Ole Miss put together a fantastic bounce back week after dropping a weekend series to UCF. The Rebels went 5-0 against, admittedly, weaker competition. Despite the caliber of play of their opponents, winning 5 games in 1 week is always a good sign.
The rebound week began with a midweek matchup against pesky younger brother, Memphis. With the team reeling after losing 2 of 3 to Central Florida, this game seemed like a trap opportunity. The Rebels stayed calm despite their first taste of defeat in over a year and clobbered the Tigers, 16-4. Drew McDaniel got the start and the win going 4 inning and earning just 1 of his 4 runs against. Jackson Kimbrel and Greer Holsten took over from there and did not allow a single baserunner in their 5 combined innings. Scoring came easy for the Rebels with men constantly being given free passes. Memphis walked 14 batters while only striking out 7. Tim Elko hit a 2 run homerun in the bottom of the 8th which would prove to be a trend this week.
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Jackson State came to town to be the next victim of the Mighty Rebs and were sautéed 12-1 in the Wednesday game. They too dug themselves into a hole with free passes. 10 walks and 2 hit batters kept the Ole Miss lineup moving and a bottom of the 6th solo homerun from Tim Elko added to the misery. This game was mercifully ended after the visitors’ half of the 7th inning, which worked to the benefit of the Ole Miss bullpen who threw the entire game. Tyler Myers took the win after getting the start and retiring all 6 batters he faced. He was followed by 1 inning of work from Baker, Mallitz, Burton, Johnson, and Forsyth. Brandon Johnson allowed the only run of the game as he surrendered 3 hits. The pitching showed excellent command of the zone striking out 13 (of the 21 outs they recorded) and allowing no walks or hit batters.
The weekend featured a 3 game set with the Belmont Bruins. Game 1 was a 3rd straight blowout win for the Rebels, 12-4. Doug Nikhazy proved again that Doug Day = Dub Day in a 5 inning, 10 strikeout bounce back outing. He is now 13-5 in his Ole Miss career. Tim Elko obviously went yard, this time a 3 run blast in the home half of the 3rd. He went 3-5 with 5 RBI and showed Rebel fans that they can rely on more than just Peyton Chatagnier (who is still out with that hamstring injury) to drive in runs. For the 3rd game in a row, the Rebels showed excellent plate discipline by walking 10 times and making it much easier to score runs. Cody Adcock took care of a scoreless 6th and 7th in relief of Nikhazy and Mitch Murrell turned over a scoreless frame in the 8th. A homerun, catcher’s interference, and a wild pitch gave the Bruins a crooked number off of Cole Baker, but Josh Mallitz came in and closed out the win.
Game 2 of the weekend series proved to be much more competitive. Ole Miss won 4-3, but Gunnar Hoglund was not his oppressively dominant self. He rung up 7 batters but earned 3 early runs and was pulled with 1 out in the 6th. Jackson Kimbrell and Taylor Broadway each issued a pair of walks but they allowed no runs or hits and Broadway secured his first 2021 W. Justin Bench went 3-4 and plated a run on a Jacob Gonzalez single in the 3rd, then with the bases loaded in the same inning, the Rebels benefitted greatly from a throwing error as Kevin Graham notched 2 RBI and tied the game. Somebody finally figured out Tim Elko and he went a whole game without a homerun, but in the bottom of the 8th Kevin Graham picked up his slack with a lead off bomb that proved to be the difference in this one.
Game 3 came and a chance to pick up a much needed sweep and remain among the elites in college baseball was in front of the Rebels. Derek Diamond became the 2nd Ole Miss starting pitcher to turn over less than stellar work. He went just 4 innings allowing 3 run, all earned, and striking out just 2 Bruins. The bullpen came in and tried to lock it down using 5 different arms. Austin Miller was solid in 2 innings of relief for the Ole Miss pen as the Rebels crawled closer to a perfect week. Wes Burton was put on the hill to start the 7th inning but it was quickly apparent that he did not bring his control.
After walking the only 2 batters he faced, Bianco made a change and brought in Tyler Myers to keep the Rebels in the lead. While Myers did allow the tying run to score (charged back to Burton), he got out of the inning and pitched a scoreless 8th after being gifted some run support in the bottom of the 7th. With 2 on and 2 out in a tie game, the Ole Miss Captain, Tim Elko, dug in. He had already homered in this game, but he had to make up for not muscling one out on Saturday. On a 1-1 count Elko saw a pitch he liked and ripped it towards the students in Right.
If you thought a 7-4 lead in the 9th against Belmont would be enough, you haven’t been following Ole Miss Athletics for very long. Forsyth came in and hit the first batter he faced then was pulled when he allowed the next batter to single. Both of those runners would come around to score in the inning as well as a 3rd runner, but some risky base running got Taylor Broadway out of the inning. In the bottom half of the 9th, the Bruins got TJ McCants to pop out but had no answer for the top of the lineup. A Rebel single and a walk set up Hayden Dunhurst to deliver the final blow of the week through the right side of the infield. A walk-off single capped an exciting game and a fantastic week.
Taylor Broadway picked up 2 wins in the week and the bullpen was leaned on heavily to collect 5 much needed victories. The 20 game win streak that the country was buzzing about a week and half ago was once just at 5 games. The odds are certainly against anybody rattling off 20 in a row, but it has happened before. It has happened to this very team.
Aside from seeing a litany of arms pitch effectively over the last 5 games and Mike Bianco picking up win number 500 at Swayze Field, the Rebels are most excited about their captain. Tim Elko hit 5 homeruns in as many games and batted .588 over the stretch. His 13 RBI and 1.529 slugging over the last 5 games is impressive, but the fact that he struck out just once this week is what separated him from the rest. Elko is the captain for a reason. He took a few weeks to heat up, but now that he is hot, he is ready to take this team to TD Ameritrade Park in June.
The DiamondRebs are back in action Tuesday night hosting Alcorn. Next weekend they will have a full weekend to battle UL-Monroe, the final opponent before the pandemic shut down the dream season a year ago.