Select Page

Dynamic Duo: How Dylan DeLucia and Hunter Elliott Stabilized a Rotation and Helped Save Ole Miss’ Season

Dynamic Duo: How Dylan DeLucia and Hunter Elliott Stabilized a Rotation and Helped Save Ole Miss’ Season

OMAHA — When the 2022 baseball season started in Oxford, Mississippi, there was a lot of optimism around the Rebels’ baseball program.

After all, Tim Elko was back. Kevin Graham was back. Justin Bench was back. Jacob Gonzalez and Peyton Chatagnier anchored the middle of the infield and Hayden Dunhurst was the field general behind the plate.

These were the soldiers that had gotten Ole Miss to within one win of Omaha in 2021. So what would stop them from doing it again?

If you’re reading this, you know the obvious answer: none of those guys are pitchers. The offense was never the question mark. The Rebels lost Doug Nikhazy and Gunnar Hoglund to the Major League Baseball draft. Nikhazy was a generational pitcher. A guy that you can’t just “replace.” Hoglund was his right hand man until an injury prematurely ended his season.

The question for 2022 was, “Who’s going to replace those guys?”

It would prove to be a difficult question to answer.

MERRY-GO-ROUND ROTATION

Through March 29th, the only mainstay in the Ole Miss rotation had been Derek Diamond. He had started a game in every single weekend series up to that point, though his start day had varied. Other than Diamond, the Rebels had used some combination of John Gaddis, Drew McDaniel and Jack Dougherty in no particular order.

In that stretch, McDaniel’s longest outing was only five innings, Gaddis’ longest outing was seven, and Dougherty’s longest was five. Diamond had three outings of five innings in 15 games pitched, and had allowed three or more runs in all but five of those games.

The Rebels had dropped one game to Oral Roberts, one to Central Florida, lost one to Auburn and gotten swept by Tennessee at home during that stretch of weekend games.

The rotation seemed to have no visible direction, seemingly reaching a breaking point when the Saturday and Sunday starters for the Kentucky series were announced as “TBA.”

EARLY SIGNALS

On Friday, April 1st, Ole Miss was on the road at Kentucky. The starting pitcher for that game was announced as Dylan DeLucia, who had seen limited bullpen action up to that point. His ERA at the time was 6.38, due mostly to the five runs he had given up to Tennessee in relief.

But DeLucia’s outing in Lexington was masterful. He threw 6.1 innings, allowing just three hits and one unearned run, walking one and striking out five.

The Rebels would win that matchup, 2-1, bouncing back after a rough weekend against Tennessee. DeLucia, who had famously stated that the Rebels “took Tennessee lightly” and had guaranteed a game two win over the Vols (that didn’t happen), had a very short answer when asked about his outing against Kentucky: “Um, I’m not allowed to do interviews,” he said.

Hunter Elliott would also get his first start of the season in game two against Kentucky. The young freshman went 4.1 innings, allowing just four hits and two unearned runs, walking two and striking out four.

Unfortunately, the bullpen wasn’t able to hold it down that day and the Rebels would fall to the Wildcats, 9-2. But Elliott had shown his capabilities under pressure.

NOT QUITE SET

Although Hunter Elliott would get another start against Alabama, DeLucia would not. Dylan would make two relief outings out of the bullpen in the series with the Crimson Tide, going one inning and 2/3 of an inning, respectively, allowing five hits and five runs over the two outings.

That would be the final time DeLucia would not get a weekend start for the remainder of the season.

NEARLY THERE

Beginning with Mississippi State, DeLucia and Elliott were the official one-two punch in the Ole Miss rotation. And Dylan started it off with a bang. In the opener against the Bulldogs, DeLucia threw a complete game, allowing just five hits, two earned runs, and striking out eight while walking zero.

Hunter Elliott would again start the Rebels off strong in his start, going four innings, allowing just four hits and one run, striking out six and walking two. But once more, the young phenom would see his performance go for naught as the bullpen could not keep the Bulldogs off the board in a 10-7 loss.

It would be the same story in Fayetteville, Arkansas. DeLucia would earn a 4-2 win, Elliott would get his longest start yet at six innings and leave with the game tied at three. But a three-run walkoff homer by the Hogs off of the Ole Miss bullpen would spoil that outing as well.

IT ALL COMES TOGETHER

The Rebels entered their home series with Missouri having won just one home game in SEC play and reeling from tough series losses against Mississippi State and Arkansas in close games.

They were 7-14 in the SEC, and any chance at the postseason seemed to have gone to the wayside.

And that’s when the season was saved.

Both DeLucia and Elliott brought some of their best stuff on the mound against Mizzou, giving the Rebels their first series win since Kentucky, and first home series win in SEC play.

Elliott, in particular, had a coming out party, going seven innings, giving up just four hits and one earned run, while walking one and striking out nine in the Rebels’ 8-1 win.

And the two studs weren’t content with just a sweep of the Tigers from Columbia.

Another set of Tigers were lying in wait on the bayou, trying to bring the Rebels’ dynamic duo back to down to earth. But it was not to be.

Dylan started game one on Friday night before the game was postponed due to storms. He picked up right where he left off on Saturday, going seven innings, allowing three hits, three runs, two walks and nine strikeouts as the Rebs got the 5-3 win.

Not to be outdone, Hunter Elliott put up yet another phenomenal outing.

Hunter’s final line in Baton Rouge was 6.2 innings pitched, four hits, one run, three walks and nine strikeouts as the Rebs got the 11-1 win, securing their first series win at LSU since 2019.

The Rebels would eventually earn their first ever sweep at Alex Box Stadium to finish off the weekend.

STILL GOING STRONG

As the Rebels head to Omaha for the College World Series, the turnaround has been nothing short of phenomenal — and it is largely due to the performance of DeLucia and Elliott.

The Rebels went from a conference record of 7-14 in the SEC to currently undefeated in the NCAA Tournament after being the last team to make the field.

They got sent to Coral Gables, arguably one of the toughest regionals in the country, and DeLucia and Elliott delivered under pressure yet again.

Then they had to go to Hattiesburg, where all of the talk was about the Southern Miss pitching staff. But it was DeLucia and Elliott who delivered the performances to remember in the Super Regional.

Coupled with a reinvigorated bullpen that has yet to allow a run in the postseason, the Rebels enter the CWS with the best strikeout-to-walk ratio and best team ERA in Omaha.

It’s been amazing to see all the pitchers do really well. Shutouts are cool… Pitching wins games, hitting wins games and all of it coming together is finally making us win a lot better.

Reliever Josh Mallitz on the Rebels pitching staff

DeLucia and Elliott will now lead the Rebels onto the biggest stage in their sport. They already saved the season. Now they’ve got a chance to help make history by bringing the first national championship in baseball to Oxford. And make no mistake: they won’t be afraid of the moment.

Game Info

The Rebels will face Auburn at 6:00 p.m. CT on Saturday, June 18th in Omaha. The game will air on ESPN2.

(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)

Austin Eldridge
Austin Eldridge

Austin has more than ten years in sports media, including sports talk radio, play-by-play broadcasting and journalism. He has followed Ole Miss athletics for his entire life and has covered the Rebels and the rest of the SEC while working in the Memphis media market. Outside of sports media, Austin is a musician and outdoorsman. Before a serious accident forced him to be medically discharged, he was a multi-media journalist with the Mississippi National Guard.

About The Author

Austin Eldridge

Austin has more than ten years in sports media, including sports talk radio, play-by-play broadcasting and journalism. He has followed Ole Miss athletics for his entire life and has covered the Rebels and the rest of the SEC while working in the Memphis media market. Outside of sports media, Austin is a musician and outdoorsman. Before a serious accident forced him to be medically discharged, he was a multi-media journalist with the Mississippi National Guard.

Leave a Reply

Recruiting Updates

Visit The Rebel Walk Forum

GRIDIRON GALLERY

Get RW Updates

Rebel Walk on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: