The Ole Miss Diamond Rebels snuck its way in as the last team selected to postseason play as it assumed the three seed in the Coral Gables Regional alongside the Miami Hurricanes, Arizona Wildcats and Canisius Golden Griffins.
Despite backdooring its way in and being a three seed, the Rebels are built to succeed in tournament play, giving them a puncher’s chance to face the winner of the Hattiesburg Regional in the Super Regional Round.
Don’t get caught dreaming about an Ole Miss- Southern Miss or Ole Miss - LSU Round 2 just yet. Let’s check at the path ahead for the Rebs.
The host team comes in as the number six national seed. With a 39-18 record, the Hurricanes finished 15th in the RPI, which honestly is not all that impressive for a national seed. Miami dropped game one of the ACC Tournament to the NC State Wolfpack who were surprisingly left out of postseason play. Miami is just above .500 against Quad 1 opponents, finishing 14-12, providing hope for the Rebels to fight its way out of Miami.
Carson Palmquist is the man in Coral Gables. The first team All-ACC pitcher had 11 games of one run or less given up and three with double digit strikeouts. He boasts a 2.64 ERA and batters are hitting just .220 against the southpaw. Closer Andrew Walters has 13 saves on the season and is one of the top relievers in the NCAA. In 21 appearances, he surrendered 4 runs total, good for a 1.24 ERA. For Ole Miss, dodging Palmquist and never seeing Walters in a save situation is what needs to happen.
Ole Miss opens play against the Wildcats Friday night at 6:00 p.m. CST on ESPNU. Arizona finished one spot ahead of the Rebels in the RPI at 38. Perhaps a little extra motivation for the Rebs in this one as the Wildcats sent Ole Miss back to Oxford after Game 3 of the Tucson Super Regional last season.
Catcher Daniel Susac is tied for fifth in the NCAA in total hits on the season with 94 earning his way to the All-PAC 12 team for the second time in as many seasons in Tucson. Outfielder Tanner O’Tremba joins Susac on the All Conference team and has a 36 game on base streak in which he is hitting .315.
The Wildcats return 15 players from last year’s College World Series run but have a first year head coach in Chip Hale. Arizona was 10-12 against Quad 1 opponents but a solid 5-2 in neutral site games. The ‘Cats also middled its way through a lesser conference. If the Ole Miss offense can jump ahead early, the Rebels should be able to send the Wildcats to the losers bracket Friday night.
Canisius Golden Griffins
I am just going to be honest here... who?
So unheard of that its first round tilt with the Miami Hurricanes is on ESPN+, The Golden Griffins (29-23) earned its way to Coral Gables by winning the MAAC Tournament Championship over Rider. The 169th ranked RPI team is riding high on a six-game win streak, but I would not anticipate a Cinderella story here.
Were the Rebs to drop game 1 on Friday, there is solace in the fact its next opponent is a Quad 4 team that snuck in with an auto-bid. The Griffins are 0-4 against Quad 1 opponents and carry the 271st hardest schedule. Canisius has never faced any of the three schools in the Coral Gables Regional.
Max Grant and Mike DeStefano will be the guys to keep an eye on offensively. Grant leads the team with a .404 average and 10 home runs while DeStefano is hitting .351 with 22 stolen bases. The starting pitching is quite honestly atrocious as no regular starter has an ERA under 3.50. If the opponents can limit the top of their lineup, the Golden Griffins will go down rather quietly this weekend.
Of the 16 host teams, the Miami Hurricanes have the 5th worst RPI and the top seed in its Super Regional Matchup is the second worst RPI host team. After assuming the careers of Tim Elko and Kevin Graham were over, the Rebels have a glimmer of hope as the Rebels have one of the easier paths for a 3 seed in the entire bracket.