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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


What Arizona baseball fans should be watching for against Ole Miss this weekend

Megan Ewing
Donta Williams bats against Arizona State. The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 14-2 on Tuesday, April 6 at Hi Corbett Field.

As head coach Jay Johnson and his coaching staff prepare the Arizona baseball team for this weekend’s Super Regional series against Ole Miss, I figured I’d dive deep myself into the Rebels style of play and see what Wildcat fans can expect to see from this Super Regional opponent this weekend at Hi Corbett Field. Here is what I found. 

Ole Miss is a team built around power at the plate and on the mound: 

The Rebels finished No. 16 in the country in home runs (82) and No. 2 in strikeouts per nine innings (11.8). They aren’t nearly as well-rounded of an offense as Arizona, but the power is without a doubt there for Ole Miss at the plate as well as on the mound. 

Here are a handful of hitters to keep an eye on this weekend: 

Jacob Gonzalez: 

Gonzalez led the team in hitting this past season with an average of .351 at the plate. He showed off a little pop as well with 10 home runs and 13 doubles. He typically hits second or third in the Ole Miss lineup, looking to make contact and get on base. Gonzalez recorded a hit in each of the Rebels four regional games, scoring at least one run in each of those games as well. 

Tim Elko: 

Elko brings the power in the Rebels lineup, leading the team with 16 home runs and finishing second on the team with 54 RBIs. In Monday’s game that clinched the regional championship for Ole Miss, Elko went 3-for-3 with two home runs to help lead the Rebels past Southern Mississippi. Arizona will want Elko to step up to the plate preferably with no runners on base. We saw how tremendous the control of the entire Wildcats pitching staff was this past weekend, which will once again be crucial against Elko this weekend to not give him anything up the middle. 

Kevin Graham: 

Graham is the most balanced hitter in the Rebels lineup, finishing No. 2 in the Ole Miss lineup in hitting (.344) and home runs (14), while leading the team in doubles (15) and RBIs (55). He typically hits cleanup in the Rebels lineup, oftentimes behind the aforementioned Gonzalez (though Ole Miss occasionally had Gonzalez hit No. 2 in the lineup), so not letting the Rebels get off to a fast start each game at the top of the lineup ahead of Graham will be crucial for Arizona’s starters in Chase Silseth, Garrett Irvin and potentially Chandler Murphy if this series goes to a third game. 

Justin Bench and T.J. McCants

These are the two Rebels hitters Arizona pitchers will want to keep off the base paths as Bench was 13-for-17 in stolen base attempts and McCants was 10-for-11 in stolen base attempts on the season. On the bright side for Arizona, they have freshman Daniel Susac and his cannon of an arm behind the plate so it will be interesting to see how aggressive Ole Miss is on the base paths this weekend. Susac threw out eight base runners out of the 18 attempts players had at stealing bases on him. It will also be crucial for the Wildcats pitching staff to keep the base runners in check. 

RELATED: Arizona baseball team seeking to make first trip back to the College World Series since 2016

Here are a handful of pitchers to keep an eye on for the Rebels this weekend: 

Gunnar Hoglund: 

I am starting off with a pitcher you will not see this weekend. After getting off to a fast start this season as the Rebels Friday starter where he posted a 2.87 ERA over 11 starts, Hoglund underwent season-ending surgery for a UCL tear back in May. He will of course not pitch this weekend, but he was worth mentioning as this injury was a big blow to the Rebels pitching staff. 

Doug Nikhazy

Nikhazy led the way for the Ole Miss pitching rotation this season, posting a 2.39 ERA with an 11-2 record in 14 starts (15 appearances) this season. He threw one complete game shutout against Mississippi State and tossed at least six innings in 10 starts this season, including a win in the regional over Florida State where he allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits over seven innings with 16 strikeouts and one walk. 

I mentioned earlier about the power this Rebels pitching staff has at its disposal, and Nikhazy led the way in that regard with double-digit strikeouts in seven different starts this season. His last appearance came at the end of Monday’s game as he looked to hold off Southern Mississippi to clinch the region, allowing two runs on two hits over 1.1 innings pitched. That was his last appearance, but he threw at least 6.0 innings in five of his last six starts. It will be crucial for the Wildcats to get off to a fast start and make Nikhazy work, so he doesn’t find his rhythm early and work far into the game. 

Tyler Myers

His numbers on paper might not stand out, but Myers finished the year strong as a starter. After coming out of the bullpen for most of the season, Myers got the start in his last two appearances. His most impressive performance came in the SEC tournament against then-No. 2 Vanderbilt, outdueling top MLB prospect Jack Leiter. 

Myers allowed just one run on five hits over seven innings with six strikeouts and one walk en route to a 4-1 victory for the Rebels. He followed that performance up with another efficient outing against Southern Mississippi in the regional, allowing two runs on six hits over five innings with six strikeouts. Myers’ statistics at first glance on paper don’t seem very threatening, but given how he has looked in his last two starts, he will be a pitcher to watch this weekend for Ole Miss. 

Taylor Broadway: 

One of the countries most elite closers this season, Broadway finished the year with 16 saves which was the second most in college baseball this season. There have been a few instances this year where he’s allowed multiple runs, but he is quite shutdown for the most part which includes 64 strikeouts to just nine walks in 46.2 innings pitched this season. Broadway is capable of closing out a game over the course of multiple innings, but again, a fast start will be crucial for Arizona and not falling behind into the late innings of each game. 

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