Supers Pitching Preview: Ole Miss begins series against Arizona
TUCSON — Ole Miss baseball (44-20, 18-12 SEC) arrived safely on the ground in Tucson, Arizona Wednesday night and is readying to take on No. 5 seed Arizona in NCAA Super Regionals. This Wildcats team is hot-hitting and has been for much of the season, but the Rebels will look to tame the ‘Cats and, hopefully, ride a hot streak of their own all the way to Omaha.
Arizona (43-15, 21-9 Pac 12) plays in one of the oldest stadiums in the country, Hi Corbett Field, with one of the biggest ballparks. It was built in 1937 and was formerly a Cleveland Indian’s spring training ballpark. Its fence is placed deep in the outfield and, considering that most modern stadiums are built to favor the batter and the home run, Hi Corbett is very much a pitcher’s park.
The distance in center is 410 feet with a 366-foot fence in left field, and a shorter 349 feet in right.
Note: Here’s our look at the “likely” pitching matchups, given that Ole Miss Friday night starter Derek Diamond is the only pitcher listed thus far by either school across the weekend series.
Game One matchup – Chase Silseth vs. Derek Diamond
Though Arizona had not yet announced its starter for Friday’s opening game, the Wildcats are thought to be throwing sophomore ace Chase Silseth (8-1, 5.53 ERA). He’s a 6-foot, 215-pound sophomore. The physical righty has three primary pitches in his arsenal.
Pac-12 𝗔𝗹𝗹-𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲: @Chase_Silseth 🔥
— Arizona Baseball 🏆 (@ArizonaBaseball) June 3, 2021
The Wildcats’ power-pitching ace muscles his fastball in at 92-96 mph with very little life. His slider that can lock up the best batters at 81-83 mph, and he can show an above-average change-up in the low 80s. Silseth has struggled with command at times and has found it difficult to locate his inside fastball at points this year, and the Rebs must recognize this early to be successful in their attack at the plate.
As announced Thursday, Derek Diamond (3-4, 5.05 ERA) will get the nod on Friday night for Ole Miss, given that Nikhazy went on three days less rest last weekend at Swayze.
The Diamond Rebs’ plan will likely be to stay aggressive at the plate and attack often. With the way that both the Rebels and the Wildcats can put up runs, this is not likely to be a low-scoring series, and each team will have big innings. Ole Miss batters will need to stay aggressive and look to swing away to win this matchup.
Game Two matchup – Garrett Irvin vs. Doug Nikhazy
Again, with neither team yet announcing a pitcher for for game two of the Super Regional, it might be likely the Rebels will throw Golden Spikes Semifinalist Doug Nikhazy, while the Wildcats may go with Garrett Irvin.
Nikhazy (11-2, 2.39 ERA) has been one of the most productive and competitive leaders in college baseball on the mound this year. Doug brings emotional and physical leadership that became even more critical after the season-ending injury to Gunnar Hoglund against Texas A&M.
Irvin (6-2, 3.51 ERA) is a 6-foot, 180-pound junior lefty. He relies on location and command to win games and, much like Nikhazy, he is a downhill pitcher.
Congratulations to @ArizonaBaseball LHP Garrett Irvin, who was the easy selection for #TusconRegional MVP after his three-hit shutout to advance the Wildcats to the regional final. pic.twitter.com/unZQbqt33S
— Shotgun Spratling (@ShotgunSprD1) June 7, 2021
Irvin’s fastball is in the mid-to-upper-80s and is especially effective given the angle and release point in Garrett’s high 3/4s arm slot. He throws an 11-5 breaking ball that falls to the dish that he is able to locate well. Garrett also has an upper-70s changeup that he mixes in well.
The Rebels likely look to be a little less aggressive with Irvin on the hill, at least initially, until they can pick up the speed and release point.
The Diamond Rebs must not be “too” patient though, because Irvin has the ability to go deep into the game. A strong and steady attack at the plate from Ole Miss could be Arizona’s undoing in game two of the Super Regional.
Game 3 – Chandler Murphy vs. Drew McDaniel
Again, neither team has named its starter for Sunday’s “if necessary” game. Conventional wisdom says the Rebs would go with Sunday starter Drew McDaniel (5-2, 6.10 ERA) if the rubber game is required. McDaniel had a rough outing against USM in game six of the Oxford Regional last weekend, going just 2/3 of the way through the first inning. Southern Miss was able to key on a few mistakes and push seven runs across on six hits.
This weekend in Tucson, Drew will likely face off against Chandler Murphy (7-0, 3.63 ERA); although, as mentioned above, neither team has named a starter.
Murphy is a righty and has a longer 6-foot-3, 197-pound frame. His fastball will touch the low-90s but will typically stay in the upper-80s. He has a high 3/4s arm-slot with a turn-and-go approach to the plate as he gets plenty of push off of his right foot.
Murphy’s delivery is difficult to pick up at the plate because of his release point and angle of attack. The angle makes his delivery deceiving in the batter’s box, and the Rebs must pick this angle up quickly to gain success.
Murphy throws a slurve in the upper-70s that has plenty of depth that he will use to expand the zone and wreak havoc on an opposing offenses. He will also use a change-up in the low-80s to round out his offerings. In addition to picking up the release point, Ole Miss must exercise some discipline at the plate and identify the slurve that will run away on right-handed hitters.
‘Cats at the Plate
Arizona’s offense has a similar look to the Rebs. Third baseman Jacob Berry will be difficult to contain this weekend, much as he has been all season. He has hit 15 home runs and driven in 64 RBI while hitting .357 on the year.
Pac-12 𝗔𝗹𝗹-𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲: @berry_jacob_24 💣
— Arizona Baseball 🏆 (@ArizonaBaseball) June 3, 2021
Much the same can be said for Arizona catcher Daniel Susac who is hitting .338 with 12 homers and 61 runs driven in.
Ole Miss won’t want to sleep on the other components of the Wildcats’ offense, like outfielder Ryan Holgate who is hitting .353 with 9 home runs to his credit, and Donte Williams who has hit for .338 and slapped 6 HRs to go along with his 9 stolen bases.
With over half of the Arizona batting order sitting at over a .300 batting average this year, it’s a pretty good bet that the Red and Blue must continue to out-slug its opponent to win this series.
The easiest path to TD Ameritrade in Omaha is taking the first two of the three-game series. That being said, Ole Miss hasn’t always taken the easiest road — but they have outlasted 8 of their last 12 opponents.
The Diamond Rebels have stepped up every time they have been down this season, and they are confident in their abilities. Knowing they are on a mission to make it to Omaha when they win the series in Tucson, will be fuel to burn as they face this hot-hitting Arizona team.
The first pitch on Friday is thrown at 8 pm CT and will be televised on ESPNU. Saturday’s matchup is set for 9 pm CT on ESPN2, and Sunday’s if-necessary game will be played on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.