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Tim Elko’s grand slam leads Ole Miss to 6-3 win over SEMO in Opener of Oxford Regional

Tim Elko’s grand slam leads Ole Miss to 6-3 win over SEMO in Opener of Oxford Regional

OXFORD, Miss. – Following a 2020 season that was shortened without warning due to COVID, taking with it the Rebels’ postseason hopes and dreams, the Road to Omaha returned to Swayze Field Friday night as Ole Miss faced No. 4-seed Southeast Missouri.

The Rebels looked to ride their late post-season momentum into the NCAA Regional Tournament, and that they did as head coach Mike Bianco’s team defeated SEMO, 6-3. (Click here for box score.)

Proud of the way we played tonight. We played well. I thought Derek was terrific early….was able to put some zeros up early. Big home run by Tim. Elko comes through like he’s come through here so many times before.

Head coach Mike Bianco on his team’s win

Scoring

Though the Rebs were held scoreless in the first two frames, they broke out in the third. Cael Baker and John Rhys Plumlee, the eight and nine-hole hitters, each led off the inning with a single. Following a strikeout, Jacob Gonzalez drew a walk which brought captain Tim Elko to the bat with bases loaded.

Since returning from his ACL tear suffered in April, Elko had been 9-30 with 4 home runs and was named to the SEC All-Tournament team as a designated hitter. 

A Swayze magical moment occurred on the first pitch of the Floridian’s at-bat as he deposited the baseball beyond the Ole Miss bullpen in right field, causing an absolute eruption from the crowd. One pitch produced four RBI for Elko who now has 14 home runs on the season.

“I kind of knew it was gone,” Elko said of his grand slam.

Just a really good moment. I was happy to contribute to the team win.

Tim Elko on his grand slam

SEMO cut the lead in half in the top of the fifth inning, only to see the Rebels answer back in the bottom half and in the sixth to push the lead back to four. 

Mr. Consistency, Kevin Graham, doubled after the Redhawk third baseman was unable to handle a pop foul beyond the third base bag. A T.J. McCants RBI single then scored Graham. 

Coach Bianco was asked about what Graham means to the team.

(At our banquet) he was voted by the coaches as the most outstanding player. We don’t have a better guy in the lineup. We have a lot of really, really good guys, but none better than Kevin Graham.

Coach Bianco on Kevin Graham

In the sixth, Cael Baker led off with a single. The big guy — who can run — took second on a wild pitch and was singled home by Peyton Chatagnier. 

The Rebels pounded out 11 hits on the night with 10 of them coming off SEMO ace Dylan Dodd. Graham, McCants,and Baker all ended the day with two hits apiece.  Graham has now reached base in 54 straight games.

Pitching

In an attempt to give his team the best chance of winning its first two games, head coach Mike Bianco sent sophomore Derek Diamond to the mound for the start. 

Diamond was very effective but saw his pitch count elevate over the course of his outing. He was lifted in the fifth having thrown 92 pitches, allowing no runs (eventually being charged with a run) on two hits, three walks and recording five strikeouts.  As a team, the Rebels struck out 12.

Jack Dougherty was solid in relief, allowing only one earned run of his own. Dougherty allowed just four hits over the nine outs he recorded. 

Rebel closer Taylor Broadway shut the door on the Redhawk rally in the eighth and pitched a flawless ninth to record the save. That moves him into No. 1 in school history for single-season saves with 14, breaking Stephen Head’s record. 

Defensive plays

Right fielder John Rhys Plumlee thwarted a rally by SEMO early in the game with a diving catch that ended the Redhawks’ threat in the third inning.

“He’s a special player,” Coach Bianco said after the game. “He’s a special personality. Good things happen when he’s around. That was a huge play, that sliding catch to get off the field when Wilber smoked the ball to right field. He brings a lot.”

Peyton Chatagnier turned in a web gem of his own in the fourth inning ranging back into short right center field to make an over the shoulder catch. 

What’s Next for Ole Miss?

The Rebels now advance to the winner’s bracket and will play Florida State who defeated Southern Miss in earlier action Friday. The Seminoles have not named a starter.  Ole Miss will bring its ace, First Team All-American Doug Nikhazy, with a 9-2 record and 2.18 ERA. 

The Rebels are well-positioned to take game two and advance to the regional championship game.  Hotty Toddy!

About The Author

Chris Muller

Chris is our Director of Baseball Content and Senior Baseball Writer. Muller is a 1995 Graduate of Ole Miss. He is a collegiate recreational sports professional currently residing in Arlington Texas with his wife of 24 years, Amber, and German Shorthaired Pointer, Sophie. Chris is an avid Ole Miss Baseball and Football fan. His hobbies include watching college football and baseball and playing poker with his friends.

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