No Ordinary Rookie: The Rise of Hunter Elliott

Published 3:27 pm Friday, June 17, 2022

OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss Rebels head to the College World Series with a pitching staff that against Regional and Super Regional competition was nothing short of sensational. The list of those who have contributed has been impressive.

One of those has been freshman All-American Hunter Elliott. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder from Tupelo stepped up throughout his first college season. But in Sunday’s 5-0 Ole Miss win over Southern Miss, he may have been his best yet.

“Hunter was outstanding today,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said postgame. “Another great pitching performance.”

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Bianco said Elliott’s first-year progress and success has not really been a surprise.

“We always knew he was good, a high profile recruit coming out of Tupelo,” Bianco said. “He had a really good fall. But he was like a lot of guys, like (Dylan) DeLucia, like (Derek) Diamond, who pitched well in the fall but wasn’t sure what his role was going to be. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the opportunity to start very much (early this season). We put him in the bullpen. But once we moved him into the rotation, he’s been terrific.”

Bianco mentioned that Elliott is effective when he is on the mound because the left-hander knows what he can do and has confidence.

“He’s not one of those guys who is going to light up the radar gun. He’s not 95 (fast ball), he’s not 85 mile an hour slider. But you watch, you watch the confidence, you watch the toughness, much like DeLucia, where they just make pitches. They make pitches and get off the field.”

Elliott’s plan was concise and to the point on championship Super Sunday, and he got it done in 7.1 innings of solid work, which included a career-high 10 strikeouts.

“My big thing going into (Sunday) was to try to avoid as many 3-ball counts as I can,” he said. “I went back and looked, and I think I had three 3-ball counts. My mindset, my biggest thing was just to flood the zone, attack them with my best stuff, and stay out of the 3-ball counts, which was nice.”

It was a brutally hot Mississippi afternoon, mid-90s on the thermometer but much hotter than that on the field. The teams battled through it and Ole Miss came out on top.

“Early, obviously there was a lot of excitement. The crowd was really into it,” Elliott said. “One of the biggest things for me was throwing up a zero in the first and trying to act like it’s just another game.

“Obviously,” he accurately assessed, “it was not.”

Bianco perhaps summed things up best in his remarks after his team advanced to the College World Series. Ole Miss won 10-0 on Saturday prior to another shutout on Sunday.

“This question was asked a lot. ‘What does it take?’ I guess what it takes is don’t let the other team score,” the veteran head coach said of advancing to the final eight of the 2022 season.

Clearly, Ole Miss pitchers have been doing an excellent job of limiting the opposing teams’ offenses in recent games. And on Sunday, Hunter Elliott was the one who led the way.

“He’s had a lot of good games for us,” Bianco said, “but none better than this. He was lights out today.”