Apr. 1—The decision for Gunnar Hoglund wasn’t between Ole Miss and Florida, it was between Ole Miss and millions.
Ole Miss won out, and right now both Hoglund and the Rebels are happy with that decision.
Hoglund will start as an SEC pitcher in his home state for the first time when No. 3 Ole Miss (20-4, 6-0 SEC) faces No. 15 Florida (16-8, 3-3) today in Game 1 of their best-of-three weekend series.
The Gators swept Texas A&M on opening weekend and were swept by South Carolina last weekend.
First pitch tonight is 7 p.m., and the game will air on The SEC Network. First pitch times are 5:30 Friday and noon Saturday. Live-streaming through SEC Network-Plus is available for those games.
Hoglund, of Hudson, Florida, is among a handful of players from Florida on the Ole Miss roster.
He visited the Gators program in 2018 but wasn’t terribly interested in signing. He was much more interested in signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates who drafted him in the first round that spring.
“It was very tempting, out of high school to be drafted in the first round. A lot of things went into that decision not only on the baseball side but academically,” Hoglund said. “In my household my mom and dad always preached academics. Getting my degree was a huge thing.”
The degree was a box Hoglund checked last spring when he graduated in Multi-disciplinary studies.
This spring he’s having his best college season as he leads the nation in strikeouts with 65.
He went into last week’s Alabama series having thrown 14-straight scoreless innings.
He gave up three runs on solo home runs in a game the Rebels rallied to win 9-6. He had a no-decision with one walk and 10 strikeouts in six innings.
The week before he threw eight innings against Auburn with no runs, a walk and 13 strikeouts.
“The big thing is I’ve improved my whole arsenal. I can throw any pitch in any count — fastball, slider, change-up. It’s commanding those pitches and trusting myself.”
A consensus preseason All-American, Hoglund is No. 8 in D1Baseball.com‘s power rankings for starting pitchers.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco believes Hoglund is only his second first-round signee to choose college baseball.
The other was another right-handed pitcher from Florida named Alan Horne who was drafted by Cleveland with the 27th pick in 2001.
It didn’t work out at Ole Miss for Horne. He transferred, and after a year of junior college he had a nice junior season with the Gators but was drafted in the 11th round the second time.
“It’s the biggest decision in their life to that point. You’re talking millions of dollars. There are a ton of emotions not just for the player but for moms and dads,” Bianco said.
While Hoglund and many like him have struggled to make the professional or college baseball decision Bianco uses a selling point that appeals to many recruits.
“(College baseball) may be the last real team you’ll ever be part of,” Bianco said. “We say this to the kids. It’s more important that the team wins than how you perform on the field. That’s how they grew up playing sports their whole life. In professional baseball that’s not true. Nobody knows who came in second in the Florida State League. It’s more important how you perform on the field, or you’re not employed very long.”