This past year has been nothing short of a whirlwind for Ole Miss fans, students, players and staff. As 2022 comes to an end, we look back on the highlight reel of events that occurred throughout the year, with Ole Miss baseball taking the top spot.
Some may call it a miracle season, fate or even the greatest comeback of all time. However you describe it, be sure to include the well-earned title of “2022 College World Series National Champions.”
Ole Miss defied all the odds, shocked the baseball world and made history on June 26, 2022. Through a season filled with ups and downs, the Rebels went from No. 1 in the nation to rock-bottom in just a few short weeks.
Head coach Mike Bianco and the Rebels knew that this team was filled with talent, yet the losses piled up at the end of the regular season. Following a first-round loss in the SEC Tournament, the Rebels headed back to Oxford to anxiously await their possible, but unlikely, NCAA Tournament bid.
With every selection announced, they continued to lose hope. As the final pick in a field of 64 teams, someone on that NCAA selection committee thought that the Rebels deserved a chance.
At this moment, the morale of the team was completely turned around.
Ole Miss traveled to the University of Miami for the Coral Gables Regional, but a tropical storm descended on Coral Gables. The Rebels decided that it would take more than a few rain delays to keep them down.
Once the weather allowed, Ole Miss matched up against the same Arizona team that shot down the Rebels’ hopes of a trip to Omaha only a year prior, ultimately defeating the Wildcats 7-4 in Game 1.
The Rebels took on the Miami boys with the home field advantage for Game 2, coming out with a 2-1 win in a nailbiter.
Ole Miss and Arizona met once again in Game 3, but the Rebels were done playing around, demolishing the Wildcats 22-6.
Captain Tim Elko was the difference-maker in this game, going yard three times in one game for the first time in his career to rightfully earn the title of regional MVP. Ole Miss was named regional champions, but their story was far from over.
Although the Rebels did not have to travel far for the super regional, they did have to defeat a very talented Southern Miss team, not once, but
twice. The boys brought the heat in Hattiesburg, overcoming the Golden Eagles 10-0 in Game 1 and 5-0 in Game 2 to punch their ticket to the College World Series.
Bianco made it a point to tell his team throughout the
postseason to “enjoy the ride,” and enjoy it they did. Ole Miss headed to Omaha with one goal in mind and never lost sight of that.
The Rebels matched up against Auburn for their first game on college baseball’s biggest stage, ultimately defeating the Tigers 5-1.
At this point, Ole Miss was in the final stretch to making their dreams a reality, but a huge battle lied ahead. The Rebels took on fellow SEC West team Arkansas in the semi-final series of the CWS, defeating the Razorbacks 13-5 in Game 1.
But the Razorbacks did not back down, taking Game 2 away from the Rebels 2-3. In a make-or-break game for both teams, the Rebels prevailed 2-0 in Game 3 to advance to the championship series.
Thousands of Ole Miss fans booked flights and hit the highway heading to Nebraska to cheer on the Rebels and experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Rebels faced off against an excellent Oklahoma team in the championship series with red and blue flooding the stadium around them.
Winning Game 1 was vital in this series, and the Rebels did it with ease, taking an early 4-0 lead after three innings. The Sooners cut it to a two-run lead in the bottom of the sixth. The Rebels answered in the best way possible, with back-to-back-to-back bombs by TJ McCants, Calvin Harris and Justin Bench that sent Rebel nation into a frenzy. Never trailing, Ole Miss defeated the Sooners 10-3 in an exciting first game.
Ole Miss needed to win only one more game to close the book of their fair-tale story. Just like the Rebels’ season, this championship game was a rollercoaster ride.
A two-run seventh inning gave the Sooners a 2-1 lead, but the Rebels decided to kick it into high gear in the bottom of the eighth. TJ McCants came in clutch once again with a crucial base hit to begin the rally, with three more runs to follow. Ole Miss brought in closer Brandon Johnson to finish the job, and after a 1-2-3 inning, the Ole Miss Rebels were named the 2022 CWS National Champions for the first time in school history.
Being the last team in, the Rebels played with a chip on their shoulder while also “enjoying the ride” as Bianco instructed them to. Through true teamwork and unwavering belief, the Rebels turned their dreams to reality.
Rebel pitcher Dylan DeLucia rightfully was named MVP of the CWS, but freshman pitchers Hunter Elliott and Jack Dougherty deserve much recognition as well for their amazing performances throughout the postseason.
DeLucia was joined on the all-tournament team by Elko, Bench, Harris, Kevin Graham and Kemp Alderman.
This team not only accomplished their overall goal, but also inspired many Rebel fans and people all around the country. The moral of this story: Don’t stop believing.