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Mallitz, Nichols add slider to repertoire en route to becoming key part of Rebels’ success

Mallitz, Nichols add slider to repertoire en route to becoming key part of Rebels’ success

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Coming into this season, the Ole Miss pitching staff was a bit of a question mark as the Rebels had lost starters Doug Nikhazy and Gunnar Hoglund, along with closer Taylor Broadway. Only Derek Diamond returned from the starting rotation of a year ago.

The Rebels had some big shoes to fill, but Dylan DeLucia and Hunter Elliott were happy to put them on. The duo has emerged as a very solid, one-two punch in the rotation.

But what often overlooked is just how steady the Rebels’ bullpen has become.

Middle relievers shine

In the entirety of the Coral Gables Regional last weekend, the bullpen gave up ZERO earned runs. You simply can’t get better than that. We all know how terrific closer Brandon Johnson is, but the guys in the middle who help bridge from the starter to the closer are sometimes forgotten.

Middle relievers Josh Mallitz and Mason Nichols have been outstanding this season. Of pitchers who have not made a start this season, Nichols and Mallitz are second and third, respectively, in innings pitched, behind Brandon Johnson.

  • Nichols has thrown 28 innings in 18 appearances, while allowing just 10 earned runs, striking out 34 batters and walking 10.
  • Mallitz has thrown 26 innings in 14, allowing just four earned runs while striking out 40 batters and walking nine.
  • Mallitz and Nichols have a combined strikeouts-per-nine-innings of 12.3, compared to a walks-per-nine-innings of just 3.2.

Success with the slider

One might wonder what the key has been to their success. Plain and simple, they added the slider to their pitches.

Before the season, neither Mallitz nor Nichols really had the pitch in his arsenal. It’s a more advanced pitch that not many pitchers in high school master. But when they do, it’s hard to decipher it from a fastball, due to the late break, and is harder for a hitter to recognize than a curveball. Almost all the elite pitchers in baseball have a dominant slider.

The most interesting thing is that neither Nichols nor Mallitz threw a slider before this season.

When Nichols, a Jackson Prep alum, arrived at Ole Miss, he was told to add the slider. It has become a huge part of his success.

My slider has been really good. It was a pitch I had to develop going into the year. It was new to me. It was just good, being able to locate it well. Coach Bianco said I need to learn it going into winter break… I thought it was cool because the coaches here are honest and tell you what they think.

Mason Nichols on his slider

As for Mallitz, the reason he added a slider is he felt he was not having enough success. “[I wanted to] do something different,” he said earlier this week.

I worked on it over the offseason, throwing it 70-plus percent every time, getting a lot of swing and miss. It’s a key factor and it’s big in making my fastball more effective, getting a little velo too. It’s gotten harder to hit. It improves by game.”

Josh Mallitz on his slider

What Mallitz and Nichols did by adding the slider to their repertoire is not only add to their individual success but to become a critical part of the team’s success.

Hayden Dunhurst, who catches all the Rebel pitchers, agrees that the slider has brought an added element to the game.

“It’s just deceitful. It’s an in-between pitch that hitters are out in front or just right behind it,” Dunhurst explained. “Our guys have done well with it. Look forward to using it this weekend,” Dunhurst said.

Ole Miss will need all the pitching they can get this weekend in Hattiesburg as they face Southern Miss in the Super Regionals and look to punch their ticket to Omaha.

Super Schedule

Saturday’s first pitch against Southern Miss from the Hattiesburg Super Regional is set for Saturday, June 11 at 3 p.m. CT. The game can be seen on ESPNU.

(Feature image photos: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss; Feature image graphic: Nick Filipich, The Rebel Walk)

Evelyn Van Pelt
Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn’s love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.

About The Author

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn's love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.

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