Ahead of tomorrow’s matchup against the Arizona Wildcats, I checked in with Arizona Wildcats’ expert Brian Pederson over at the Arizona Desert Swarm to get a better idea of what the Ole Miss Rebels are up against in the Coral Gables Regional.
Ole Miss is not new to the Wildcats, after losing to them in the Super Regional last season. There is a lot of speculation about the success of the Rebs a year later, with another trip to Omaha on the line.
There is something to say for a first year head coach to make it to the post season in his first year, what is the overall impression of Chip Hale?
Brian Pederson: “This is actually the second consecutive first-year Arizona coach to make the postseason, as Jay Johnson took the Wildcats to the College World Series championship series in 2016. The perception of Chip Hale from the fanbase seems to vary by the game, as each time the UA loses the questions about whether he was the right fit pop up. There’s no denying his style is completely different from Johnson, and his lack of college experience was a big question mark, but he’s been an MLB manager and he has shown great passion for coaching his alma mater.”
How worried should the team be about the humid and rainy conditions of this regional?
“Arizona hasn’t had any games delayed by weather this year, though it did have to play a few in the rain (Washington, Utah) or bitter cold (Creighton). Coming from a hot, dry climate, the players know to stay hydrated, so the humidity shouldn’t be an issue. Whether the pitching can handle disruptions, particularly ones that cause starters to have their time cut short, is a different story.”
Arizona has been phenomenal on the road this season, to what do you attribute that success to?
“It’s been weird how much better the Wildcats have been away from Tucson compared to at Hi Corbett Field this season, though late in Pac-12 play the script was flipped. I think this is where Chip Hale’s pro experience comes through, that they treat each road trip like a business trip and are doing everything from breakfast to lights out together.”
Who do you think will earn the start against Ole Miss?
“Arizona is going with senior left-hander Garrett Irvin, who was its most effective starter all season. However, he’s coming off his worst outing of the season (7 runs, 10 hits in 4.1 IP vs. Stanford in the Pac-12 tourney) and Ole Miss shelled him for 7 runs in 1.1 innings in the Super Regionals. The Wildcats are hoping his stuff will neutralize the Rebels’ lefty hitters.”
Who should the Rebs be the most worried about offensively?
“This is nowhere near as potent an offense as Ole Miss faced last year, but there are still some studs. Catcher Daniel Susac leads Arizona in batting (.367), hits (94), doubles (19) and RBI (61), while right fielder Tanner O’Tremba has a 1.033 OPS and left fielder Chase Davis—the only lefty in the order—has 16 home runs and leads the team with 46 walks. 2B Garen Caulfield and CF Mac Bingham also have some clutch hitting traits.”