OXFORD – First there was Max Cioffi, thought at one time to be the top arm in the bullpen.
Then there was Peyton Chatagnier, the leadoff hitter and sparkplug on offense.
Then there was Doug Nikhazy, one of the top two starting pitchers for Ole Miss, who would miss two starts.
Cael Baker and Trey LaFleur weren’t major contributors at the time, but losing two first basemen together further challenged depth.
The torn ACL for Tim Elko, the SEC leader in RBIs, seemed like it might be too much to overcome.
Now the Rebels plunge into the bold new world of life without Gunnar Hoglund. A projected mid-first round draft pick is subtracted from the Ole Miss rotation as No. 2 Vanderbilt visits tonight at 6.
Other series start times are 4 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m on Sunday. Tonight and Sunday will air on The SEC Network.
Lingering stiffness in his forearm caused Hoglund, third in the SEC and fifth nationally in strikeouts, to miss his April 23 start against LSU. He was dominant against South Carolina a week later with no runs, one hit, no walks and nine strikeouts in six innings.
The stiffness returned last week at Texas A&M. Hoglund tried to pitch through it but was rocked with three runs on two hits and a walk and left after 18 pitches.
Ole Miss (34-14, 14-10 SEC) caught the Aggies but eventually lost that game – and later the series – 9-8 on a walkoff home run in the ninth.
“Everybody when they heard the news on Gunnar, as teammates that have been with him and know how big a part he is to this team … but what a great kid he is and what a devastating blow that is for any kid. I think his teammates felt just as devastated for him,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Hoglund will have surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow – commonly known as Tommy John Surgery – on Tuesday.
Cioffi has already had the same surgery.
Typically players make a full recovery, some coming back stronger than before.
However, unless, something goes awkward for Hoglund in the draft, his Ole Miss career is likely complete.
Vanderbilt (35-10, 16-7 SEC) missed a key piece when Jack Leiter, projected higher than Hoglund and considered by some a possible No. 1 pick, did not pitch against Alabama last week.
He’s expected back in his regular Saturday spot.
The Ole Miss injury list has also included key pieces like Justin Bench and Hayden Leatherwood, who have not missed many games but have played at less than full strength.
“The mindset in this locker room is that we’re going to win anyway,” freshman shortstop Jacob Gonzalez said. “No matter who’s pitching we’re going to win ballgames.”
Bianco says that type of resiliency in attitude has been a plus for this team.
“It hasn’t been a beautiful season in terms of all the things you’ve mentioned and some tough things that have happened on the field, but we continue to play,” he said. “We continue to play at a very high level. We continue to show up and play with a lot of energy, and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve had such a good year.”