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2021 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Ole Miss opens super regional tonight against Arizona. Here are our predictions

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Everyone take a deep breath.

Ole Miss Athletics

Alright, here we go.

Ole Miss is two wins away from Omaha as we speak, and they get the chance to get one of those wins tonight as they take on the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson.

Mike Bianco has opted to throw Derek Diamond in game one, saving Nikhazy for game two or three if necessary, which is a smart decision iyam. Keep that ace up your sleeve.

Arizona hasn’t announced who they will be throwing tonight as I write this, so that’s fun. To fill the area where I’d usually put the pitching matchup, I have accumulated predictions for the weekend from numerous members of the Red Cup staff and associated friends. I hope you enjoy.

Let’s have some guesses!

JMake (it me): I’m pessimistic by nature, so I’m gonna take Arizona here. I think the Rebels will win one game, but the Wildcats will win the other two. Arizona’s bats are pretty good, and I think that causes problems for Ole Miss’ pitching depth or the lack thereof. I hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see.

OneManToBeat: It’s probably the end of the road for this scrappy bunch. Since the loss of ace Gunnar Hoglund, they haven’t been quite as dominant, and the freshmen are seemingly fading down the stretch. But somehow this team plays its best ball when everyone has called them down for the count, so I sure can’t start now.

Bob: Ole Miss in three. I think it’s a high-scoring super regional and could go either way. I want to have a bad feeling about this because Arizona can score a lot of runs on everybody, but I’m going to try a little optimism on for size and say that it’s Ole Miss’ bats that will frustrate Arizona more than the other way around. Doug Day gives the Rebels the edge, but we will be nervous the entire time.

Gray Hardison: SUPER REGIONAL BACK. Surely it won’t be physically and mentally debilitating!

Under Mike Bianco, Ole Miss is 1-5 (sigh) in Super Regional action, which includes an 0-1 record in the state of Arizona in a Super Regional. In 2007, the Rebels visited Tempe to face Arizona State and were on a return flight home after the second game.

What’s my point here? Bianco’s Super Regional winning percentage sits at 16.7 percent. Even though all signs point to another loss due to no Gunnar Hoglund, an inconsistent bullpen, a one-legged Tim Elko, and an offense that is coughing dust, I like a progression to the mean.

Although I have no idea how, Ole Miss scrapes together enough parts and wins two of three, bringing Bianco’s Super Regional winning percentage to a not great 28.6 percent, but it’s not a clinically depressing 14.3 percent.

Ruby Draayer: The Rebels tend to disappoint me in games that they should win. I have no idea what they’re going to do this weekend, but Ole Miss always leaves people guessing. However, as an optimist, the Rebels will lose game one. Then it’s time for #DougDay who will absolutely shove. Ole Miss takes games two and three, leaving the Wildcats in the desert.

Zach Berry: Arizona in three. Doug Nikhazy forces a game three, and the Rebels lose an offensive sweepstakes on Sunday.

GUEST PICKERS

I had the pleasure of reaching out to some folks who are now friends of the #blog for their thoughts on the weekend.

Grayson Weir: Ole Miss 2-1

The Rebels have a slight edge in this weekend’s series, but the margin isn’t significant.

Ole Miss does not lose on Doug Day. Friday night should set the tone. If he can get deep into the outing and continue his dominance, the game will go in favor of the Rebels.

With that being said, Arizona leads the nation in runs scored, hits, batting average and on-base percentage. Doug might get tagged once or twice, and that’s okay. The bats have been hot and even just a few runs will help get it done with Doug on the bump, which should be do able considering Arizona’s No. 1 starter Chase Silseth has a 5.53 ERA. Ole Miss doesn’t lose on Doug Day.

The Wildcat offense poses a different challenge in Game 2 and 3. They hit, hit and hit. Considering Ole Miss’ struggles with piecing games together through the bullpen, Diamond will be key to this series. If the Doc is in, the Rebels could find themselves with a 2-0 series win. If not, it makes things interesting.

Arizona going to get the bat on the ball. A lot. Diamond might pitch a gem — he has it in him — but the more likely scenario is that there will be runs scored, and I can see the Wildcats simply out-lasting the Rebels in their home ballpark. It’s a big stadium, so the home runs won’t fly out as often as Swayze.

If that is the case, the third game is crucial. Both pitching staffs are fairly similar in that it will be starter by committee. That means everything is on the table. Should it go to a third game, Ole Miss’ bullpen steps up like it did in Hoover (to an extent, at least) and shuts it down enough to back the offense in a lengthy, high-scoring affair.

Alex McDaniel: Main prediction: Rebels win first 2, everyone eats Sonoran hot dogs on Sunday and reflects on the weekend while plugging along through the first season of Ted Lasso.

General thoughts:

Has anyone crafted a Gettin’ Crazy in Swayze with Doug Nikhazy shirt because I’ll buy 15 of those sumbitches right now.

Local martian Tim Elko will hit four grand slams this weekend, minimum. I talked to Elko about playing with one functional ACL and he said, “Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.” (Don’t ask him to confirm if this actually happened, he forgets a lot of stuff.)

We’re going to see some great pitching this weekend, regardless, but is it too much to ask to put Wes Burton in at some point? I want to see him LOSE HIS F’N MIND at least once. Plus, he’d scare the shit out of Arizona, so mission accomplished.

Christopher Ludwig: The Rebs fight hard and force a game three, but their lack of pitching depth, especially in the bullpen, comes back to haunt them as Arizona takes the third game in a high-scoring affair.