How did the last team selected in the field of 64 in the NCAA Baseball Tournament go undefeated in the Coral Gables Regional?
The Ole Miss pitching staff was unfazed by weather delays and remained steady and reliable through all three games June 4-6. Let’s take a look at the rainy weekend in Coral Gables.
Game 1 vs. Arizona: Rematch
In a rematch of last year’s super regional, the Ole Miss Rebels were looking for retribution against the Arizona Wildcats. And they found it in a final score of 7-4, knocking the Wildcats into the losers’ bracket. Game 1 set the tone for the rest of the regional, with both teams relying on the long ball to score.
The Rebels took the field with everything to prove and everything to lose, and they came out on top.
Peyton Chatagnier was instrumental in the win, going 3-for-4 at-bat, including a home run and four RBIs. Jacob Gonzalez also had two RBIs.
Kevin Graham, Justin Bench, Tim Elko and Hayden Leatherwood also had hits in Game 1. Ole Miss closer Brandon Johnson sealed the deal in the bottom of the ninth inning, striking out three consecutive Arizona batters with the bases loaded.
Game 2 vs. Miami: Dueling Pitchers
Game 2, the lowest-scoring game of the regional, was a pitchers’ duel.
For five innings, Ole Miss’ Hunter Elliot matched Miami’s Carson Palmquist before he was relieved by Mason Nichols in the top of the sixth.
Nichols struck out all seven batters he faced and was credited with his first win as a Rebel. Brandon Johnson took over in the top of the eighth inning and sealed the deal with a fly-out and two strikeouts in the top of the ninth inning, sending the Rebels to the regional final.
The only runs scored the entire game were a single run off of a sacrifice fly by Miami and runs by Bench and Gonzalez batted in by an Elko double, ending with a 2-1 Ole Miss victory.
Game 3 vs. Arizona: Rematch, the remix
The Ole Miss Rebels found themselves facing the Arizona Wildcats again as the final hurdle to advance to the next stage of the NCAA tournament. This year, the Rebels eliminated the Wildcats. With a final score of 22-6, the final game was the highest-scoring of the regional.
Elko proved himself once again, hitting three home runs in one game for the first time in his career, batting in five runs and hitting 4-for-4 in the final game. Elko was also named the Coral Gables Regional MVP.
Chatagnier and Kemp Alderman batted in six and five runs respectively, with Alderman’s grand slam home run in the fifth inning putting the Rebels up by five. Graham, Bench and Calvin Harris also batted in runs to add to the Rebel lead.
The final game stood in stark contrast to Ole Miss’ previous matchup against Miami. Ball after ball was slammed deep into the outfield, but after the fifth inning, the Arizona Wildcats couldn’t match the Rebel bats.
The Cats would score just one more run in the seventh inning, putting an imperceptible dent in the lead established by the seven runs scored by Ole Miss in the sixth inning. The Rebels would drive in three more runs in the ninth inning before the game concluded with a staggering score of 22-6.
Despite a mid-season slump, a poor showing at the SEC tournament, doubts Ole Miss would even make the NCAA tournament and a tropical storm that delayed the games, the Rebel coaches and players put together an incredible performance, dominating the Coral Gables Regional.
The Rebels will compete against Southern Miss in the Hattiesburg Regional on June 11 and 12 at 3 p.m. CST on ESPNU. Game 3 will be played on June 13 if necessary.