Ole Miss Baseball Game Notes: at Auburn

Published 2:27 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2022

• Ole Miss opens SEC play on the road, travelling to The Plains for a three-game series with Auburn.
• Thursday’s matchup will air on the SEC Network, the first live television broadcast of the season for the Rebels.
• Ole Miss is 34-26 during opening SEC weekend during the Mike Bianco era. The Rebels have won each of the last 5 opening series.
• Ole Miss owns a 37-27 record against the Tigers during the Mike Bianco era. The Rebels have won seven of the last 10, nine of the last 15 and 13 of the last 20 matchups.
• In last season’s series, the Rebels swept the Tigers in Oxford. Ole Miss has not won a series in Auburn since 2009.
• Ole Miss has scored 152 runs this season, a program-record entering SEC play.
• Ole Miss ranks in the top-20 in several statistical categories, including walks (17th), earned run average (12th), home runs (20th), on-base percentage (15th), runs (14th), slugging percentage (15th) and strikeouts per nine innings (9th).
• As of the most recent available data, Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in total attendance at 78,582 and third in average attendance at 9,823.
• The Rebels are ranked in the top-10 in all six major polls, reaching number one for just the second time in program-history.

Off to a 13-3 start to the season, Ole Miss has garnered the No. 1 ranking in the nation for just the second time in program-history, also rising to number one in the week two polls last season. The Rebs are ranked No. 1 in two polls, the D1Baseball Poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Ole Miss’ 152 runs is its most heading into SEC play in the history of the program. The Rebels have posted double digit runs in nine games, also a record entering SEC play, including three games with 15 or more runs. All of this comes despite playing fewer than nine innings eight times.

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Peyton Chatagnier and Reagan Burford lead the nation with five sacrifice flies apiece this season, tied with Arkansas State’s Jaylon DeShazier. Three of Chatagnier’s sacrifices came in the same game as the junior plated Burford three times in the Friday night win over VCU.

Ole Miss has implemented a patient approach at the plate from top to bottom and two players that have particularly taken it to heart are TJ McCants and Tim Elko. Both have vastly cut down their strikeout rate from a season ago, with McCants lowering his from 27.3% to 18.3% and Elko lowering his from 27.0% to 21.5%.

Kevin Graham and Tim Elko each hammered a grand slam in the 11-1 Wednesday night win over ULM, with Graham going yard in the fifth and Elko following up with a towering shot to dead center in the sixth. It marked the first game with multiple grand slams in a game for Ole Miss since 1998 against the Memphis Tigers. One of the two players to hit a grand slam that day? Current Ole Miss assistant coach Carl Lafferty

Elko also pummeled a grand slam in Ole Miss’ 16-2 win over Oral Roberts, giving the Rebel captain five in his career, all in the last two seasons.

True freshman relief pitcher Mason Nichols leads the Rebels with six appearances this season. in 7.2 innings of work, the Jackson Prep product has yet to allow an earned run and owns a 5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

The Rebel offense has been all over its opponents this season, scoring 126 runs in 119 innings, good for an average of 1.06 runs per inning. Ole Miss has scored early and often, plating multiple runs in 42 of those 119 frames.

Ole Miss has shown patience at the plate and has made it pay off. The Rebels have received 113 free passes via walks and HBPs, with 56 of those runners coming around to score.

A scan on Monday revealed a small fracture to the scaphoid bone to Kevin Graham’s wrist, caused in Saturday’s game against UCF. Graham will undergo surgery to place a pin in the wrist on Wednesday and is expected to be unavailable for approximately four weeks.

The Ole Miss faithful came out in droves on opening weekend, packing the stands at Swayze and bringing the energy right from the first pitch. Friday’s crowd of 11,146 was the nation’s largest on opening day and the second biggest opening day crowd in school-history. The following day, 11,621 strong entered the gates, the eighth largest crowd ever at Swayze Field. All in all, the weekend total came in at 32,888 the second-highest in the nation and third highest series total ever at Ole Miss.

Senior right-handed reliever Brandon Johnson is one of 66 players tabbed to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List. Johnson is one of nine SEC players and one of four from the SEC West named to the watch list.

Despite being picked to tie for second in the SEC West, Ole Miss was also projected as SEC Champions with the most first place votes in the 2022 SEC Preseason Poll, voted on by the league’s head coaches. Ole Miss is seeking its first regular season conference title since 2009.

East (Championship Votes)

1. Vanderbilt (2)
2. Florida (2)
3. Georgia
4. Tennessee
5. South Carolina
6. Kentucky
7. Missouri

West (Championship Votes)
1. Arkansas (3)
2. Ole Miss (4)
2. Mississippi State (2)
4. LSU (1)
5. Alabama
6. Texas A&M
7. Auburn

Ole Miss returns nearly the entirety of its potent offense from the 2021 season with eight of nine positional starters returning to the Rebel lineup, Ole Miss is poised once again to put up gawdy numbers on the scoreboard.

Percentage Return from 2021
• Games Started – 88.6%
• Runs – 88.5%
• Hits – 91.8%
• Doubles – 91.7%
• Triples – 100%
• Home Runs – 90.6%
• RBIs – 91.3%
• Walks – 85.1%

Ole Miss’ Hayden Dunhurst and Jacob Gonzalez were two of 55 players named to the 2022 Golden Spikes Award Preseason watch list, announced by USA Baseball. The Rebels are one of just eight teams with multiple players on the list, joining LSU, Arizona State, Arkansas, California, Florida, Texas and Vanderbilt.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco has been tapped as the manager for the 2022 USA Collegiate National Team for this upcoming summer, marking the Rebel skipper’s managerial debut for the Red, White and Blue. It will be the second time donning a Team USA uniform for Bianco, who served as the pitching coach for the Collegiate National Team in 2013. Under Bianco’s guidance, the USA posted a 1.87 ERA, a 20-3 record and 222 strikeouts. The remaining 2022 Collegiate National Team staff, as well as more information about the 2022 Collegiate National Team schedule, will be announced at a later date.

Ole Miss led the nation in attendance in 2021 with 303,859 fans entering the gates at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field across 40 games. The Rebels’ average attendance of 7,596 also ranked first in college baseball, with Ole Miss ranking as one of just three schools to average more than 4,000 fans per game. During the season, Ole Miss welcomed four of the top-10 single game crowds and two of the top-three series crowds ever seen in Oxford, setting the record in the three-game set against Arkansas.

Top-10 Single-Game Crowds
4. April 10 vs. Arkansas – 11,857
5. April 23 vs. LSU – 11,788
7. April 24 vs. LSU – 11,653
8. April 10 vs. Arkansas – 11,524

Top-3 Series Crowds
1. April 10-11 vs. Arkansas – 33,423
3. April 22-24 vs. LSU – 32,476

Ole Miss is one of five programs to host at least 10 NCAA Regional appearances since 2004, joining Florida State, Florida, LSU and North Carolina. The Rebels are also one of eight programs to earn at least five regional hosting bids since 2014, being joined by Florida State, Florida, LSU, Louisville, TCU, Vanderbilt and Texas Tech.

Ole Miss has nine junior college products on the 2022 roster, five of which are new additions. Four of the five JUCO players come from schools within the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference.

Ole Miss landed a league-high five players on the Preseason All-SEC team, having a player recognized at four of five infield positions.

Ole Miss Preseason All-SEC Selections
• Jacob Gonzalez – Shortstop – First Team
• Hayden Dunhurst – Catcher – Second Team
• Tim Elko – First Base – Second Team
• Peyton Chatagnier – Second Team
• Kevin Graham – Second Team

Of the 41 players on the Ole Miss roster, 11 hail from the state of Mississippi. The 11 local products are tied for the most for the Rebels since 2017.

Ole Miss has bolstered the roster with three new lefties in transfer John Gaddis and true freshmen Hunter Elliott and Luke Ellis. Relief arm Jackson Kimbrell also returns to the Rebel roster.

Ole Miss has six players ranked in D1Baseball’s Top 2022 MLB Draft College Prospect Rankings. All six Rebels are ranked inside the top-150, tied for the most in the top-150 in the nation. Additionally, a pair of Rebs find themself in the top-100 for the 2023 rankings.

Rebels in the Top 2022 MLB Draft Prospect Rankings
• Hayden Dunhurst – No. 27
• TJ McCants* – No. 49
• Derek Diamond – No. 63
• Jack Washburn – No. 101
• Kevin Graham – No. 124
• Drew McDaniel – No. 133

Rebels in the Top 2023 MLB Draft Prospect Rankings
• Jacob Gonzalez – No. 2
• Jack Dougherty – No. 55

* – Draft eligible sophomore

When D1Baseball released its top-50 position power rankings this offseason, Ole Miss was well represented, landing at least one player at every single position. The Rebels’ full rankings can be found below:

Rebels in the Top-50 Position Rankings
• Jacob Gonzalez – No. 2 shortstop
• Hayden Dunhurst – No. 4 catcher
• Tim Elko – No. 5 first baseman
• Peyton Chatagnier – No. 13 second baseman
• Justin Bench – No. 25 third baseman
• Kevin Graham – No. 16 outfielder
• TJ McCants – No. 32 outfielder
• Derek Diamond – No. 40 starting pitcher
• Brandon Johnson – No. 41 relief pitcher
• Jack Dougherty – No. 62 relief pitcher
• Jack Washburn – No. 75 starting pitcher
• John Gaddis – No. 76 starting pitcher
• Drew McDaniel – No. 115 starting pitcher

Bursting onto the scene last season with one of the greatest true freshmen seasons ever in a Rebel uniform, shortstop Jacob Gonzalez quickly established himself as one of the nation’s elite young talents. In addition to being named D1Baseball’s National Freshman of the Year, the California native joined Stephen Head as the only Rebs ever to be named an All-American as a freshman, earning the honor from both D1Baseball and the NCBWA. Starting all 67 games at short, Gonzalez led all true freshmen in hits and runs scored. Poised for another big season, the sophomore has reeled in a myriad of preseason honors for 2022.

Gonzalez’ Preseason Honor Round Up
• Preseason All-America (Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, D1Baseball, NCBWA, Perfect Game)
• First Team Preseason All-SEC
• D1Baseball No. 2 ‘23 College Draft Prospect
• D1Baseball No. 3 ‘23 College Draft SEC Prospect
• D1Baseball No. 2 ranked shortstop

With a pair of electric arms departing for the Major League Baseball Draft in Gunnar Hoglund and Doug Nikhazy, Ole Miss utilized the transfer portal to bring in some talent on the mound in Division I transfers John Gaddis and Jack Washburn. Both bring quality experience to the Rebel roster, with Gaddis pitching four seasons at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Washburn moving to Oxford after two seasons at Oregon State.

The Gaddis File
• 2021 All-Southland Second Team
• 13 appearances with 10 starts in 2021
• Won five games with a team-low 2.25 ERA
• 72 strikeouts in 64.0 innings of work
• 7.0 or more innings in 6-of-last-7 starts

The Washburn File
• Son of former MLB star Jarrod Washburn
• 21 appearances with five starts in 2021
• 3.12 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 34.2 innings

Keep up with all the latest news and information on the Rebels by following Ole Miss baseball on Twitter at @OleMissBSB, on Facebook at Facebook.com/OleMissBaseball, on Instagram at Instagram.com/officialolemissbsb and on TikTok at @olemissbsb. Also, follow head coach Mike Bianco on Twitter at @CoachMikeBianco.