OMAHA, Neb. — Ole Miss baseball completed its miracle turnaround Sunday, beating Oklahoma 4-2 in the College World Series finals to secure the first national championship in program history.
After going down 2-1 in the seventh inning, Ole Miss fired back with three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning thanks to an RBI single from shortstop Jacob Gonzalez and two wild pitches from Oklahoma’s All-American closer Trevin Michael.
The Rebels were the last team selected with an at-large bid to compete in the NCAA Tournament. After starting 7-14 in SEC play, the Rebels end their season winning 18 of their final 22 games, including sweeps in the Coral Gables Regional and Hattiesburg Super Regional and a 5-1 record at the College World Series.
Ole Miss’ eighth-inning rally began with a one-out single from nine-hole hitter TJ McCants against Oklahoma starter Cade Horton. The single turned the lineup over and chased Horton, bringing up leadoff hitter Justin Bench, who perfectly executed a hit-and-run to put runners on the corners for Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, who hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to give the Rebels’ their first run, ripped the first pitch he saw past the first baseman to tie the score. A pair of wild pitches from Michael scored Bench and Gonzalez, giving the Rebels the go-ahead runs.
Freshman left-hander Hunter Elliott started and impressed for Ole Miss, allowing two runs on three hits in 6 ⅔ innings. Closer Brandon Johnson earned the save and senior left-hander John Gaddis was the pitcher of record for 1 ⅓ innings of scoreless relief.
Replay review turns the game around
For a brief moment in the top of the sixth inning, Oklahoma seized the lead. The Sooners put runners on first and third with one out and turned the lineup over to leadoff hitter John Spikerman.
Spikerman nubbed a bunt toward the mound and reached safely, scoring Jackson Nicklaus from third and advancing to second on a throwing error.
But Bianco challenged the play for interference at first base by Spikerman, who he deemed interfered with first baseman Tim Elko’s ability to catch Elliott’s throw. After a review, the umpires ruled Spikerman out at first and made Nicklaus return to third base.
One pitch later, Oklahoma shortstop Peyton Graham flied out to right field to end the Sooners’ threat and keep the score at 0-0 into the bottom of the sixth.
Seventh inning turns south
Elliott induced two quick outs to start the top of the seventh inning but couldn’t get the third. He gave up a double and a four-pitch walk, followed by a high blooper into shallow left field that Graham and Gonzalez couldn’t find in the sun, falling for an RBI double.
The double chased Elliott, bringing in Saturday’s hero Mason Nichols in relief. Nichols didn’t have the same success he did the day before, hitting one batter and walking the next on four pitches to give Oklahoma a 2-1 lead.
Nichols’ hit-by-pitch almost let the Rebels escape the inning; Bianco challenged the call to see if Oklahoma’s Sebastian Orduno leaned in. Had the call been overturned, the inning would’ve ended. Instead, the call stood and Oklahoma took the lead in its next plate appearance.
Nichols was quickly replaced by senior left-hander John Gaddis who struck out Spikerman to strand the bases loaded.
Gonzalez wakes up
Gonzalez came into Sunday batting 0-for-12 in his last three games and 3-for-22 in the College World Series. The reigning national freshman of the year and projected 2023 first-round pick rediscovered his swing from him at the right time.
His sixth-inning home run gave the Rebels their first lead, traveling 393 feet up the right-centerfield bleachers. It was his 18th home run of the year, tying him for fourth-place on the Ole Miss single-season home run list.
His RBI single in the eighth inning gave him his first three-hit day since May 20.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism