERE for the link to the complete NCAA Baseball Bracket.

(Feature image credit of Derek Diamond courtesy of Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)

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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