OXFORD – Most who follow Ole Miss baseball don’t get their first live visual of Swayze Field while wearing a Rebels’ uniform.
Derek Diamond did.
“It was insane. It was everything I wished it would be,” said Diamond, a top 100-player from Ramona, California, who was the Rebels’ starting pitcher Sunday in the series clincher against No. 1 Louisville.
After the big weekend at Swayze Ole Miss jumped from No. 25 to No. 17 in the D1Baseball.com top 25 rankings.
Multiple members of the Rebels’ No. 2-ranked signing class had impressive debuts.
Cael Baker had a four-hit game with two home runs in Saturday’s 8-6 victory, an effort that earned him SEC co-player of the week honors. On Sunday Hayden Leatherwood had a two-hit game, and Ben Van Cleve had a pinch-hit double in the four-run seventh. All three are junior college transfers.
Ole Miss withstood a ninth-inning rally by the Cardinals, ending the game on a strikeout-throwout double play when freshman catcher Hayden Dunhurst nailed Louisville baserunner Justin Lavey at second base with room to spare.
“We thought we’d come in and win the series, but this just solidifies it,” Diamond said. “We’re legit. We’re going to be dogs, we’re going to be tough to beat all season.”
The Rebels have midweek games against Arkansas State Tuesday and Alcorn State Wednesday, both at 4 p.m.
They’re at home against Xavier for the weekend.
Greer Holston will start on the mound against Arkansas State. Holston picthed a third of an inning in Game 2. He faced three batters and gave up two hits and a run. His out was recorded on a sacrifice bunt.
Diamond scattered six hits and three runs over 5 2/3 innings in his first game. He gave up back-to-back home runs to start the fifth inning. He’d retired 11 in a row before that and retired the next three after the home runs.
Freshman Wes Burton came on for the last out of the sixth. He threw a perfect seventh before Ole Miss rallied in the bottom of the inning and a perfect eighth afterward.
Burton left after giving up a four-pitch walk to start the ninth.
“At the beginning this is what you hope for … that when the young guys go out there they’ll perform,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “We got to watch a lot of guys perform in big environment on the mound and at the plate. We’re really proud of them, but there’s a long way to go.”