Previewing Ole Miss and Arkansas’ weekend matchup at Swayze Field
Let’s discuss the PopRock genre of music.
Daughtry is a rock band that is named after leader Chris Daughtry, and they have been a hallmark of the “PopRock” genre of music for over a decade.
One of Daughtry’s best and most well-known songs is “Life After You” where the singer longs to spend time laughing and enjoying life with his unnamed lover. Here’s the chorus:
All that I’m after is a life full of laughter
As long as I’m laughing with you
I’m thinking that all that still matters is love ever after
After the life we’ve been through
‘Cause I know there’s no life after you
In all likelihood, most Ole Miss fans felt this way at the moment the world stood still on Monday, April 5, 2021, when RBI machine Tim Elko twisted his knee at first base and tore his ACL. Elko is not only the captain of the Rebel baseball team, but he’s the bell cow of the lineup, settling into the cleanup role nicely in the month of March.
Fortunately, with or without Elko, all hope is not lost for the Diamond Rebels this season. The lineup is still pretty good despite losing its most productive bat, and the starting pitching is among the best in the country. This is still a team that has Omaha at the forefront of its mind. It will just likely have to overcome this recent adversity to get there.
And what an opportunity they have this weekend to test its collective fortitude.
This weekend, No. 2 Arkansas rolls into Oxford to take on the No. 3 Rebels in a series that will determine, for the time being, the top position in the SEC West. Ole Miss and Arkansas have been the most impressive clubs out of the West thus far, and these next two weekends are where the rubber meets the road for the Rebels with hosting Arkansas and traveling to Mississippi State. And, like any good story, they have to do so without Elko.
Here are some notes our friend Collin Brister found about the #Hogs because he’s big into math and analytics, and I am not good with numbers. Collin is private on Twitter, so I can’t embed his tweets here, but I wanted to give him credit for these.
Arkansas First Time Through The Order against Power Five Pitching:
Batting Average: .088
On Base Percentage: .177
Gunnar Hoglund First time through the order vs Power Five teams
Batting Average: .250
On Base Percentage: .333
Batting Average: .147
On Base Percentage: .216
Doug Nikhazy First Time Through vs Power Five teams
Batting Average: .182
On Base Percentage: .333
Batting Average: .118
On Base Percentage: .250
Brister went on to put into words what these numbers illustrate. If you’re going to hit Gunnar or Doug, you need to do it the first time through the order, and Arkansas hasn’t done that well to this point. Granted, Arkansas’ lineup is very talented, but if you take these numbers to heart, you have to think Ole Miss has a shot this weekend even without Elko.
It’s really interesting because to feel good about playing Arkansas, you, on paper, should feel good about about your lineup, but with Ole Miss’ starting pitching, you have to think that they should be able to neutralize Arkansas’ sticks at least a little bit. In conference play, Arkansas hasn’t faced a starting rotation like they’re going to see this weekend, so that will be the storyline to follow.
Of course, you also have to score to win, and Ole Miss’ lineup is capable of doing that even without Elko. We may have seen a glimpse of what Five is considering doing with his lineup in Elko’s absence on Tuesday when the Rebels faced Alcorn State. Peyton Chatagnier was moved to the three hole with Kevin Graham batting cleanup, and Cael Baker was at first base. It’s not ideal to have to adjust your lineup very much entering the third weekend of conference play, but that’s the situation Ole Miss finds itself in. We may see some more shuffling as this weekend and upcoming weekends unfold.
The bottom line, in the words of what a friend told me earlier this week, sports are about overcoming adversity, and that’s what Ole Miss has to do moving forward. Even if Elko tries to come back and play some in a few weeks on this ACL tear, he won’t be 100 percent, and if the Rebels want to reach their goal of Omaha this season, they’re going to have to plan around that and have someone else (or multiple someone elses) step up in Elko’s absence.