Wow. That’s all you can really say at the moment.
The journey for Ole Miss baseball continues to the CWS Championship Series after Thursday’s victory over Arkansas. This was the third time the Rebs faced the Hogs in Omaha. After a heart-breaking loss on Wednesday night that nearly saw a comeback victory for the Rebels, they bounced back in a big way and took the decisive third game to face Oklahoma.
Thursday’s game was a weird one to process. It’s hard to quantify, but it felt like the vibes were off from the start. Hagen Smith and the Arkansas pitching staff had a lot to do with that, putting together a gem of a performance and only allowing two runs on five hits with 13 strikeouts on the day.
While the Razorbacks’ arms were excellent, let’s not forget about transfer senior John Gaddis who took the bump for the Rebels. After a regular season that saw him in and out of the starting rotation, he put together a solid performance going five innings, allowing just four hits and two runs, both coming on solo shots by Chris Lanzilli and Brady Slavens.
The Rebel offense had a tough time at the plate on Thursday afternoon, particularly struggling with the slider throughout the day. The one bright spot for the Rebs came from Kemp Alderman, who went 3-for-4 including a homer and two runs scored.
Down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the Rebs had an opportunity to tie or even win with the bases loaded and nobody out. Arkansas turned to Zack Morris, who started in the first game in Omaha against the Rebs, to close this one out, and he did it by only allowing one hit in his inning of work. Arkansas forced a winner-take-all match-up that would decide the second finalist in the tournament on Thursday afternoon.
Thursday’s game was a conundrum in its own way, too. The biggest game of either side’s season was played at three o’clock in the afternoon which determined who would play Oklahoma in the CWS Finals. Ole Miss would trot out their ace Dylan DeLucia in need of yet another solid performance to give them a chance.
And he did just that. Arguably the greatest single-game performance in the history of Ole Miss baseball, DeLucia threw a complete-game shutout. Loosh went the full nine only allowing four hits with seven strikeouts. An even more impressive stat, DeLucia only allowed two runners past first base in the entirety of the game. In the CWS, DeLucia has logged 16.2 innings, allowed eight hits, one run and seventeen strikeouts.
As for the Rebel offense, they were met with yet another elite arm in Connor Noland. On any other day, Noland pitches well enough to win this one, only giving up two runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts. To put it into perspective on just how good the pitching was in this one, there were zero walks from either side, nor any hit batsmen.
Alas, the Rebel offense found a way and scratched across two pivotal runs via a Kevin Graham RBI-double in the fourth, scoring Justin Bench and a Calvin Harris RBI-single in the seventh that plated Captain Tim Elko. Graham notched his 50th RBI on the season in a 2-for-4 day at the dish.
The Rebels have earned their right to be here, but they realize the job isn’t done. They have at least two more games to finish this journey.
Ole Miss will take on Oklahoma in a three-game series beginning Saturday at 6 p.m. CDT with Jack Dougherty confirmed to be the Game 1 starter.