OMAHA, Neb. – The last team to compete in the NCAA baseball tournament was the last team to stand.
Ole Miss scored twice on wild courts in a three-run eighth inning, and the Rebels won their first national baseball title by beating Oklahoma in the Men’s College World Series Finals in a 4-2 win on Sunday.
The Rebels (42-23) became the eighth national champion since 2009 to emerge from the Southeastern Conference and the third straight, and the trophy will stay at Magnolia State for another year. Mississippi State won last year.
“There’s a lot to be said for how much we overcame this year, how much we had to fight our way through, how much we had to pick each other up and never let it get us down,” said team captain Tim Elko. The story of our season will be told for many years to come .”
Ole Miss benefited from a runner interference call that ran Oklahoma (45-24) in the sixth inning. The Rebels also overcame a spectacular throwing performance by Cade Horton, who set an MCWS Finals record with 13 strikeouts.
Brandon Johnson hit the side in a 1-2-3 ninth inning to spark a celebration on the field and in the stands, where the majority of the 25,972 Rebels fans dressed in Ole Miss powder blue were. Catcher Hayden Dunhurst ran to the mound to hug Johnson and then attack after Sebastian Orduno swung and missed on the final throw.
It’s been an unlikely journey for the Rebels and 22nd-year-old Mike Bianco, who was under fire as his team sat at 22-17 overall and 7-14 in the SEC game on May 1.
“I think they showed a lot of people that you can fall, you can trip and you can fail, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure,” Bianco said. “If you keep working hard, you keep pushing and you keep believing that you can achieve anything. This is not a poster or tweet to motivate you. We’ve all heard that. These guys lived that this season.”
Ole Miss beat North Carolina State for the last bid at large and had to take to the streets for Regionals and Super Regionals. The Rebels finished the season on a 20-6 run, including 10-1 in the domestic tournament.
Their only loss at the MCWS was a 3-2 loss to Arkansas on Wednesday. The next day, Dylan DeLucia threw a four-hit shutout to beat the Razorbacks and send the Rebels to the Finals. DeLucia was named the MCWS Most Outstanding Player after conceding one deserved run, batting 17 and not running in 16⅔ innings. He went 2-0 with a 0.54 ERA and did not appear in the finals.
Ole Miss, who won the opener of the MCWS Finals 10-3, was down 2-1 going into the eighth inning on Sunday. Trevin Michael replaced Horton with an out, and Jacob Gonzalez hit from the right touchline to set the tie.
“I kind of knew we were going to start scoring 8th or 9th,” said Gonzalez, 3-on-23 in the MCWS before playing twice and making a home ring on Sunday. “So are we. We’ll put the pressure on. We’re not going to hit out and sit down. Luckily I got a goal and was finally able to help the team this week.”
Michael (4-2) then uncorked two wild pitches, the first of which brought in Justin Bench for the go-ahead run and another for Gonzalez. In the first, catcher Jimmy Crooks was crossed on a breaking ball. On the second, Michael’s deep pitch went under Crooks’ glove.
“I wouldn’t want anyone but Jimmy Crooks or Trevin to finish the game,” OU coach Skip Johnson said.
Ole Miss became the first team to win a championship game while trailing Stanford after seven innings since LSU in 2000. Sunday’s contest was also the first game of this year’s Men’s College World Series to feature multiple lead changes.
Ole Miss starter Hunter Elliott threw up three hits while allowing two runs in 6⅓ innings. Mason Nichols and John Gaddis (4-2) gave Johnson the game in the ninth game.
Horton allowed four hits and walked none during a 107 pitch performance.
“We made it here, and we’ve accomplished a lot this year,” said Horton, who is scheduled for a first-round draft pick in next month’s Major League Baseball draft. “But we will come back. I know this because this team laid the foundation for the future of baseball in Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma looked to have taken a 1-0 lead in game six but had to end the run when John Spikerman, who put down a squeeze bunt, was called out for interference with the runner for interfering with Elko at first base when he tried to to catch Elliott’s throw.
Jackson Nicklaus had been hit by Elliott, who was leading the inning, and was in third place after a sacrifice and a wild pitch. He came home on Spikerman’s Bunt, but Bianco asked for video verification when Spikerman was first called safe.
Bianco said he rarely watches replays on the scoreboard, but this time he did. He said he thought Spikerman was off track and came onto the field to request the video review.
“Thanks to the scoreboard,” said Bianco.
Spikerman knocked the gauntlet off Elko when he went through first, landing the ball in foul territory. The call was canceled, with Spikerman deciding he had been within baseline when he ran through the pocket and telling Nicklaus to return to third base.
Johnson asked if Bianco made his request within 30 seconds of the game ending, as required by the rules. He did not appeal the final verdict. He just didn’t like how it came about.
“If we intervene with computer referees,” he said, “then I’ll probably just go fishing.”
It was the first MCWS Finals to end in victory since 2017 when Florida beat LSU.
ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.