OMAHA, Neb. — The 2022 Men’s College World Series matchup is ready, as Ole Miss avenged a heartbreaking Wednesday night time loss to SEC West rival Arkansas with a grinder of a 2-0 win.
The Rebels transfer on to face Oklahoma in a best-of-three title bout that begins Saturday night time at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Had anybody approached you midseason, or perhaps a month in the past, and instructed you that Ole Miss can be in that championship sequence, you’d have thought they had been mendacity. No one then might have seen this coming. At least nobody however the Rebels themselves.
During the preseason, manner again in January, first baseman/crew captain/Oxford, Mississippi people hero Tim Elko mentioned, “If we get to Omaha, we will probably be nationwide champions.” He doubled down on that prediction in the course of the NCAA match. His crew unexpectedly made it Omaha. Now it’s two wins away from making Elko into Joe Namath.
“The feelings are nice. We’re excited to get to play in the nationwide championship sequence,” mentioned the fifth-year senior who went 1-4 on Thursday. “This is why we got here again. We knew this crew had potential and, clearly, we had a tough patch in the center [of the season]. But we undoubtedly knew we might be proper right here.”
After the primary 11 video games of the eight-team MCWS offered nothing however drama-less routs, the previous two contests between the Rebels and Razorbacks had been each tense from the primary pitch to the final. For Mississippi, each one of many pitches Thursday was thrown by ace Dylan DeLucia (8-2), who tossed a complete-game shutout with seven strikeouts and solely 4 hits surrendered.
Ole Miss managed solely seven hits over eight innings in opposition to Arkansas starter and postseason all-star Connor Noland (8-6), however two of these hits, each exhausting grounders that discovered their manner by the infield, drove in one run every and that was sufficient.
“I used to be in the tunnel watching once I wasn’t pitching, and you may really feel Dylan was in a groove,” Noland mentioned. “That means it’s important to step it up and we did that. It simply did not go our manner.”
“It’s among the finest pitchers’ duels I’ve ever seen in Omaha, and I’ve been coming right here for some time,” added Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn, making his ninth journey to Omaha as a head coach and seventh with the Razorbacks. “The recreation lasted what, 2 hours and quarter-hour? I like good baseball. Smart hitting, nice pitching, good protection. And that was good baseball.”
“I simply stayed with it,” DeLucia mentioned, smiling, in regards to the uncommon full recreation. “I saved seeing all these zeros going up on the board and I assumed, effectively, perhaps I’ll lastly get to complete one!”
Ole Miss is enjoying nearly as good a model of baseball as any crew in the nation, however after a preseason filled with promise, it took this crew all yr to lastly fulfill its potential. The Rebels climbed to a No. 1 rating early in the season, however accidents and a sequence of shut losses despatched them tumbling out of the highest 25, at one level sitting on a brutal 7-14 SEC convention document. Then they had been bounced from the SEC match after just one recreation, a 3-1 opening loss to Vanderbilt.
The subsequent week, when the 64-team NCAA bracket was introduced, many inside the Ole Miss athletic division did not even tune in to the choice present broadcast as a result of they assumed their crew would not be in the sector. Instead, they had been listed among the many final 4 groups to squeak in.
From there the Rebels have posted an 8-1 postseason document, none at dwelling in Oxford, and are actually enjoying for the primary nationwide baseball title in program historical past.
DeLucia wasn’t even in the rotation over the primary half of the season. Now he is the ace who received his crew into the title bout with a rested bullpen. Before this week the Rebels had by no means gained greater than two video games in a single College World Series over 5 earlier appearances. Now they’re 3-1 and on the large stage.
“I’m simply proud. One of the challenges we talked about was to not simply come right here, however to win,” mentioned a beaming Mike Bianco after the victory. He’s in his twenty second season on the helm of Ole Miss, and quite a lot of occasions in latest years he gave the impression to be on the cusp of being fired, together with throughout this yr’s midseason struggles.
Van Horn even alluded to that in his postgame information convention, the sharks circling his longtime SEC West rival and good friend. Bianco shrugged off such discuss Thursday, as he at all times has. “It’s not imagined to be simple, proper? And you have to be robust sufficient to deal with it,” he mentioned.
So far, the Rebels actually have been.
“All you need is an opportunity to play for a nationwide championship,” Elko mentioned. “Now we’ve one.”