Ole Miss’ Tim Elko Fully Recovered and Ready to Run It Back in 2022
OXFORD, Miss. — In 2021, Ole Miss baseball’s Tim Elko went on the ride of a lifetime, and he took Rebel fans with him. By the second week of the season, the team captain seemed super-human with his batting prowess — storming through the month of March.
But then the first week of April came, and Elko suffered a torn ACL during a non-conference game and many thought that would end his season.
The Captain Heats Up
Elko started off a little slowly in Texas at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown, but he quickly hit his stride. Against Memphis, on March 2nd, on a cold Tuesday afternoon in Oxford, he reached base four times in six plate appearances. The Captain notched two hits — including his first home run of the season — and two walks.
The very next day on March 3 against Jackson State, Elko tallied another home run and two walks. Two days later against Belmont, Elko’s success continued as he finished with three hits, including a double and home run, to go along with five RBI.
The senior from Lutz, Florida would go on to earn National Hitter of the Month honors for March from the National College Baseball Writers Association after he hit .424 in 17 games to go along with nine home runs and 33 RBI.
Elko rolled into April at the same torrid pace, racking up five hits in three games at Florida. The Rebels then returned home to face North Alabama after having been on the road for two-straight SEC series.
Everything Changes in an Instant
That Monday, April 5, against the Lions is when everything changed for Tim Elko.
After hitting a ground ball to second base, Elko was then tripped up running through first base by the North Alabama first baseman who was going for an errant throw from his second baseman.
Elko landed awkwardly on his right leg which resulted in a torn ACL.
To say the heart was ripped out of Rebel Nation would not be an overstatement. Beyond his obvious success at the plate and on the field, Elko meant more to the team than just his stat line. He was the team’s only captain, the leader, the pulse, if you will, of the team.
Unlike most athletes who suffer that kind of injury, Elko elected not to undergo surgery in hopes of finding a way to rehab and return to help his team. He wouldn’t be able to help in the field, but he would try his hardest to do so with his bat.
Amazingly, Elko made his return to the batter’s box in under a month. On May 1st vs South Carolina he made he first appearance, as a pinch-hitter, in game two of the series.
Just a week later in College Station against Texas A&M, the legend of Tim Elko would grow even bigger.
The Aggies held an early lead, but the Rebels strung together some hits and crooked numbers — including the defining seventh inning that was highlighted by a glorious return from injury for Elko. In just his third plate appearance back from the torn ACL, he hit a three-run homer deep into right field which ultimately sealed the game — and his place in Rebel lore, if there was ever any doubt.
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) May 8, 2021
Later that month on May 20th at Georgia, Elko made his first start since his injury as the DH. From then on, he would serve as the Rebs’ starting DH.
Elko in Hoover
In the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Elko continued to, well, be Elko. He played in all five of the Rebels’ games and tallied 14 at bats, tying him for most at-bats with the others at his position.
He notched five hits, more than any other DH in the tourney, and finished with a .357 batting average, a .786 slugging percentage, and the highest on-base percentage of any DH in the tourney at .550.
He hit two home runs, more than any other designated hitter in Hoover. Only three other DHs hit a homer in the SEC tourney (Garrett Farquhar of Auburn, Wes Clarke of South Carolina, and Pete Derkay of Tennesse), and they each notched one.
Elko’s two home runs came in the Rebels’ 5-4 walk-off loss to Vandy (a loss Ole Miss would later avenge in the tournament), and he accounted for all the Red and Blue’s RBI in the game.
I DON'T BELIEVE WHAT WE ARE SEEING.
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) May 27, 2021
He went on to earn SEC All-Tournament honors for his play in the league’s tourney in Hoover.
Congratulations to the Captain! #RebsBSB Tim Elko has earned SEC All-Tournament honors for his play in Hoover!
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) May 30, 2021
Elko Earns MVP of Oxford Regional
In his 21 games post-injury, Elko hit 7 home runs. Three of those long balls came in the Oxford Regional, two of which were grand slams.
After defeating Southeast Missouri and Florida State, the Rebels faced in-state rival Southern Miss. Ole Miss let an early lead fade in Saturday’s game against the Golden Eagles as the Red and Blue fell, 10-7, to the Golden Eagles which forced the decisive Regional Championship game the following day.
But on Sunday, the Red and Blue bounced back to defeat Southern Miss, 12-9, and advance to Super Regionals against Arizona in Phoenix. Elko hit his second grand slam of the Oxford Regional in the second inning.
Moon shot by Tim Elko
Ole Miss 9
Southern Miss 0
— Brad Logan (@BradLoganCOTE) June 7, 2021
Later in the fourth, he hit a solo shot that would give Ole Miss a 10-2 lead. Elko would finish the game going 3-for-3 with three runs scored, five RBI and two home runs, including his third grand slam of the season.
“The legend continues for Tim Elko,” Coach Bianco would say after the game.
One last ride
Ole Miss would ultimately fall one game short of Omaha, and Elko’s last at-bat in the Super Regional against the Wildcats felt like it could be his swan song.
But after the season, Elko underwent surgery to reconstruct his torn ACL and later in July announced his plans to return for one last time.
— Tim Elko (@TimElko) July 13, 2021
He did not participate in fall scrimmages due to recovery, but the Captain is now back to being a full participant since returning from Christmas break. At Media Day, Elko explained what he learned from being out with injury.
“Just to be grateful, be thankful for all the things I’m blessed with…our health, all the opportunities we are given. Just kind of opens your eyes and makes you for thankful for all the things you do have.“
Coach Bianco is pleased with what he sees from his team leader. “He has been back and been released to go full speed, 100% out there,” the Rebels’ skipper said.
“I was even a little shocked a few weeks ago,” Bianco explained. “I pulled Tim to the side and watched him during an early work portion of our practice where it is just defense and watched him move around first base. Easy to look at him and not realize the injury he had and surgery and work and effort put in, as well as Josh Porter, our trainer, to put him back on the field.”
“It feels awesome,” said Elko of his return. “I’m back to a hundred percent. I was out scrimmaging last week and it felt great. It feels good hitting, it feels good running, it feels good fielding, so a hundred percent.”
Coach Bianco expounded on just how well the Captain is doing.
“Man, he looks amazing out there. Of course, during the first weekend (of scrimmages) as Tim can do, he went four for nine with two home runs. So pretty good start for him.”
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco on Tim Elko
— Ole Miss BSB Analytics (@OMBSBAnalytics) February 6, 2022
Elko talked with media last Friday, explaining about what it is like to finally be back on the field.
“It feels good. It’s been a long road,” he began.
“It feels good to be back. I was just super excited to be back out there with the guys. It was kind of tough here and there in the fall when I wasn’t able to play and be out there every day with them on the field. It’s great to be back and be able to bounce around and be myself again.”
Last year, “being himself” meant Elko hit .325 for the Rebels with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs.
Buckle up, Rebs! Tim Elko is ready for one last ride that both he and Rebel fans are hoping ends in Omaha.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Nick Filipich was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. He is an Ole Miss alum with a degree 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.