Derek Diamond ready to assume the Rebels’ Friday-night starter role
OXFORD, Miss. — Friday afternoon at Ole Miss baseball media day, head coach Mike Bianco announced one-third of his starting rotation for the opening weekend of the season. To no one’s surprise, the game-one starter will be junior Derek Diamond.
Last season Diamond was understandably in the shadow of Doug Nikhazy and Gunnar Hoglund, two pitchers who have both moved on to pro ball after notching tremendous careers in Oxford on the mound.
This season, Diamond will be the pitcher the Rebels look to start a series and help get a leg up against their opponent.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander hailing for Ramona, California is entering his third season under Coach Bianco. Diamond, an outstanding athlete, has won the Rebels’ Omaha Challenge for three-years straight. The challenge is a five-day-long endurance and physical-testing contest where the player with the best combined score is named the winner.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) November 22, 2021
The Diamond File
Apart from his physical prowess, Diamond is obviously a talented pitcher.
Coming out of high school, he was drafted in the 40th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He appeared in the 2018 Under Armour All-American Classic and was named to Perfect Game’s Top 100 (#37).
In the 2020 season, Diamond finished 2-0 with an ERA of 3.48, recording 15 strikeouts and just four walks in his four starts in a season cut short due Covid-19. That season the Rebels won every game Diamond started, most notably the series-clinching victory over the No. 1- ranked Louisville Cardinals.
Last season, Diamond finished with a record of 3-5 and an ERA of 5.26 with 82 strikeouts and 32 walks. He made 20 appearances, with 14 of those being starts.
His most notable game came in the opening-weekend tournament at the State Farm College Classic in Arlington vs. Texas. In that contest, Diamond pitched six innings, gave up just one run and four hits, and notched eight strikeouts in the Ole Miss win. In that game Diamond’s fastball reached 97 miles per hour.
This season, Diamond will be tasked with being the table setter for the Rebels, and on Friday he talked about his growth in the off-season.
“There’s been a ton of growth from a bunch of guys on our staff.” Diamond began.
“Personally, for me there’s the physical things like wanting to improve the spin on my fastball, wanting my slider to be more of a put-away pitch, be more consistent with the change-up and improve the curveball. Above all that, I learned something really cool from Doug Nikhazy and that’s playing baseball. That’s what we are doing out there.”
Coach Bianco talked about Diamond’s willingness to work and the areas in which he’s seen him concentrating.
“One of the things I’ll credit Derek with is he always wants to improve. He’s always looking to get better. Unlike some guys at that age, 19-22 years old, it’s not just about velocity. I think he realizes that he’s got the ability to run the ball up there in the upper 90s, but he wants to pitch.“
Coach Bianco on Derek Diamond
“To pitch and to be effective, he (Diamond) realizes that he’s got to locate his fastball, that can be super, overpowering at times, but to locate it better,” Bianco continued. “To be able to mix two breaking balls in there, changeup, working on defending the steal, his pickoff move…I think he’s really matured, the coach added.
Hayden Dunhurst on what he sees from Derek Diamond: "Just maturity. You can tell he's the veteran. He's ready for it, mentally ready…and I'm excited to see it."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) February 4, 2022
Following his coach’s discussion of Diamond’s work on his fastball, the pitcher later got into the specifics of what he has worked on since last season.
In the fall, I really had two goals — to throw my fastball more and make it more effective,” Diamond said. “I saw a lot of growth with it because I worked on the spin, generated some more lift on it, and I was able to move it around,” he commented.
“You know my whole life, I’d thrown to the knees, and when you’re in high school, you hear ‘live low, live long,’ and it works against high school hitters but you face really good SEC hitters and you see that some of those big guys really love to drop the head on that low pitch so you’ve just got to move it around and I saw a lot of improvement just working on a few things.“
Derek Diamond on his fastball
On Friday, February 18th at Swayze Field, the Rebels will host Charleston Southern and fans will have a chance to see the results of all Diamond’s work.
Nick Filipich was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. He is an Ole Miss senior majoring in Sports and Recreation Administration. A sports junkie with a great passion for all things Ole Miss, Nick played baseball and football in high school — which is where he discovered his love for sports. He is an avid Braves and Saints fan, and in his free time enjoys spending time with family, friends and his black lab, Dixie.