By Arnie Leshin
Great job, Dylan DeLucia. Pitching on short rest, Mississippi righthanded senior willed his surprise team to the NCAAWorld Series championship best-of-three for the first time in program history.
It wouldn’t have forced an extra survival game Thursday if the unseeded Rebels, the last team named to the 64-team field, didn’t lose Monday’s 13-5 contest to also unseeded Arkansas at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb. That put both Southeastern Conference West teams with a loss each in the double-elimination tournament and while also unseeded Oklahoma, which won all three of its starts, was resting up and scouting things Thursday, it was winner in the showdown or pack up.
And it took a mighty effort on the hill for Ole Miss and DeLucia gained the heroics. He threw a complete game 2-0 shutout in which he allowed only four hits and no walks while striking out seven. Nothing new, for in four outings prior to the World Series he yielded five runs in 28 and 1/3 innings to go with a 1:59 earned run average and 38 strikeouts and only three walks. The result sent the Rebels into their furthest road at 40-23 while Arkansas wound up at 46-21 in a game effort.
In his two World Series starts, DeLucia solidified his status as a big game hero. He has allowed but one run on eight hits in 17 and 2/3 frames, and Ole Miss won both. All season he has thrived when he’s able to pitch to contact. That was against his strategy Thursday. The Razorbacks made frequent contact but rarely squared him up.
As for the Rebels, they rediscovered their knack for timely hits as Arkansas righthanded junior Connor Noland did very well in his own right, striking out seven in eight innings. He was touched for seven hits and only a double off the bat of left fielder Kevin Graham went for an extra base.
Starting DeLucia was a must, but it also put Old Miss in a predicament when it takes on a well-rested Oklahoma team. The problem goes right to the mound, for DeLucia will probably not be able to hurl again until game three, if there is a game three. The series begins Saturday with a 7 p.m. start, follows Sunday at 5 p.m., and winds up, if necessary, at 7 o’clock Monday night. It had been slated for Thursday, but the survival contest resjcheduled that.
So even if DeLucia gets to hurl on Monday, he’d be going on three days rest. Thus, the Rebels will have to find other pitching options like they did on Wednesday when John Gaddis, Jack Washburn and Jack Dougherty pitched well. Even if Old Miss can count on freshman southpaw Hunter Elliott in game one, it will have to count on another hurler to face the Sooners.
Oklahoma is at 45-21, has had an up-and-down season, but everything has gone smooth in the post-season. They have been doing everything right. Their pitching has been excellent both with starters and relief calls. The hitting has been timely, with about everyone doing their part. It has ranged from key safeties with runners aboard to the long ball when needed. They have struck quickly in most games, getting early leads and banking on stellar pitching and play in the field. Plus, the base running has also contributed.
Top hitters have been second baseman Clark Nicklaus, third sacker Wallace Clark, shortstop Peyton Graham, centerfielder Tanner Tredaway and catcher Jerami Crooks. This has occurred up and down the lineup, From the hills has come top performances from David Sandlin, Cade Horton, Santo Michael, and Paul Pettis, who also takes turns in left field.
The Ole Miss bats have been powered by first baseman Tim Elko, centerfielder Austin Branch, right fielder Calvin Harris, shortstop Geno Gonzales, left fielder Kevin Graham, and Vin Clive, its leading pinch-hitter who also plays some right field. Calvin Davis is the most used pinch-runner and Cal Anderson a top reserve. It scored this game on Graham’s two-out double in the fourth inning, and on Elko’s insurance single in the seventh.
Mississippi would like nothing better than to do what state and conference rival Mississippi State accomplished last season — win the World Series. But first things first and Oklahoma stands in the way as it tries to follow up the Sooners’ women’s softball national title won this same season. If so, it would be the first time this has happened in both sports.
OKLAHOMA at Gainesville, Fla, Oklahoma 9, No, 13 Florida 4
Florida 7, Oklahoma 2
Oklahoma 5, Florida 4
MISSISSIPPI at Coral Gables, Fla. Ole Miss 2, No. 6 Miami 1
Arizona 4, Miami 3 (Miami eliminated)
Ole Miss 22, Arizona 6
SUPER REGIONALS —
OKLAHOMA at Blacksburg, Va. Oklahoma 5, No. 4 Virginia Tech 4
Virginia Tech 13, Oklahoma 8
Oklahoma 10, Virginia Tech 2
MISSISSIPPI at Hattiesburg, Miss. Ole Miss 11, No. 11 Southern Miss 0
Ole Miss 5, Southern MIss 0
OKLAHOMA IN WORLD SERIES — 1951 Won 1-0 over Southern Cal
1960 Lost 8-2 to Ohio State
1981 Lost 7-4 to Arizona State
1990 Lost 2-1 to Georgia
1994 Won 13-5 over Georgia Tech
MISSISSIPPI IN WORLD SERIES 2013 Lost 8-0 to UCLA
MOST CHAMPIONSHIPS —
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 12
LOUISIANA STATE 7
ARIZONA STATE 5
CAL STATE-FULLERTSON 4
OREGON STATE 4
MIAMI (Fla.) 4
OHIO STATE 3
SOUTH CAROLINA 2
ONE EACH — WAKE FOREST, MISSOURI, HOLY CROSS, GEORGIA, WICHITA STATE, FLORIDA, FRESNO STATE, RICE, COASTAL CAROLINA, VIRGNIIA, UCLA