2021 SEC Baseball Tournament thoughts and takeaways: Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss

 Chris Lee   in Baseball

HOOVER, Ala.--Here are some takeaways from Vanderbilt's 5-4 win over Ole Miss in a game that started on Wednesday and ended on Thursday.  

Dominic Keegan photo courtesy of Vanderbilt athletics. 

Vanderbilt's Dominic Keegan singled to right to drive in Enrique Bradfield Jr. and send the Commodores into a Thursday night game with Arkansas. Here are some takeaways for both teams. 

- Vanderbilt starting pitcher Christian Little had folks buzzing and rightfully so. Little, who still hasn't turned 18, was sitting 95-97 with his fastball, but perhaps more importantly, his 88-89-mile-and-hour change-up was the perfect secondary pitch to keep Ole Miss off balance. Little allowed just five runners and one run in 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

It was the best outing Little's thrown all year. The Commodores need a consistent third starting pitcher (who doesn't?) and if Vandy gets that from Little going forward, it may be the national title favorite?

- So about that "going forward" part: Little left in the sixth after a long meeting, one set off after Little looked down at his right arm after throwing a pitch to Kevin Graham. That's the kind of scene that sparks a lot of fears but Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin afterwards chalked it up to cramps or muscle spasms, and said his removal was precautionary.

- As for the Rebels: Nobody likes to lose a game last night but Ole Miss has to feel much better about its situation, especially on the mound. Derek Diamond was basically as dominant and overpowering as Vandy's Little was and that is exactly what coach Mike Bianco's team needs right now. 

We saw how good Doug Nikhazy's been all season. If Ole Miss can get that out of Diamond, it's going to be hard to beat the Rebels in a regional and especially a super regional.

- If Keegan hadn't walked it off, the talk of today would have been Ole Miss DH Tim Elko, who hit two impressive home runs and accounted for all four RBIs. Elko is of the best stories in the league: He was potentially headed for an SEC Player of the Year season before tearing a knee ligament.

That ligament is still torn and Elko spent about a month on the sidelines, but the Rebels have found a way to plug him back in. Elko can't run the bases well, but he's hit four home runs since he's returned, and that adds a huge spark to an Ole Miss lineup that was already loaded.