By Jake Davis
The Ole Miss Rebels win a national championship at last.
The Rebels’ baseball team defeated Oklahoma in back-to-back games in the College World Series final to clinch the first NCAA-recognized national championship in a major men’s sport in school history on June 26, 2022.
They went 10-1 in the NCAA tournament, outscoring opponents 82-25 over those 11 games as they caught fire at the perfect time.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for head coach Mike Bianco and company however.
Ole Miss started the season as a consensus top-five team in the country, and worked their way up to the No. 1 spot in the polls after jumping out to a 13-1 start.
Then, everything fell apart.
The Rebels lost 18 out of 29 games from March 13 to May 1, including midweek losses to Southern Miss, Southeast Missouri and Southeastern Louisiana.
They saw their postseason hopes start to fade as they fell out of the top 25 and tumbled to the bottom of the conference standings.
On May 2 they sat at 7-14 in SEC play—tied with Missouri and Kentucky for the worst record in the conference.
That’s when Bianco brought in former Rebel and 2016 World Series champion Chris Coghlan to speak with the team.
Coghlan told the players to stick to the goals they set for themselves at the beginning of the season and not let any of the outside noise affect the way they view themselves, their teammates or their coaches.
“He challenged the guys,” Bianco said. “He said your job is to win a national championship. That was your goal a month ago. Why would you let somebody on the internet talk you out of your goals—somebody that you wouldn’t listen to for advice to hit or pitch… he said as long as you’re still playing and as long as there’s games and you can reach there I don’t know why you would want to.”
That midseason meeting seemed to energize the team as they won eight out of 10 games to close the regular season and put themselves back in the NCAA tournament conversation.
They sat on the “Last Four In” line heading into the SEC tournament, but a loss to Vanderbilt in the opening round allowed other bubble teams to surge past them with résumé-boosting wins late in the season.
By the time ESPN’s Selection Show rolled around on Memorial Day, most major publications predicted the Rebels were on the outside looking in.
The selection committee shocked the college baseball world however, picking Ole Miss as the final team in the field of 64 and sending them to the Coral Gables (Florida) regional hosted by No. 6 Miami.
The Rebels took their chance and ran with it—sweeping their regional before securing their first two shutouts of the season in back-to-back wins over No. 11 Southern Miss in the Hattiesburg Super Regional to reach the College World Series for the first time since 2014.
They continued to dominate in Omaha as they knocked off SEC West rivals Auburn and Arkansas to start 2-0 in the College World Series for the first time in program history.
That edge they gained in the first two games proved crucial as a slip-up against Arkansas in the first semifinal game put them on the brink of elimination for the first time in the postseason.
With their season on the line the Rebels turned to junior ace Dylan DeLucia, who responded with the best pitching performance in program history to send Ole Miss to their first-ever College World Series final.
The Northwest Florida State transfer tossed a complete game shutout against the Razorbacks—becoming the first Rebel to ever accomplish the feat in a postseason game.
He used a lethal two-seam fastball-slider combination to keep Arkansas’s hitters off-balance, allowing just four hits and zero walks while recording seven strikeouts.
The Rebels then dominated in the finals against Oklahoma, winning game one 10-3 before coming from behind in the late innings to knock off the Sooners with a 4-2 victory in game two that secured the first national championship in the 121-year history of Ole Miss Baseball.
“These guys worked really hard, and I think they showed a lot of people that you can fall down, you can stumble and you can fall, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure.” Bianco said. “If you continue to work hard, you continue to believe you can accomplish anything.”