Derek Diamond gets the call to start the super regional for Ole Miss
Derek Diamond, back a few years ago, thought he’d pitch at Arizona’s Hi Corbett Field during his college career.
He just thought, at the time, it would be for Stanford in the regular season.
But the one-time Cardinal commit isn’t just isn’t just throwing a random regular season game against the Wildcats (43-15, 21-9). He’s starting game one of the Tucson Super Regional for the No. 12 seed Rebels (44-20, 18-12) Friday at 8 p.m. CT. Tucson is just under six hours from Diamond hometown, Ramona, California, not particularly close but by far the nearest venue he’s pitched in during his two years with Ole Miss.
“It felt great (throwing off the Arizona mound during Thursday’s practice),” Diamond said. “Felt a little bit back home. Feels kind of like being in Southern California. Definitely a different heat than the South, so I wanted to get up on the mound and see how it felt. Felt good.”
Arizona recruited Diamond, a top-50 national prospect, per Perfect Game, before he chose Stanford. Despite an excellent GPA and above average test scores, Stanford denied his enrollment during his senior year. He chose Ole Miss over TCU, Virginia, LSU and others in a flurry of a late recruitment.
The path led here, and Diamond is charged for the second week in a row with starting things off for the Rebels. Doug Nikhazy will throw one of the other games in this two-out-of-three series.
Diamond threw 92 pitches in 4.1 shutout innings against Southeast Missouri in the regional opener, and he came back for 21 pitches on Monday in the championship game against Southern Miss.
“In the back of my mind, just didn’t want to throw Doug (Friday),” Mike Bianco said. “We’ve asked so much of him, and he’s always responded. Derek’s not necessarily on short rest… This time of year, it’s really how they feel. It’s not so much the rest or not rest, it’s trying to make sure they feel good.
“We wanted to make sure we looked at enough tape, looked at enough scouting reports, looked at the stats, tried to figure out the best matchup. Derek checks all the boxes.”
Diamond would typically throw a bullpen on Tuesday during Friday starts and work in some other throwing exercises, but with the shorter week he took more time off but threw off a mound a couple times in very short sessions.
“You’re playing tournament baseball, and some guys are off schedule and on short rest, so each week you take each guy through his own deal… the biggest thing you can do for them is make sure they feel good, that they feel ready and strong,” Bianco said.
Arizona leaders major conference programs in runs, on-base percentage and hits — and is second in slugging percentage behind Vanderbilt. The Wildcats are better rested, winning their regional in here games, with a win over Grand Canyon last Friday and wins of UC Santa Barbara on Saturday and Sunday.
Arizona declined to announced any probable starters for the weekend. Chase Silseth started the regional opener and gave up nine hits and four runs to Grand Canyon in four innings. He has a 5.53 ERA in 86.1 innings.
The Wildcats won the PAC 12 regular season title, are 30-7 at home and went 14-9 against top-50 RPI opponents. Arizona is 6-6 against top-25 RPI teams, winning series against Oregon and Oregon State and losing series to UCLA and Stanford.
“They just score runs,” Bianco said. They hit the ball in the gap. We’re going to have our hands full as a pitching staff.”