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Omaha, NE- After winning on Saturday night, Ole Miss was nine outs away from making history with its first National Championship. Well, after a pitchers duel ensued for seven innings, the Rebels pulled away in the 8th inning to raise the trophy in front of a partisan crowd at Charles Schwab Stadium, defeating Oklahoma 4-2.
As the final pitch was thrown, Ole Miss players and fans erupted in joy, knowing they had just won the first national championship in program history. From being one of the last teams selected in the tournament to winning the title in Omaha, this has been one of the wildest comeback stories in recent college baseball. The Rebels were 7-14 at one point this season in SEC play.
As Bianco was telling the story of this fierce team he was showered with water from the players that never gave up along the way. College Baseball now runs through the State of Mississippi, after Mississippi State won the 2021 title.
It took a big comeback from the Rebels to pull this off today, especially after taking the early lead. Oklahoma had tied the game up in the 7th inning off a blooper to center field, then taking the lead after a bases loaded walk. But if there was one thing we learned from this Ole Miss team this season was their fight and they showed it again today.
Heading into the bottom 8th, Ole Miss trailed 2-1, needing another big inning from its leaders and that’s exactly what they got. After putting runners on base off Cade Horton, who had a fabulous day, it was Jacob Gonzalez who came up clutch again, with an RBI single to tie the game. Then, with runners in scoring position, a pair of wild pitches brought Justin Bench and Gonzalez home, giving them the 4-2 lead.
Speaking of the pitchers duel, what we saw from Cade Horton and Hunter Elliott will be one to remember. Horton finished the day with 13 strikeouts, while Elliott carried the Rebels for 6.2 innings, recording 6 strikeouts in the process. But in the end, the Sooners bullpen couldn’t finish the job and Ole Miss made them pay.
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) June 26, 2022
After the ugly game on Saturday, both these teams delivered on Sunday, without a doubt. rh
The only comparison I can come up with in regards to the Ole Miss faithful today in Omaha would be Oklahoma traveling to Oxford for a football game and only getting the visitors allotment. To say this was a home game would be putting it lightly, as the Sooners were playing in a hornets nest.
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco spoke about the leadership within this team and how much he appreciated the effort.
“We’re not here without the leadership. It’s cool, I am just so happy for them and to learn life lessons. These guys have been great representatives and we just want to thank the players for allowing us to be along for this ride.”
A team that looked dead in the water just two months ago, Ole Miss proved to the doubters that all they needed was a shot at redemption. Led by Tim Elko and a fantastic roster of leaders, the Rebels not only made history today, but they did it in impressive fashion. Coming off a clubbing of the Sooners on Saturday night, the expectation was Oklahoma would come back firing on all cylinders, which is what they did for seven innings. But just like we’ve seen countless times this postseason, the Rebels offense can hit you at any point in the lineup.
Mike Bianco also tried to sum up what this moment meant for not only this team, but the teams that came before.
“We’ve had so many great teams over the years and so many times, we came short of this place. It’s been really disappointing. But for 22 years, a lot of guys have worn the uniform. They are a part of this but the biggest part goes to these guys. You’ve talked about our story all week and I’ve never seen a group of kids that were more resilient, more relentless. Of course, super, super proud.”
Standing near the field following the game, I witnessed Mike Bianco try to hold back the tears as they hoisted the championship trophy. But after so many years of trying, he was finally able to get the job done in Oxford. The expressions on the face of Tim Elko said it all, as he gave Dylan DeLucia a massive hug, with overwhelmed with joy. This was the moment that Elko returned for, knowing this team was good enough to win it all, which paid off at the end.
“We came back to play one more year. There’s so much to be said for how much we overcame this year, how much we had to fight through and had to pick each other up, never letting ourselves get too down. This story of our season is going to be told for years and years to come. This is the best Ole Miss baseball team in history and it feels so good, it’s an honor to be apart of it.”
Carrying the trophy around the stadium, Ole Miss fans took it all in, throwing beers in the air while also dousing the players with something to cool them off on this gorgeous day. It was the moment they’d all been waiting for since arriving in Omaha, always saying they came here for one thing and that was the trophy.
Mike Bianco is the longest tenured coach in the Southeastern Conference, with 22 years as a head coach and after all those years he can finally say he’s a National Champion.
Making my way around the stadium I witnessed fans crying, embracing and just overwhelmed with joy after witnessing something so special. Some were pounding beers, while others were embracing in long hugs after most likely spending a lot of money to watch history.
There will be stories to come out of this season and postseason run in Omaha, but at the end of the day, all that matters is Ole Miss hoisting that trophy on the field after the game.
College Baseball rarely fails to deliver and Ole Miss made that point very clear again on Sunday.