Season on the Line: Rebels Sweep and Elko Returns

Ole Miss came into the weekend on their heels. They were on the losing end of 4 straight weekend series and knocked out of the Regional host conversation. A strong showing against a talented South Carolina team could go a long way boosting up the resume. As plenty of fans packed the stands on graduation weekend expecting Ole Miss to get back on track, they did exactly that.

Game 1 took place on Friday and featured Gunnar Hoglund back in his most comfortable role. His 6 innings pitched yielded no runs for the Gamecocks on 1 hit and 9 Ks. Derek Diamond then took over in the 7th, where he allowed just 1 run, and pitched through the 8th as well. Diamond looked much more comfortable in this bullpen appearance than he has in the past. It was a great relief for Bianco and the Rebel faithful to only need to use Broadway in the 9th inning of this game. Even though Broadway struck out all 3 batters he faced, he was not credited with the save. This also comes as a bit of a relief for Rebel fans because it means the offense is heating back up.

The Rebel pitching made the Gamecocks look silly. They allowed just 3 baserunners in total (2 hits and 1 walk) and struck out 17 of the 30 batters they faced. SEC slugger and homerun machine, Wes Clarke, earned himself a Golden Sombrero after being rung up in all 4 of his plate appearances.

The offense was improved, but still not as good as they need to be to make a deep run. The Rebels did not leave the bases loaded at all in this game, but in 6 of the 8 innings they came to the plate, they left a man in scoring position. 9 total runners were left on base for Ole Miss while 5 of them came around to score.

Justin Bench came away with a 2 out single in the 4th inning that plated 2 runs. Rebel fans are anxious to see more 2 out RBI to complement their frequent solo home runs. Ole Miss managed no long bombs in this one, so the couple of timely hits with runners on was all the difference in the game.

Games 2 and 3 were played as a doubleheader on Saturday. Ole Miss desperately wanted to ride a good Doug Day to a series win and keep the dream alive for a sweep.

In the first leg of the doubleheader, Doug did exactly what was asked of him. Doug lasted 7 strong innings and gave up 3 runs in total. He left the game in line for the win after the offense gave him plenty of support. Myers came in and pitched a scoreless 8th before Broadway tossed another 1-2-3 non-save final frame.

Chatagnier used a 2nd inning bases loaded situation to strikeout (the quest for the SEC record number of times “leaving them loaded” in a single season marches on). Outside of that strikeout, Ole Miss was proficient with runners on. Ole Miss left just 2 other runners stranded in the game while amassing 7 runs.

Jacob Gonzalez had a nice 2 out knock to plate a run early in the game, then later a 2 out 2-run homerun in the 6th. Justin Bench started the scoring off for the Rebs with his solo shot in the 2nd inning and Hayden Dunhurst got in on the longball action as well with a 2-run blast in the 5th. A sac fly from Harris plated the last unaccounted-for run.

After the series win was locked down, it was Drew McDaniel’s turn with a chance at a sweep. He pitched 4.1 innings of good baseball but was pulled after allowing 4 runs. Freshman Jack Dougherty came in and tried to carry over last week’s success in a tie game. Dougherty didn’t just carry over his past success, he exceeded it. After retiring all 11 batters he faced, he turned the ball over to Broadway for another solid 9th inning. This time Broadway would get credit for the save.

The Rebel offense stayed hot from top to bottom. In this game, it was Hayden Leatherwood who fell on the sword and K’ed to leave the bases loaded. The good news is, the Rebels had already plated 2 runs in the 5th and taken the lead before he fulfilled the prophecy. Despite the 6 runs and a win, the Rebels did strikeout an awful lot. The 14 Ks in total for Ole Miss included a couple of hattricks from Cael Baker and JRP.

Ole Miss scored 3 of their runs via the 2 out single (Leatherwood, Gonzalez, McCants) and 2 runs on a heavy swing from Kevin Graham. Dunhurst also added 1 RBI of his own on a (less dramatic) 1 out single. Effectively using 2 out singles, as well as the barrage of homeruns, gives the offense a dynamic way of scoring that they have been lacking the past few weeks. Ole Miss thrived in February and March when they had the league leader in RBI in the lineup. Tim Elko could hit singles, doubles, and even homeruns with runners on base and his absence has had a major impact on the run production.

Tim Elko might not be out of the starting lineup for much longer though.

In the bottom of the 8th, with 1 out, the Ole Miss captain made his glorious return. A standing ovation and roar from the crowd greeted the fan favorite as he stepped in the box to pinch hit for Leatherwood. Elko popped out to the 2nd Basemen in his first at-bat back, but the Rebel fans are clearly excited to see him in the batter’s box again. His timely return to the lineup revitalizes the Rebels’ hope to be a regional host.

With 1 week left before the host sites are announced, Ole Miss might have just taken an edge over a “host team hopeful” in South Carolina. Arkansas State comes to town to try to throw the Rebels off this 4-game winning streak on Tuesday. After that, the Rebels will travel to College Station for a 3-game set with the Texas A&M Aggies. The polls might have Ole Miss back in the top 16 and projections might have them slated for a host site this week, but a good showing against aTm will solidify their spot. Hopefully, Elko can get more at-bats next week and the Rebels can stay hot. Only 12 games remain in the regular season and then it gets even harder.

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