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OXFORD, Miss. — Today is the opening day of practice for Ole Miss spring baseball, and the Diamond Rebels kick things off with an intrasquad scrimmage this afternoon.
The Diamond Rebels garnered national attention last year, finishing 45-22 with a game-three Super Regional loss to Arizona stopping head coach Mike Bianco’s bunch one game short of Omaha.
Ole Miss returns most of the bat production from 2021, leading to high expectations for more fireworks in 2022.
It will be the weekend rotation, however, that must be determined. With the departure of MLB draft picks Gunnar Hoglund and Doug Nikhazy, Derek Diamond is widely expected to fill a starting role, most probably that of the Friday-night starter.
The Rebels hit for an average of .288 as a unit last season. Returning 8 out of 10 regulars from last year’s lineup, the bar is set high for this team.
The list of impact players who are returning is long and includes: pre-season second team All-American Jacob Gonzalez (SS), Hayden Dunhurst (C), TJ McCants (OF), Justin Bench (3B), Peyton Chatagnier (2B), Hayden Leatherwood (OF), Kevin Graham (OF) and pre-season third team All-American ‘The Captain,’ Tim Elko (1B/DH).
Ole Miss also returns three players with experience in Kemp Alderman, Ben Van Cleve, and Calvin Harris, so this year’s team is full of talent at the plate.
The departures of first baseman Cael Baker and outfielder John Rhys Plumlee means Coach Bianco will have some spots to fill — but the vast majority of the lineup will be returning. Last season, Plumlee and Leatherwood each saw time in right field, so expect to see Leatherwood out there again with potentially Alderman getting some reps as well.
The question mark of 2022 Ole Miss Baseball is the weekend pitching rotation.
With his 97 mph fastball, returning starter Diamond, who is predicted by many to assume the role of Friday-night starter, could be set for a breakout year.
As for the two remaining weekend slots, the Rebs have plenty of talented options. Drew McDaniel and Jack Dougherty played a big role in SEC games in 2021, stepping in for Diamond last year as needed.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi transfer and Southland Conference All-Touranment team member John Gaddis and Oregon State transfer Jack Washburn got the most attention in starting roles in the fall, so expect a battle for a spot there.
Brandon Johnson and Jackson Kimbrell should major relief roles as well. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, expect Max Cioffi to contribute as well.
Ole Miss baseball media day is set for February 4, and we will have full coverage of what Coach Bianco and the players have to say.
The Diamond Rebs are set to start their season on Feb. 18 at Swayze in a weekend series against Charleston Southern University.
It is safe to say the Rebel faithful will show up in droves, and I am hearing the forecast is for frequent showers — but only in right field.
Kam is a freshman at Ole Miss, currently pursuing an Integrated Marketing and Communications degree with Business and Journalism minors. Even though he’s from Delhi, Louisiana, that didn’t stop Kam from growing up a diehard Ole Miss fan. He’s a sports guru who watches and follows all sports at all times. He lettered four years in football and baseball in high school and is an avid Saints, Pelicans, and Astros fan. In his free time, he likes to binge watch Netflix, hit the gym, travel, and drive himself crazy over his fantasy football.