This was the year for the Ole Miss Rebels.
A team that showed promise, but seemed to stutter at times in delivering it. A coach and players with heart, but it seemed sometimes the cards just didn’t fall right. A passionate fan base, part of which started to call for Coach Mike Bianco’s firing when the numbers weren’t looking right. Until they were the last team announced to have a berth in the College World Series.
The National Title was held at the time by cross-state arch rival Mississippi State, and there was a certain amount of resolve among the players that came from that, as well as from being chosen last. They could say they were talented enough, but so were all the others. But at least they were in.
But over the weekend the Ole Miss Rebels capped their increasingly dominant performances toward the end of the year by showing the world who they are when everything fires on all cylinders. Saturday’s decisive 10-3 win in the finals opener set the stage, punctuated by three back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning.
On Sunday, Sooners pitcher Cade Horton had 13 strikeouts, a College World Series finals record. It slowed the scoring and made for a nail-biter of a game as Ole Miss was down 2-1 in the once-again integral 8th inning and it seemed a Game 3 was eminent.
Cue Rebel Jacob Gonzales with a single that knocked in the tying run, directly followed by Sooners pitcher Trevin Michael with the assist: two wild pitches, both of which resulted in the Rebels scoring.
In the ninth, Rebel strongman Brandon Johnson knocked the Sooners down 1-2-3 to be met with a joyful tackle by catcher Hayden Dunhurst.
The crowd — no, not just the crowd. The state of Mississippi went wild.
Just like last year, some fans of MSU and rival schools were offering begrudging congratulations. Some were whole-heartedly on board, proud to be residents of the best baseball state in the country… at least for now.
This is Ole Miss’ first College World Series title. It comes in Mike Bianco’s 22nd year of coaching the Rebels. This year Ole Miss won not only the game and the party, but the National Title.