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Ole Miss Routs Arkansas To Keep Party Going At College World Series



OMAHA – As the Mississippi faithful are fond of saying, Ole Miss has never lost a party. On Monday at Charles Schwab Field, the Rebels kept the party going.

Ole Miss defeated Arkansas, 13-5, to advance to the bracket final at the College World Series. The Rebels are one win away from playing for the national championship. The Razorbacks on Tuesday will play Auburn in an elimination game.

Ole Miss still hasn’t lost in the NCAA Tournament. Since being one of the last four teams selected to the Field of 64, the Rebels are 7-0 and have outscored their opponents, 64-17.

“Baseball is a big momentum game, and we're building a lot of momentum right now,” lefthander Hunter Elliott said. “That's obviously what you look to do in the postseason and getting hot is a true thing in baseball. Just keep building confidence, that's what we look to do.”

The Rebels always had this kind of run in them, this is a team that ranked in the top 10 in the preseason and spent time at No. 1 in March. But they were in an anxious position on Selection Monday, sweating out the field’s reveal because in the middle of the season they went through a stretch where they lost four straight SEC series. That streak ended with a series loss at Arkansas when they fell a run short in a rubber game at Baum-Walker Stadium. At the time, they were 7-14 in SEC play and knew they had just about blown through all their margin for error to make the NCAA Tournament.

Ole Miss won eight of its next 11 games to sneak into the NCAA Tournament. From there, the Rebels have been unstoppable, turning into the hottest team in the country.

“We had a rough patch in the middle where we were 7-for-14,” fourth-year outfielder Justin Bench said. “We just stuck together, and now I don't know how many wins we have in a row now, but just with the leadership of (captain) Tim Elko, we just stuck together and kept winning games.”

Whatever the reason—the emergence of the 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation of righthander Dylan DeLuccia and Elliott, the return of Kevin Graham from injury, the feeling of its backs against the wall—Ole Miss has been locked in for six weeks. The Rebels are the only team that has yet to lose a game in the NCAA Tournament and in Omaha they turned in two complete games to advance to the bracket final.

On Monday, they jumped on the Razorbacks quickly, scoring two runs in the first inning and knocking out starter Zack Morris after just seven batters. They just kept scoring, putting six runs on the board in the first three innings and then blowing the game open with a four-run fifth inning. Bench went 4-for-6 with four runs, Calvin Harris went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a home run and Elko added to his program record with his 23rd home run of the season.

On the mound, Elliott fought through the first three innings, when Arkansas scored three runs (one earned), to deliver a quality start and pitch into the seventh inning. The freshman worked around six hits and two walks in 6.1 innings to improve to 5-3, 2.70.

With the resounding win, Ole Miss earned an off day and advanced to the bracket final. Either Auburn or Arkansas will now have to beat the Rebels twice in a row to deny them a place in the championship series.

“This is a big game,” coach Mike Bianco said. “I think either losing the first one or the second one, man, it's tough. It's tough to get through because you've got to play four days in a row, and you've got to win the next three just to get to the championship series.”

For Ole Miss, this is all starting to feel special. A team that was written off by so many in April is now in the driver’s seat in Omaha. The emergence of DeLuccia and Elliott has been critical. The length of the lineup, which was on full display Monday—as Harris drove in four runs from the No. 9 hole and Garrett Wood, who had just 25 at-bats coming into the day, scored twice from the No. 8 hole—has helped push the Rebels forward. The leadership and power of Elko and timely hitting from veterans Bench and Graham have all helped.

The job isn’t done, not by a long shot. Ole Miss needs three more wins before it can celebrate. But the goal in Omaha is simply to keep building momentum and staying alive as long as possible. On Monday, the Rebels did just that, ensuring the party would continue.

John Savage Photo By Stephen Dunn Getty Images 2 2

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