By Adam Brown
No. 12 Ole Miss heads out to the desert of Arizona for a Super Regional matchup against the No. 5 national seed Arizona Wildcats. The first pitch of the three-game series will be Friday at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.
Ole Miss is only two more wins away from making a return trip to Omaha. The Rebels’ last trip to Omaha was in 2014 under coach Mike Bianco.
Ole Miss (44-20) will have right-hander Derek Diamond on the mound against the Wildcats. Diamond is coming into this start after two appearances last weekend in the Oxford Regional.
“I am feeling great, and the rest of the staff is feeling great,” Diamond said.
On the season, Diamond has a 3-4 record with a 5.05 ERA with a total of 81 strikeouts and 31 walks.
In this Super Regional, the Rebels had to prepare for the heat in Arizona.
“It is a dry heat,” said Justin Bench, Ole Miss third baseman. “We are prepared. Doing all the things we need to do to play baseball.
This season the Rebels have not taken the field for really hot games.
“We have not played in any hot days yet,” Bianco said. “Hoover, the SEC Tournament, was unseasonably cool. At our park, last week for the Regional was the coolest regional we have hosted.”
Arizona’s ball park, Hi Corbett Field, is a big yard that could intimidate some teams.
“This is the biggest park that we have played on all year,” Bianco said. “(The ball) carries a little bit better here and evens out the distance. I think it is going to play true.”
Ole Miss was able to practice on the field on Thursday to get a feel for the park.
“We had BP out there today,” Bench said. “It is deep to left-center and right, but the ball does fly out of there.”
All season, Bench has been a key part of the Rebels’ success with a .314 average to go along with seven home runs and 38 RBI. He has played in center field and moved over to third after the first base went down and moved Tim Elko to first.
“A lot of players have great years,” Bianco said. “We are not the same team without Justin Bench. If we don’t have Justin Bench, we are not here today.”
This season, the Rebels offense has put up numbers at the dish that have them third nationally and first in the SEC with 629 hits on the season.
“We have a great offense, and we are just going to keep doing what we have been doing,” Bench said.
This weekend, Ole Miss will be facing an Arizona high-powered offense batting .327 as a team and five sluggers hitting over .300. The Wildcats are led by true freshman Jacob Berry with a .357 average. Berry also has the team-high in home runs (15) and RBI (64).
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