by Joseph W. Gex II, Contributing Writer

(Photos by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher)

In perhaps the biggest baseball series in Mississippi history, the unranked Ole Miss Rebels swept the #11-ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles in the best-of-three series this past weekend to punch their ticket to the College World Series in Omaha that begins on Friday.
The series pit families and households against one another for the weekend. In the end, the 10,943 fans that showed up for the two-game series can rest easy as the state of Mississippi will be represented in Omaha, regardless of the outcome.
The Rebels (37-22) not only swept the Golden Eagles (47-19) but they also shut them out for the series.
Ole Miss beat USM 10-0 in Game 1 on Saturday and 5-0 in Game 2 on Sunday.
Not too bad for a team that abandoned starting pitchers in April and was just 7-14 in Southeastern Conference play at the beginning of May.
Head coach Mike Bianco and his staff never gave up challenging their roster and the senior leadership led by captain Tim Elko remained headstrong in their quest to advance to Omaha.
Bianco commented, “This is a really special group of players that did not give up on themselves, their teammates, or their goals. The older guys on the roster did not let the team go. We continued to challenge this group throughout the toughest parts of the season and they did not give up. I am very proud of this group of young men. I also want to congratulate coach Scott Berry and the USM team on a tremendous series and an outstanding season.”
Game 1 Ole Miss 10 USM 0
On Saturday, Hurston Waldrep retired the side for USM and Dylan DeLucia did the same for Ole Miss in the first inning.
In the second inning, Calvin Harris of Ole Miss broke up the no-hitter with an infield single but the Rebels stranded two runners. In the bottom half of the frame, Slade Wilks slapped a double to break up the no-hitter for Ole Miss as USM also stranded two runners.
Waldrop got behind early in the third inning walking the first two Rebel batters and Tim Elko recorded an RBI single to leftfield scoring Justin Bench to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead.
Kemp Alderman drove in Jacob Gonzalez with a sacrifice fly to make the score 2-0.
DeLucia retired the side in the bottom of the third.
In the top of the fourth, Peyton Chatagnier opened the fram with a ground rule double to leftfield. He scored on a double by Garrett Wood to make the tally 3-0.
In the bottom half of the frame, Christopher Sargent hit a triple to the centerfield wall but could not get home.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, USM loaded the bases with two outs when Rodrigo Montenegro and Carson Paetow drew walks and Dustin Dickerson singled; however, Reece Ewing struck out to end the inning. Ewing did appear to hit a grand slam with two strikes but the ball drifted just foul in rightfield before the final swing of the inning.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Rebels scored seven runs on five hits as USM used four pitchers in the frame.
The Rebels with hits in the inning were Harris (single), Gonzalez (single), Elko (double), Kevin Graham (double), and Hayden Dunhurst (single).
In the game, Waldrep threw 5.0 innings for USM allowing six hits, five runs, four walks, and fanning 12 batters on 101 pitches. Wilks was the lone player with multiple hits for USM with two.
DeLucia threw 5.2 innings and allowed four hits with nine strikeouts and two walks on 108 pitches. At the plate, Ole Miss was paced by Elko with two hits and three RBI and Harris with two hits. Graham also added two RBI.
USM head coach Scott Berry stated, “Ole Miss did a great job today. We did not manage situations well. We had a few opportunities in the first four innings but we let then slip away.”
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco stated, “I was very proud of players today and the effort they put forth. Our staff did a tremendous job getting the players ready and we were able to string together some good at-bats. Dylan DeLucia put us in a situation to win the game and we were able to help him at the plate.”
Game 2 Ole Miss 5   USM 0

University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Golden Eagles Catcher Blake Johnson takes a swing in the top of the third inning against the Ole Miss Rebels at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg, Miss. on Sunday, June 12, 2022. The baseball game is the second of the series of the NCAA Super Regional. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

On Sunday, Tanner Hall drew the start for USM while Hunter Elliott stepped to the mound for Ole Miss.
Elliott, a true freshman, retired the side in the top of the first.
Justin Bench tallied an infield single for the Rebels other second pitch of the game followed by another infield hit by Gonzalez. After a fielder’s choice, the Rebels hit into a double play to end the inning.
Will McGillis collected an infield hit for USM but he was not able to get around the basepaths.
Ole Miss got Kemp Alderman aboard with a walk and Hayden Dunhurst recorded a single. However, Hall fanned the next three Rebels to end the second inning.
Elliott answered in the top of the third for Ole Miss by fanning the side and Hall answered in kind retiring three Rebels to close out the third inning.
The fourth inning was much of the same for both teams.
In the top of the fifth, Elliott stymied the Golden Eagles to help set the stage for Ole Miss to tally three runs in the bottom half of the frame.
Harris singled to lead off the inning followed by a double from Bench. Gonzalez tapped an infield hit that scored Harris for the first run of the game. Bench scored on a past ball for the 2-0 difference. Two batters later, Graham hit an RBI single to rightfield to score Bench for a 3-0 lead.
Elliott retired the side in the top of the sixth inning. In the bottom half, Dunhurst led off with a single and three batters later Bench drove home Dunhurst with a single to leftfield for a 4-0 score for the Rebels.
The seventh inning was uneventful except for personnel changes. USM relieved Hall in the bottom of the sixth after giving up eight hits and four runs while fanning six batters on 89 pitches. The Rebels sent TJ McCants to centerfield and Bench replaced Wood at third base.
In the top of the eighth inning, Elliott surrendered two hits in the first three batters and was replaced by John Mallitz. Elliott threw 7.1 innings and surrendered three hits and fanned 10 batters on 97 pitches.
Mallitz fanned his first batter, walked the next and forced a pop-fly for the third out stranding three Golden Eagle runners.
In the bottom half of the eighth with two outs, McCants smacked a solo homerun to right centerfield to give Ole Miss a 5-0 lead.
In the top of the ninth, Mallitz forced USM into two ground outs and a pop-fly to Elko for the third and final out.
Elko returned for his final year to make it to Omaha and he helped pull the Rebels to the ultimate prize in college baseball.
Berry added, “First, I want to congratulate Ole Miss and Mike Bianco on the two games they played here this weekend. I have the utmost respect for Coach Bianco, his players, and how they play the game. We did some great things this year winning 47 games, hosting a regional and super-regional. Our program continues to grow. Their young pitcher was phenomenal and he has not even broke a razor out yet. He mixed his velocity and pitches extremely well. We knew that Ole Miss would be a tough offense to navigate through but we also did not create anything for ourselves. We are cheering for Ole Miss now and the state of Mississippi is represented in the College World Series again.”
In Game 2, USM managed just three hits and struck out 11 times.
Ole Miss collected 10 hits and also struck out 11 times; however, the Rebels got hot at the right time.
Bianco stated, “We were able to make Tanner Hall work early and we took advantage of situations. Hunter Elliott threw well today. Before the Missouri series this year, Chris Coghlan came to speak to the team and he challenged them to not listen to the noise or let someone on the outside change their goals, to never settle. This team has taken that to heart.”
This is the sixth trip to the College World Series for the Rebels and second trip under Mike Bianco. The Rebels are matched up with the winner of Auburn/Oregon State in the CWS for their first game. The two teams were playing a winner-take-all Game 3 on Monday.
The teams that have advanced to the CWS are Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Texas, and Notre Dame. The CWS begins play on Friday, June 17. Ole Miss will open play on Saturday, June 18.