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Ole Miss beats Oklahoma for a national title, ending an incredible post-season run

 Chris Lee   in Baseball

This seemed impossible from where the Rebels were in mid-May.

Ole Miss put an exclamation point on a season for the ages, coming from behind to beat Oklahoma, 4-2, at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb., to win the school’s first baseball national title.

The Rebels rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth, and then, Brandon Johnson struck out the side in the top of the ninth to end one of the more improbable post-season stories in college baseball history. 

Shortstop Jacob Gonzalez had three of the Rebels’ six hits, and led the team with two RBIs’s, and added had a home run. 

Freshman lefty Hunter Elliott threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs with six strikeouts and two walks. John Gaddis picked up the win and Johnson got the save.  

With one out in the eighth, TJ McCants, Justin Bench and Gonzalez consecutively singled—the last two off reliever Trevin Michael—with Gonzalez’s tying the game. Michael then threw a pair of wild pitches (with a Tim Elko ground-out in between) to bring in the go-ahead runs. 

Elliott and Oklahoma starter Cade Horton were each un-hittable for the first five innings, but Ole Miss’s self-inflicted damage opened the door for Oklahoma in the fifth. Elliott hit leadoff man Jackson NIcklaus with a pitch and then Diego Muniz sacrificed hm to second. With one out, Kendall Pettis struck out swinging and catcher Hayden Dunhurst couldn’t come up with the ball, and threw high to first, which allowed Pettis to reach and Nicklaus to take third. 

And then came a gamechanging play. The Rebels then caught a huge break when John Spikerman’s infield single was overturned on review when Spikerman ran inside the baselines, wiping out both a hit and a run. Elliott got OU superstar Peyton Graham to pop to right and keep the game scoreless. 

Gonzalez then hit one over the wall in right with one out in the sixth for the game’s first run, setting off beer showers in the outfield. 

The Sooners went ahead in the bottom of the inning. Jimmy Crooks hit a two-out double, Wallace Clark walked and then Nicklaus blooped a double over Gonzalez’s head to tie the game and put two more in scoring position. 

For the second day in a row, the Rebels went to Mason Nichols—pitching on back-to-back days for the first time this season—who hit pinch-hitter Sebastian Orduno. He then walked Pettis on four pitches to put the Sooners ahead for the first time all day. 

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco then chose to go lefty-on-lefty with Gaddis on Graham and got out of it with a strikeout. 

That set the stage for Ole Miss’s three-run frame in the next half-inning. 

It concluded an NCAA tournament in which the Rebels (42-23) went 10-1 despite not playing a game at home. Ole Miss went just 14-16 in the Southeastern Conference and was 7-14 in the conference at one point, with Bianco’s job security being the topic of much public discussion. 

A mid-May sweep of LSU got the Rebels in the NCAA tournament conversation, but Ole Miss then lost two of three at home to Texas A&M in its final series before falling to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament. 

Some experts thought the Rebels, then 32-22 with an RPI in the high-30s, wouldn’t even make the tournament. 

The Rebels were the last team included in the 64-team field and were sent to the Coral Gables regional as the No. 3 seed. That’s when an unlikely run began in the most unlikely of ways.

Ole Miss’s pitching staff—which had a 5.68 ERA in SEC play—suddenly flipped a switch. 

Starter Dylan DeLucia—selected as the Most Outstanding Player in the CWS—went six innings and allowed four runs in the Rebels’ 7-4 win over Arizona in the tourney opener. Elliott followed with a five-inning, one-run outing in a 2-1 win over host Miami. The bullpen (led by Nichols and Johnson combining to finish the last four of that one) went on an incredible tear of scoreless innings in the NCAA tournament, not again allowing a run until a 3-2 loss to Arkansas on June 20, Ole Miss’s eighth game of the tourney.

Offense then carried the way in Ole Miss’s final regional game, with Elko swatting three home runs in a 22-6 demolition of Arizona. 

The Rebels then went to the Hattiesburg super regional, ousting host Southern Miss by scores of 10-0 and 5-0. DeLucia then allowed one run in seven innings in a 5-1 defeat of Auburn in Ole Miss’s CWS opener. 

Five games later, the Rebels were national champions, falling only in that lone game to Arkansas. Ole Miss squandered a chance to win that one in the ninth inning but recovered behind DeLucia’s complete-game shutout the next day in a game that sent the Rebels to the title series. 

Ole Miss becomes the third SEC team in a row to win the national title after Mississippi State (2021) and Vanderbilt (2019). Florida won the national title in 2017, with Arkansas (which finished runner-up to Oregon State in 2018) just missing a chance to give the league a string of five titles in a row. (No CWS was played in 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.)

The SEC also won three in a row when LSU won the national title in 2009 and South Carolina winning back-to-back championships the next two seasons. 

The SEC has and either the national champion or the runner-up all but one season starting with 2008.