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Mark Etheridge | D1Baseball.com | June 2, 2021

2021 NCAA baseball tournament preview: Oxford Regional

2021 NCAA DI BASEBALL TOURNAMENT BRACKET SELECTION SHOW

1. Ole Miss: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
2. Southern Miss: Regular Season Results Team Stats and Leaders
3. Florida State: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
4. Southeast Missouri State: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders

Ruston Regional Superlatives

Most Exciting Player: Tim Elko, DH, Ole Miss
The story of the Ole Miss season may be the return of Elko (.331/.448/.669). Playing with a torn ACL injured on April 5, he has gradually returned to play and sparked the lineup with his power bat, wowed fans with a pair of homers versus Vanderbilt in an SEC Tournament game, and wobbling around the bases taking first to third. He provides energy to the dugout and the home fans along with his obvious run production.
 
Best Hitter: Matheu Nelson, C, Florida State 
The man smacked 22 home runs this season and only had three in May (two in one game). What does that tell me? He’s overdue. He’s also hit 16 doubles this year and is slugging nearly .800. He doesn’t have a ton of lineup protection but when he gets something to hit, look out.

TOURNAMENT FAQ: Conference champ tracker | Regional sites | How the CWS works

Best Defensive Player: T.J. McCants, CF Ole Miss 
When you have a guy in center who can outrun gappers, you have a weapon. McCants is that kind of player as he leaves opponents muttering in frustration when the potential double that splits most outfielders lands in his glove. Also, wanted to give a shoutout to the FSU catcher Matheu Nelson has thrown out 15 out of 37 would-be base stealers.
 
Best Pitcher: Doug Nikhazy, LHP, Ole Miss 
He misses so many bats. The southpaw has 114 punchouts this year in just 78.1 innings. Opponents are batting .179 against him and he pitches his best when the moments are biggest. Against rival Mississippi State this season, Nikhazy pitched a complete game, one-hit shutout, and struck out 12. Of his 13 starts, he has struck out double-digits in six of them.
 
X-Factor: Ryan Och, LHP, Southern Miss
To make a run in a regional, it’s nice to have a versatile reliever who can be leveraged in any situation. The USM southpaw Och was superb in his last outing in the win over Louisiana Tech working four scoreless innings of a two-hit ball. He will undoubtedly be called upon again in a key moment this weekend and with 9.1 scoreless innings on the season against the best CUSA team USM has faced (Louisiana Tech), he has been lights out.
 
Best Starting Rotation: Southern Miss
Before Gunnar Hoglund was injured this would have been Ole Miss. Without him, Florida State and Southern Miss are both teams whose strengths are their starting pitchers. USM is deeper, with four consistent starters with the 1-2 bunch of Hunter Stanley and Walker Powell. Florida State has seen better competition and their pitchers are more dominant stuff-wise. I’ll go with Southern Miss because their pitchers are older. Two-thirds of the FSU’s rotation are freshmen getting their first taste of a raucous atmosphere like Swayze will be this weekend.
 
Best Bullpen: Ole Miss
Ole Miss simply has more options here than the others. After Taylor Broadway, there’s been some inconsistency but at they had some good outings in Hoover against some imposing lineups. Depth prevails.
 
Best Offensive Team: Ole Miss
The Rebels a really good offense and is far and away the best lineup in this regional. The return of Elko provided the spark they needed to make a run towards their goal of Omaha.
 
Best Defensive Team: Ole Miss
Ole Miss has speed in the outfield and a strong defensive catcher in Hayden Dunhurst who has thrown out 15 batters in 40 attempts.
 
No. 1 Seed Win Probability (1-10): 7
Ole Miss has the most talent and is at home. That’s a nice advantage. Southern Miss has a deep pitching staff and has an ace in Stanley to potentially negate Florida State’s Parker Messick. Florida State has arms of their own to make a run while SEMo’s Dylan Dodd can turn the whole thing upside down in game one. In the end, I feel Ole Miss prevails on the strength of their lineup, highlighted by Elko hobbling around the bases after a big hit.

This article first appeared on D1Baseball.com and continues there with a team-by-team breakdown of every regional.

For more stories like this one, you can use coupon code NCAA2021 to get a 20 percent discount for an annual subscription to DIBaseball.com or D1Softball.com.

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