We're taking a look back and a look ahead at college baseball teams from around the country. Up first are the Ole Miss Rebels!
A Look Back at 2019
Competing in the always challenging SEC West, Ole Miss battled through conference play on the way to a successful season in 2019.
The Rebels’ 41-27 record, highlighted by a 16-14 record in conference play, paired with a run to the SEC Championship Game propelled the Rebels to a top 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss swept the Oxford Regional in dominant fashion, outscoring their opponents 41-7 on route to a Super Regional appearance.
Ole Miss was stopped short of Omaha after splitting the Super Regional with Arkansas before ultimately losing the rubber game. Ole Miss and Arkansas played eight times in 2019, splitting the season series 4-4. In spite of the series loss, the Rebels' return to a Super Regional marked the sixth time they have done so in the past 15 years.
The Rebels sent several players onto the next level, including three players who were drafted within the first five rounds of the MLB draft. Grae Kessinger highlighted the draft class for the Rebels and was selected 68th overall. Kessinger also earned the Brooks Wallace Award given to the nation’s best shortstop.
A Look Ahead at 2020
Despite losing some key pieces from their 2019 team, Ole Miss may actually increase their talent level in 2020. The Rebels bring in the second-ranked recruiting class in the country and will hope to find some immediate contributors in the group.
The Rebels open up their 2020 schedule with a visit from 2019 College World Series participant, Louisville, in what will be one of the best series of Opening Weekend. Their non-conference slate also includes two midweeks against Southern Miss and a chance to take on ECU and Indiana at the Keith LeClair Classic.
In conference play, Ole Miss plays all six other SEC West teams and draws Vanderbilt, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina from the East. Once again, Ole Miss plays one of the toughest schedules in the country.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: The Rebels will return to a Super Regional.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rebels in Omaha, but they need to find a third starter.
The Rebels have to replace Will Ethridge, their Friday night guy from 2019. Sophomore Doug Nikhazy will look to fill that role. He held a 3.31 ERA last year which earned him Freshman All-American status. Gunnar Hoglund, the Rebels’ Sunday starter from 2019 and a former 1st-round draft pick, will likely step up into the Saturday role.
If the Rebels see improvement in Hoglund and nail down a Sunday starter, I expect them to compete in the SEC and potentially be playing deep into the postseason.
Kyle's (@kylemckelv) 2020 Prediction: The Rebels will make it to Omaha.
I believe their pitching will carry them to a great year. The format of the tournament really benefits those teams with great pitching depth, which I believe they have in 2020.
Their average recruiting ranking is 2nd and the pitchers they return accounted for 48% of the appearances last season and 51% of the innings pitched from last season. Returning two starters from last season is quite helpful, but, like John said, they'll need to establish their third starter early in the season. Three incoming players will be candidates for the Sunday role in their rotation, including freshman Derek Diamond and the 6-foot-8 (!) freshman Wes Burton.
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