Ole Miss to battle Arkansas with trip to semifinals on the line
Published 12:31 pm Monday, June 20, 2022
OMAHA, Neb. — Ole Miss has a legitimate chance to win a national championship.
The Rebels, who “went to hell and back” this year according to head coach Mike Bianco, looked dead in the water in early May after losing 16 out of 25 games to drop to the bottom of the SEC standings.
They caught fire at the end of the regular season however, winning eight of their final 10 games before falling to Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tournament in what appeared to be a season-ending defeat.
They were forced to stay at home for six days while other teams on the bubble bolstered their résumés with signature wins in their conference tournaments.
By the time the selection show rolled around on May 30, it appeared the Rebels would miss the tournament for just the fourth time in the Bianco era.
The selection committee shocked the college baseball world however, selecting Ole Miss over Alabama, Iowa, North Carolina State and others as the final team in the field of 64.
The Ole Miss players gathered in the team clubhouse at Oxford-University Stadium erupted with joy, leaping out of their seats and pumping their fists in the air when they heard their name called.
All we needed was a chance… pic.twitter.com/KQ2c4zW6a2
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) May 30, 2022
“When our names were called—I’ve been there for 21 of those and 18 times our name was called. I don’t remember of those 18 times ever seeing that type of emotion from our team,” said Bianco.
They took full advantage of the opportunity, sweeping the Coral Gables (Florida) regional before knocking off No. 11 Southern Miss in two games at the Hattiesburg Super Regional to secure their first College World Series berth since 2014.
They continued with their winning ways in Omaha, coming away with a 5-1 win over No. 14 Auburn on Saturday to move into the winner’s bracket for the first time since 1956.
They now turn their attention to another familiar opponent in Arkansas, a team that took two out of three games from the Rebels in Fayetteville in late April.
“We played well at Arkansas,” Bianco said. “We just kind of got in that niche where [we didn’t play] well enough. It was the third weekend in a row where we won on Friday and weren’t able to get one of the next two but they were really close games.”
Left-handed pitcher Hunter Elliott will draw the start on the mound for Ole Miss against the Razorbacks.
The Freshman All-American gave up three runs on four hits in six innings of work in a 6-3 loss to the Rebels’ in-division rivals on April 30. All three runs came on the long ball as the Arkansas offense took advantage of some missed locations to jump out to a 3-2 lead in the middle innings.
“They can hit it, they can swing it a little bit,” Elliott said when asked what he remembered about that game. “They can take advantage of mistakes like they did all weekend… but just like any team they’re pitchable if you do execute your pitches.”
The Rebels faced a rowdy, hostile environment at Baum Walker stadium back in April, and will likely enjoy a more amicable crowd in a neutral site at Charles Schwab Field.
That doesn’t mean Ole Miss players don’t have memories of “woo pig” echoing through their heads still.
Elliott said he is looking forward to being able to silence the Razorbacks fans who made the trip to Omaha.
“I would say—rather than trying to tune them out make it to where don’t do it as much would be better. If you allow less runs you won’t hear it as much,” said Elliott. “The less home runs, the less runs you allow the less ‘woo pigs’.”
The two SEC West foes will square off at 6 p.m. on Monday with a trip to the semifinals on the line. The game will be available on ESPN and the Ole Miss Radio Network.