07 Jun

power play

Before the hype gets cranked up for the super-duper Super Regional set for Hattiesburg this weekend, let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the jaw-dropping performance by Ole Miss’ Tim Elko. The senior first baseman batted .778 and slugged 2.111 — yes, 2.111 — in three games in the Coral Gables Regional. His batting line from Monday’s game: 4-6-4-5. (Plus two walks.) You won’t see something like that very often. Elko belted three home runs in the Rebels’ 22-6 demolition of Arizona in the regional title game, a first in his five-year career and a first for any UM player in an NCAA Tournament game. He also broke the school record for homers in a season with 22. Brian Pettway hit 21 in 2005. With 44 career bombs, Elko is within sight of the Rebels’ career record of 48, set by Kyle Gordon in the 1980s. Elko’s place in Ole Miss lore was secured last season when he made that inspired return from an ACL injury and helped the Rebels reach a Super Regional. His performance in Coral Gables was icing on the cake — and, of course, he’s not done yet. We’ve been fortunate in the Magnolia State to witness some amazing slugging exploits in the last few years. Delta State’s Zack Shannon set the state all-classification record with 31 homers in 2018. He hit 50, second only to Dee Haynes’ 69 on the school’s career list, in his two years in Cleveland. In 2019, Matt Wallner hit 23 bombs for Southern Miss, matching the school record. He hit 58 in his three years in Hattiesburg, setting a school mark. (He’s now mashing homers in Double-A ball for Minnesota.) Current USM slugger Christopher Sargent — who batted .524 in five games in the Hattiesburg Regional — has rather quietly cranked out 21 homers this season with at least two more games to play in the Super Regional. … With Mississippi State, the defending national champ, sitting at home this postseason, no Bulldogs are mounting any assault on the school’s single-season home run record of 29, shared by Rafael Palmeiro and Bruce Castoria.

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