OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The last team to enter the NCAA baseball tournament was the last team standing.
Mississippi scored twice on wild pitches in an eighth inning three-run, and the Rebels captured their first baseball national title, sweeping Oklahoma in the College World Series Finals with a 4-2 win. sunday.
The Rebels (42-23) became the eighth national champion since 2009 to come out of the Southeastern Conference and the third in a row, and the trophy will stay in Magnolia State for another year. Mississippi State won last year.
“There’s so much to say about everything we’ve overcome this year, how much we’ve had to fight, how much we’ve had to pick ourselves up and never let ourselves down,” said team captain Tim Elko. “The story of our season is going to be told for years and years to come.”
Ole Miss took advantage of a runner interference call that took Oklahoma (45-24) in the sixth inning. The Rebels also overcame a spectacular pitching performance from Cade Horton, who set a CWS Finals record with 13 strikeouts.
Brandon Johnson hit the team in a 1-2-3 ninth inning, with catcher Hayden Dunhurst running to the mound to kiss and then tackle Johnson after Sebastian Orduno swung and missed the final pitch.
The national title is the first for an Ole Miss men’s team and the second for the school. The women’s golf team won the NCAA championship in 2021.
It’s been an unlikely trip for the Rebels and 22nd-year coach Mike Bianco, who came under fire when his team was 22-17 overall and 7-14 in the SEC on May 1.
Ole Miss beat North Carolina State for the final overall bid and had to hit the road for Regionals and Super Regionals. The Rebels finished the season with a 20-6 record, including 10-1 in the national tournament.
Their only CWS loss was 3-2 to Arkansas on Wednesday. The next day, Dylan DeLucia threw a four-hit shutout to beat the Razorbacks and send the Rebels to the Finals. DeLucia was named the CWS’ Most Outstanding Player after allowing one earned run, striking out 17 and walking none in 16 2/3 innings.
Ole Miss, who won the opener of the CWS Finals 10-3, lost 2-1 going into the eighth inning on Sunday. Trevin Michael relieved Horton with one out, and Jacob Gonzalez scored from the right side to drive in the tying run.
“We kind of knew we were going to start scoring eighth or ninth,” said Gonzalez, 3 for 23 in the CWS before scoring twice and homering on Sunday. “That’s how we are. We’re going to put the pressure on. We’re not going to pull out and sit down. Luckily I had a hit and was finally able to help the team this week.”
Michael (4-2) crumbled after that, uncorking wild pitches that brought Justin Bench for the go-ahead and another to bring Gonzalez.
Hunter Elliott scattered three hits while allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings. Mason Nichols and John Gaddis (4-2) gave Johnson the game in ninth.
Horton allowed four hits and none in a stellar 107-pitch performance.
“We’ve been successful here and we’ve accomplished a lot this year,” said Horton, a first-round pick slated for next month in the Major League Baseball draft. “But we will be back. I know that because this team laid the foundation for the future of Oklahoma baseball.”
Oklahoma appeared to have taken a 1-0 lead at sixth base, but the run was called off when John Spikerman, who had a tight bunt, was called for runner interference for hindering Elko at first base while that he was trying to catch Elliott’s pitch.
Jackson Nicklaus had been hit by Elliott early in the inning and was third after a sacrifice and wild pitch. He came home on Spikerman’s bunt, but Bianco requested a video review when Spikerman was first called to safety.
Spikerman knocked off Elko’s glove as he crossed first, the ball ending up in foul territory. The call was overturned as Spikerman ruled he was inside the baseline as he crossed the sack, forcing Nicklaus back to third base.