Ole Miss Baseball returns a number of key pieces from last season’s national championship team
OXFORD, Miss. — The 2023 college baseball season is fast approaching, as the National Champion Ole Miss Rebels begin the defense of their title on February 17th as Delaware comes to Oxford.
Mike Bianco, entering his 23rd season in Oxford as the Rebels’ head coach, lost some key pieces in Justin Bench, Dylan DeLucia, Hayden Dunhurst, Tim Elko, Kevin Graham, and Brandon Johnson; however, he returns many key pieces from last season’s national championship team.
We had a chance to speak with some of those key players at the Rebels’ recent Media Day.
After taking the SEC by storm as a freshman, pitcher Hunter Elliott returns for his sophomore season and will take responsibility as the Rebs’ Friday night starter.
Elliott held opponents to a .201 batting average last season with a 2.70 ERA in 80 innings. He struck out 103 and walked 34 batters in 2022.
Though he has now experienced pitching in a national championship, Elliott will experience something new this season — serving as a Friday night starter in the SEC.
He was asked how being the Friday starter would change his mindset.
“It doesn’t change my mindset,” he said. “I always pitch the same, out of the bullpen, starting, midweek, or Omaha it doesn’t matter to me.”
Another key player returning to the Ole Miss lineup is Jacob Gonzalez. The shortstop followed up his Freshman of the Year campaign in 2021 by earning First Team All-SEC honors in 2022.
In 65 games last season, Gonzalez led the team in runs (67) and walks (50). He finished second on the team, behind Tim Elko, in home runs (18), RBI (52), and total bases (135).
Gonzalez is touted as one of the top college prospects in the 2023 MLB Draft, ranking as the No. 5 overall prospect by MLB.com He enters his third season in Oxford with a lot of eyes on him as the expectations are high.
Not only are the expectations high for him, but also for his team.
“It was cool to win a national championship but then the new guys came in and it’s a new team but we have the same goal in mind.”
Kemp Alderman, who assumed the role as designated hitter the majority of last season, enters his junior season where most expect him to assume a larger role defensively, both in the outfield and as catcher.
He finished last season with a .286 batting average, 15 doubles, 11 home runs and 45 RBI in 58 games. Alderman is expected to hit in the middle of the lineup just as he did last year.
The only change is there will be no Tim Elko or Kevin Graham batting ahead of him, putting him in a premium spot to drive in runs this season.
“It’s the same as last year. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if I’m hitting fourth or fifth. Guys were on base last year when I was hitting fifth. I think it’ll be the same thing, just more this year, when guys are in scoring position doing my best to drive a ball in the gap and score runs for the team.”
Entering his fourth season, second baseman Peyton Chatagnier says he is focused on being more consistent.
“I would like to improve on my overall performance in the beginning and middle of the year. I did better toward the end of the year (last year). I would like to be more of a consistent player.”
Chatagnier showed what he is capable of in the Coral Gables regional en route to Omaha as he went 7 for 13 with three doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI in just three games on his way to earning a spot on the All-Regional Team.
Stay tuned to The Rebel Walk as we gear up for baseball season!
(Feature image graphic: Nick Filipich, Rebel Walk)
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.