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From Tupelo to Omaha: Why Golden Wave coach Justin Reed is not surprised by Ole Miss freshman Hunter Elliott's success

The former Golden Wave pitcher has shined on every level, and now he's headed for college baseball's biggest stage

JACKSON — Ole Miss freshman Hunter Elliott has been a force on the mound for College World Series-bound Rebels over the last month and a half.

The left-hander won all five of his starts since May 7, beating Missouri, LSU, Texas A&M, and Miami before closing out the Hattiesburg Super Regional with a dominant performance against host Southern Miss Sunday afternoon.

In his last five starts, Elliott has allowed just 10 runs on 18 hits over 30 innings with 39 strikeouts and 14 walks.

His last start was his best — the freshman went 7.1 innings and allowed just three hits, striking out 10 without issuing a walk in an over-the-top hostile environment to help the Rebels punch their ticket to Omaha.

That performance might have shocked a lot of the Mississippi baseball world, but it came as less of a surprise to Tupelo High coach Justin Reed, who coached the Golden Wave to the North State Championship in 2021 with Elliott at the helm.

“What you’re seeing now is what he always did for us,” Reed said Monday. “We handed him the ball as a freshman and he was immediately our number one. I guess he’s doing the same thing now, but for another team at a higher level.”

Reed and Elliott keep in touch, exchanging texts and calls weekly. During Sunday’s incredible start against 11-seed Southern Miss, Reed was in the car on the way home from another baseball event with his wife and son in Atlanta.

They had the game on in the car, and Reed kept taking breaks from driving to watch.

“You gotta pull for any player that goes on to the next level,” Reed said. “But like everyone else around here, I’m super proud of him. Seeing him compete on probably the second-largest stage in college baseball was special, and now he’s going to compete on the biggest stage.”

Reed said he’s watched Elliott pitch several times down the stretch, including a start in Starkville against Mississippi State back on April 22. He said the biggest difference between the pitcher who started in the North State Championship in 2021 and the guy who took the hill for Ole Miss Sunday is his off-speed pitches.

“He lived off the fastball in high school,” Reed said. “And more times than not, he would beat people. Now, all of his secondary pitches are so much better than they were. It’s not as easy to get guys out at the college level, but he’s been able to do it thanks to a noticeable difference in his secondary stuff. 

Reed added that Elliott's demeanor on the mound hasn't changed, but that's made his run even more admirable.

"It’s not like he was never nervous pitching for us," he said. "But every time I see him out there now, it looks as though he’s a 20-year-old junior who has been here before.”

Now it’s on to Omaha and the College World Series.

Reed has another full weekend of baseball next week just outside Houston, but if the Rebels make it to the final weekend and the best-of-three, winner-take-all series, you can bet he will be there when Elliott takes the mound.

“He’s always been such a hard worker,” Reed said Monday. “The thing you need to know about Hunter is that he handles his business. Not just with the baseball stuff either. Whether it’s something in the classroom or his diet or workout — he took care of it. I'm excited to see what he can do in Omaha."