By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
Friday was the home opener for the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. at Swayze Field with head coach Mike Bianco starting his 22nd season with the No. 4 Rebels beginning their defense of the 2022 National Championship, defeating the University Of Delaware Blue Hens 11-2.
Tim Elko threw out the first pitch of the Mississippi home opener after helping them win the National Championship last year in Omaha just a few weeks after he was drafted in the 10th round of the 2022 MLB Amateur Draft with the 311th overall pick by the Chicago White Sox organization. Elko signed on July 31, getting a $35,000 bonus and eventually played in Low-A with the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. Elko, between Rookie Complex League action and Low-A, batted .240 with five home runs and 16 RBI’s playing in 24 total games last season.
Before sweeping the Oklahoma Sooners last for the national championship in Omaha after earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last year, just getting into the field of the tournament was a huge step that the Mississippi program had to face to get their first College World Series title.
Bianco has helped Mississippi reach the College World Series as well in 2014, and has led the Rebels to eight NCAA Super Regionals in his career and is two-time Collegiate National Coach of the Year in 2020 and 2022. He also coached the USA Collegiate Baseball team last July at the Honkbal Week Haarlem tournament in the Netherland, and won the bronze medal, beating Japan.
Mississippi, with a set of top athletes in their program, will look to junior T.J. McCants and junior Jacob Gonzalez to play major roles this year, and will have their eyes on a return Omaha once again during the 2023 campaign.
Mississippi did not get their first run of the game until the bottom of the second, when Anthony Calarco hit a high hopping infield single to second base as Calvin Harris came in to score as the Rebels took a 1-0 lead. The next batter, Peyton Chatagnier, cracked the program’s first home run of the 2023 season with a three-run shot to center field to extend the lead to 4-0. A few batters later, Ethan Groff grounded out to shortstop and T.J. McCants came in to score to go up 5-0. The next batter, Kemp Alderman, drove a single to center field as Regan Burford came in to score as Mississippi just put their foot on the gas to go up 6-0.
Mississippi’s offense overpowered University of Delaware’s pitching as the Rebels torched 11 runs on the board with 13 hits.
Delaware starting pitcher Eli Atiya pitched 2.2 innings, giving up seven earned runs, seven hits, walking three batters and striking out two during the season opener.
Mississippi’s starting pitcher and returner from last year’s championship team, Hunter Elliot, went five innings, allowing two earned runs, three hits, striking out nine, and walking one batter.
Ole Miss will play Delaware on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST and complete their three game set on Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. Both games will be on SEC Network+.