Ole Miss Rebels

It’s been dream year for David Dellucci, who once chose Ole Miss over State

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It’s been dream year for David Dellucci, who once chose Ole Miss over State

David Dellucci (left, with beard) has lived a dream this year. Here, Dellucci watches his at the College World Series with his former coach, Don Kessinger. On Saturday night, Dellucci will join Kessinger in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

Editor’s note: On July 30, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inducts its Class of 2022. What follows is Part VI of a series detailing the achievements of the eight inductees, today featuring former baseball great and 13-year Major Leaguer David Dellucci.

This was 1991. Don Kessinger was the baseball coach at Ole Miss. Ron Polk coached Mississippi State. Skip Bertman was winning big at LSU. Future Major Leaguer David Dellucci was a baseball and football standout at Catholic High in Baton Rouge. 

Rick Cleveland

Polk recruited Dellucci first and recruited him hard. Dellucci even went to Polk’s summer baseball camp. “Coach Polk offered me a scholarship, a really good one,” Dellucci says.

Kessinger joined the chase and offered a scholarship equal to the one Polk had offered. Dellucci visited Oxford the weekend of an LSU series and loved the place. “People in Oxford treated me like a long lost cousin, Southern hospitality at its best,” Dellucci says.

LSU?

“I didn’t hear from LSU, my hometown school, until really late in the game,” Dellucci says. “And when I did all I got was a xeroxed form letter that offered me the opportunity to walk on and possibly earn money for textbooks.”

Dellucci, after much angst, chose Ole Miss, where he became one of the greatest players in Rebels baseball history. Saturday night, Dellucci will become one of eight new members of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

“I am honored beyond belief,” Dellucci said Monday morning. “This was not something expected. I’ve been to the hall of fame’s in Jackson and seen all the names and exhibits of all the tremendous athletes honored there. I was flabbergasted when I got the , and I am honored to be a part of it.”

Thirty-one years after he chose Ole Miss and Kessinger over State and Polk, he joins both those coaches in the MSHOF. “And I still hear from Coach Polk all the time,” Dellucci said. “I got letters from him when I was in college, through all my years in the Major Leagues, and I still do. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Mississippi State.”

Kessinger? “I love that man,” Dellucci answers. “He made me a better player and a better person. And he gave me the best advice I ever received. I loved football back then and I wanted to play college football. I asked DK about it and he told me I was welcome to walk on in football if I wanted to, but he said, ‘If you concentrate on baseball, you can become a great baseball player and have a future in this sport.’”

David Dellucci

Don Kessinger, it turns out, was dead-on. Dellucci was a four-year standout, an All-American as a senior when he hit .410 and led Ole Miss to a 40-win season and a berth in an NCAA Regional at Tallahassee. Florida State won the regional, but Dellucci hit four home runs and the Rebs finished as runners-up.

Funny thing: Dellucci had been drafted in the 11th round and offered a $60,000 signing bonus after his junior year. But, as was the case with several Rebels this past season, Dellucci wanted one more chance to get to Omaha. He didn’t quite make it, despite one of the best individual hitting seasons in Ole Miss history.

His reward? The Baltimore Orioles drafted him just one round higher in the 10th. With no leverage in negotiations, he signed for a $7,500 bonus.

“So coming back cost me a bunch of money, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” Dellucci says. “I’ll remember that senior season the rest of my life.”

Dellucci didn’t mess around in professional baseball. He made the Major Leagues in just two years, and then he was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1998 expansion draft. His first season in Arizona was a doozy. He led the Major Leagues with 12 triples for a last-place team. In 2001, just three seasons later, the Diamondbacks won it all, beating the New York Yankees in the World Series, in the aftermath of 9/11. 

“From worst to first in three seasons and then winning the World Series at Yankee Stadium,” Dellucci says. “I’ll never forget it, any of it.”

Dellucci played 13 Major League seasons. For his career, he batted .313 in 17 postseason games. He hit .254 overall, with 101 home runs.

These days, Dellucci works as a TV analyst for the SEC Network, a job he doesn’t take for granted. “I love college baseball, especially the SEC,” Dellucci says. “For me, it’s perfect. I love my job.”

That job took him to Omaha this spring where he watched the 2022 Rebels’ magical run to the College World Series championship. “What a year this has been for me,” Dellucci, 48, says. “I mean, Ole Miss wins the national championship and now this. If this is a dream, I hope it doesn’t end.” 

•••

Part I: Maggie Bowen-Hanna.

Part II: Eric Moulds.

Part III: Jim Gallagher.

Part IV: Bob Tyler.

Part V: Barry Lyons

For MSHOF Induction Weekend event and ticket information, click here

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Podcast: The Ole Miss Rebels did it!

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Podcast: The Ole Miss Rebels did it!

From Omaha, the Clevelands recount the Rebels’ amazing run to the national baseball championship. As Mississippi State did in maroon last year, fans painted Omaha red and blue as the Rebels finished an amazing run to the national championship. Tyler watched from the stands. Rick was in the press box working. They recount the scene and the Ole Miss heroics.

Stream all episodes here.

Exclusive Mississippi sports alerts from Rick and Tyler Cleveland

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

NATIONAL CHAMPS: Ole Miss completes rags to riches story

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NATIONAL CHAMPS: Ole Miss completes rags to riches story

players hold up the national championship trophy after defeating Oklahoma 4-2 in Game 2 of the NCAA College World Series baseball finals, Sunday, June 26, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/John Peterson)

OMAHA — Baseball hadn’t been invented back in early 18th century when Alexander Pope, an English poet and essayist, wrote the words: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” 

But 300 years ago, Pope could have been writing about this 2022 team, given up for dead seven weeks ago and now national champions. For these Rebels, it wasn’t just hope. It was belief.

Rick Cleveland

’s Rebels, once 7-14 in their own league, defeated the Oklahoma Sooners 4-2 to sweep the best-of-three championship and win the College World Series on Sunday. One year after Mississippi State won the national championship here, the trophy stays in the Magnolia State.

These Rebels never quit hoping or believing – or working. Their hope sprang eternal.

“Life is tough and there’s bad things that happen to everybody,” Bianco said postgame. “… These guys have worked really hard and I think they’ve shown a lot of people that you can fall down, you can stumble and you can fail, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. If you continue to push and you continue to believe, as Tim (Elko) said, you can accomplish anything.”

The Rebels have realized college baseball’s ultimate goal. They are national champions. They have worked their way back from 22-17 on May 1 to a final record of 42-23, including a remarkable 10-1 run through the . The team that lost at home to Southeast Missouri 13-3 on April 19 claimed the national championship on June 26, beating the mighty Oklahoma Sooners, undefeated in the College World Series before they ran into Ole Miss. This was no easy road. Ole Miss, the last team to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, had to run the gauntlet as a low seed through Miami, then Hattiesburg, then here.

“These guys have lived that this season,” Bianco continued. “They really have. They’ve fallen down, where not a lot of people believed that they were any good anymore, and a lot of people may have been disappointed in them. And I get that. It’s sports, and that’s part of it. But they didn’t let that affect them. They continued to believe in one another. They continued to push.”

Here in Omaha, the Rebels have not lacked for support and encouragement. Probably 20,000 Ole Miss fans were present at Charles Schwab Field, often standing, screaming and waving towels at all the right moments. The crowd fed off the Rebels; the Rebels fed off the crowd. Afterward, players circled the field, high-fiving joyous fans. There were Ole Miss fans reaching over one another to reach over the fence in every section of the stadium. Nearly an hour after the game had ended, Ole Miss fans still stood and cheered.

“This group of young men, I think people have fallen in love with them, their story and where they came from,” Bianco continued. “I’m just very fortunate to have been a part of it and that these guys allowed me to be on the ride with them.”

Heroes were many for Ole Miss, including shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, who was responsible for three of his team’s six hits. He hit a solo home run for the game’s first run in the sixth and then knocked in a crucial, tying run with sharp single in the eighth.

There were so many others, mostly pitchers this day:

  • Freshman Hunter Elliott, who is 19 years old and pitches as if he is 29, started on the mound and pitched 6.2 innings of two-run, three-hit baseball. “He’s amazing,” Bianco would say. “… The bigger the stage, the better he gets. That’s what the great ones do. When the stage gets big, that’s when they shine. He’s one of those guys.”
  • Senior John Gaddis pitched the Rebels out of a seventh inning mess and gave his team 1.1 innings of nearly perfect pitching. And that set the stage for …
  • Closer Brandon Johnson, who went right at the Sooners and recorded three straight strikeouts on 14 pitches to save the victory in the ninth inning. “It was a dream come true,” Johnson said. “Ever since you’re a little kid, you dream of being on the mound in those situations. And when it happened, you just let go of yourself because you realize you did do it.”
  • Bianco deserves much credit, as well, and not only for keeping his teams spirits up during the bad times earlier in the season and making all the right strategy calls in the College World Series. There was this: Watching the replay of an apparently successful Oklahoma squeeze bunt in the sixth inning, Bianco noticed the bunter, John Spikerman, running well inside the runner’s lane down the first baseline. Unable to get the umpire’s attention from the dugout because of the crowd noise, Bianco ran out onto the field to ask for a review. Sure enough, Spikerman was ruled out and the runner who had scored, Jackson Nicklaus, was sent back to third base.  

“Thank God for the Jumbotron, huh,” Bianco said. “I just looked up and I went, my gosh, he’s out of the running lane.”

Instead of taking a 1-0 lead and having runners at first and third with just one out, the Sooners were still scoreless and there were two out, soon to be three. There’s another lesson there: To win a national championship you not have to be good, you have to have a little luck along the way.

There were still more Ole Miss heroes: TJ McCants got the three-run, eighth inning rally started with a ringing single to center, and ever-dependable Justin Bench then moved him all the way to third with a line-drive single to right field. Bench later scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

Of course, some of the loudest postgame cheers were for Elko, the captain and spiritual leader of these National Champions. 

Said Elko, “There’s just so much to be said about how much we overcame this year, how much we had to fight through, how much we had to pick each other up and never let ourselves get too down. This story of our season is going to be told for years and years and years to come.”

He’s right. This Ole Miss team can provide lessons for Little Leaguers everywhere: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It may sound trite, but it rings true.

These Rebels, unsuccessful for the longest time this season, kept trying, kept believing and, in the end, got the job done.

Their hope sprang eternal. They stayed the course. They prevailed.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Ole Miss, Mike Bianco could soon complete amazing journey

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One more win: Ole Miss, Mike Bianco could soon complete an amazing journey

(25) celebrates as he runs toward home, as he was driven in by Kevin Graham against Oklahoma during the first inning of the first game of the NCAA College World Series championship series (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

OMAHA — The , a team going nowhere in early May, has surged its way to within one victory of a National Championship in June.

And a coach who many wanted to fire two months ago keeps pushing all the right buttons and pulling all the right strings – game after game after game, victory after victory after victory.

Rick Cleveland

’s Ole Miss Rebels combined excellent pitching from perhaps unexpected sources with a four-home run power show in an 10-3 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday night. The two teams play again Sunday at 2 p.m. If Ole Miss wins, one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college baseball history will be complete.

You could not make this stuff up.

Surely, you know the story by now: Ole Miss, 22-17 overall and 7-14 in the SEC on the first day of May, has won 19 of 25 since. The Rebels have won 9 of 10 in this . And now it seems much of Mississippi has migrated here to see if the Rebels can finish living what once seemed an impossible dream. Ole Miss fans turned Charles Schwab Field into Swayze North.

There were so many heroes on the field Saturday night, but let’s start with one in the dugout, the one who has worn No. 5 for the past 22 years.

Mike Bianco chose sophomore Jack Dougherty to make only his fourth start of 2022, giving freshman sensation Hunter Elliott another day of rest. Hmmm, skeptics wondered, how will this turn out? Dougherty, making his first start in three months, answered that question with five perfect innings.

Then, when Dougherty ran into some trouble in the sixth and with a three-run lead in serious jeopardy, Bianco brought in 19-year-old true freshman Mason Nichols, instead of Josh Mallitz who has been only sensational of late. Hmmmm, again. But Nichols made his coach look like a wizard, working out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam to allow only one run. Then in two innings of heroic work, Mallitz gave up no hits and struck out five after coming in in the eighth inning to finish off the Sooners.

The decision to start Dougherty?

“Oklahoma is such a patient team that takes a lot of walks,” Bianco said. “I thought we needed someone to throw strikes and get ahead and I thought Dougherty was the best option.”

The decision to go with Nichols, instead of Mallitz? “I thought it was a little early to go with Mallitz,” Bianco said. “We still had 12 outs to get. And Nichols was the one up and ready. Mallitz was not ready at that point.”

What Nichols, a just-turned-19-year-old, did came at what was surely the most critical juncture of the game – or as Bianco put it, “That was the game right there.”

Nichols was facing the middle of the powerful Oklahoma batting order. Any butterflies, Mason? “Yes sir, I had plenty of butterflies,” Nichols answered. “I just tried to focus and do my job.”

Mission accomplished.

Thousands upon thousands of Rebel fans, mostly wearing powder blue, cheered every Rebel strike and went bonkers on four home runs, especially the three that were back-to-back-to back in the eighth inning. First TJ McCants, then Calvin Harris and finally Justin Bench all slugged home runs, the first time that has ever happened at Charles Schwab Field. Harris clobbered his 430 feet, by far the longest of the night.

Oh, and did I mention that McCants’ homer came one inning after Bianco inserted him into the game for defensive purposes? It did.

Keep in mind, Oklahoma had won three straight games here at Omaha and none of those were really close. The Sooners had won four straight to win the Big 12 Conference. They won three of four to win a regional at Florida. They won two of three to win a Super Regional at West Virginia. That’s 12 of their last 14 – all against top-shelf competition. They were hot.

So were the Rebels, but Oklahoma seemingly had a clear advantage in that the Sooners had their ace, strapping left-hander Jake Bennett, fresh and ready to go against Ole Miss, while the Rebels had to use their ace Dylan DeLucia to beat Arkansas Thursday night to get to the championship series.

That advantage was negated by Dougherty – and perhaps also by the thousands upon thousands of Ole Miss fans.

“It felt like a football game out there,” Bianco said. “I mean Swayze gets loud but not loud like that.”

Those fans had plenty to cheer from the start. The Rebels went on top 2-0 in the first, added a run in the second and then another in the third on Tim Elko’s 24th home run of the year.

Oklahoma, which was hitting .303 with 19 home runs in the NCAA Tournament, never really stemmed that Ole Miss momentum. Now, the Sooners are in a win-or-else situation on Sunday. Said Sooner coach Skip Johnson, “We woke up today needing two victories to win the national championship. We’ll wake tomorrow needing two victories to win the national championship.”

Ole Miss will wake up Sunday morning needing one victory for a national championship. Said Elko, “We’ve still got one game to win. It’s obviously great to win the first one, but we still have to get one more to win the whole thing.”

The Rebels have their aces Hunter Elliott (Sunday) and Dylan DeLucia (Monday, if needed). Really, they could not be in a better situation.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Podcast: Omaha magic – Mississippi Today

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Podcast: Omaha magic

Coral Gables, Hattiesburg, Omaha. The site seems to make no difference to the red-hot Rebels, who have now won seven games, mostly by lopsided scores. The Clevelands caught up with , and to talk about the Rebels’ latest and most important conquest, the Monday night victory over Arkansas, which kept Ole Miss in the winners’ bracket and sent the Razorbacks to the losers’ bracket. Ole Miss is now three victories away from a national championship.

Stream all episodes here.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Southern Miss football receives commitment from WR Javieon Butler

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rssfeeds.hattiesburgamerican.com – Hattiesburg American – 2022-06-19 16:50:45

HATTIESBURG — The Southern Miss football wide receivers room has added some serious size.  

Class of 2023 prospect Javieon Butler, listed at 6-foot-5, 194 pounds by 247Sports, announced his verbal commitment to play for the Golden Eagles on Sunday. 

Butler also held an offer from Louisiana-Monroe. 

The in-state prospect plays high school football for Scott Central in Forest. 

Butler is the…

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Tim Elko, our fathers, and the ‘game of failure’

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Tim Elko, our fathers, and the ‘game of failure’

I’ve come to understand a simple truth: The very worst things could be happening in the world around you, but everything feels so much better while watching a baseball game with your dad.

I owe my obsession with the game to Dad. He coached my tee ball team, we played catch in the front yard until it got too dark to see, and he taught me swing mechanics. He made so many sacrifices to watch me play in Little League, and he encouraged me after I realized in middle school that my dream of becoming a big league player was just so laughably, unbelievably unattainable.

Adam Ganucheau

He let me stay up way past my bedtime to watch our Boston Red Sox finish close games. Watching us play the Yankees, he taught me the skill of respectful trash talk (I later learned the art of vulgar trash talk in the right field student section). I’ll forever cherish some of the lessons I learned when Dad took me to my first Major League game at the old Turner Field in Atlanta, and our first trip to Fenway Park was borderline spiritual.

But perhaps the most important thing dad has taught me about baseball is that it’s a game of failure. The sport’s best hitters routinely fail to reach base about 70% of the time. Even the most dominant pitchers can struggle to find the strike zone for no good reason, and the most intelligent players are always liable to make fielding or baserunning errors. Some of the greatest baseball teams in history lost close to half of their season’s games.

Baseball has never been about avoiding that inevitable failure, Dad has always said; it’s about how you respond when it happens.

So that’s why, sitting with my dad at home on Saturday night watching our beloved decisively win their first game at the College World Series, I found myself completely lost in the story of .

Elko, the captain of the team that has nearly reached the pinnacle of the sport, has become a true college baseball legend for responding remarkably to failure. Ahead of this Father’s Day, I wondered if Elko’s dad would agree.

“To say there have been ups and downs is an understatement,” John Elko told me, laughing. Then, before I even mentioned my dad’s most important baseball lesson, John Elko says to me: “You know, baseball is a game of failure.”

My dad and Tim Elko’s dad are on to something.

A young Tim Elko poses for a photo. (Courtesy John Elko)

Tim’s freshman year, he quickly realized after arriving on campus that SEC baseball teams are loaded with talent and he’d have to wait his turn. His sophomore year, he began to emerge but a nagging injury held back his production. His junior year in 2020, the hottest hit streak of his life — and his team’s incredible 16-game win streak — was abruptly ended when the pandemic shut the world down.

He entered his senior year in 2021 thinking it would be his last at Ole Miss. He led the team to an impressive 21-6 start with a high national ranking, and Elko was absolutely smoking the ball. Early that season, he was racking up the accolades: SEC Player of the Week, Bragan Slugger of the Week, Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week.

Then, in a freak replayed hundreds of times by Ole Miss fans, Elko rolled over first base awkwardly in a meaningless mid-week blowout and tore his ACL. The lifeblood of the team, everyone rightfully assumed, was out for the season.

“My immediate thought was that his career is probably over,” John Elko said of the shocking injury. “It was just a devastating feeling, to be honest with you.”

But five days later, Tim video-called his parents. He showed them his new knee brace, and he told them what the team doctors had just told him.

“The minute they told him he could possibly play through the injury, he said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do this,’” John Elko recalled.

Just 33 days after the injury, Elko came into the game as a pinch hitter at Texas A&M and blasted a three-run home run. He led Ole Miss to game three of the Super Regionals last year and hit seven home runs and 18 RBI — all on a torn ACL. That performance led to unironic calls that the university build an Elko statue at Swayze Field.

That’s an impressive way to respond to an unexpected moment of failure.

“When he decided to play on the bad knee, we both felt and said it at the same time that God was gonna move here, that he was gonna make something happen,” John Elko said. “And the rest is history. It shouldn’t have been able to happen the way that it did, but it did. You can explain it any way you like, but we prefer ‘miracle.’” 

After that 2021 season ended, Tim had a decision to make: Should he take his chances and enter the MLB draft with a bum knee, or should he come back to Ole Miss for one more “COVID season” to rehab his leg and try to prove himself to scouts?

“He thought and prayed about it for a few days, but made the decision to come back to Ole Miss,” John Elko recalled. “He said, ‘We’re gonna go to Omaha and win a national championship.’ That’s why he came back.” 

Well in Omaha one year later, Tim Elko has his squad knocking at the door of the national championship series. It’s an incredible accomplishment considering how badly the team was playing in March and April. The turnaround, too, can be largely credited to Elko and the team’s other leaders. Elko’s play this season has been incredible and has surely impressed pro scouts: 22 home runs, 71 RBI, 58 runs scored and 41 walks.

John Elko, left, and Tim Elko pose for a photo. (Courtesy John Elko)

During the game on Saturday night, an ESPN reporter interviewed John Elko at Charles Schwab Field. All the fathers and sons sitting in that stadium and watching on national TV saw Tim have just a decent game: he had one hit, one walk and scored the first run of the game. Of course, John Elko talked about how proud he was of his son and the team.

It’s a strange thing to consider, but all those fathers and sons who watched the game Saturday night aren’t too unlike the Elkos. All those fathers want is for their sons to succeed and to respond well after moments of failure, and all those sons want is to make their fathers proud.

Tim Elko sure is successful, and he’s clearly done a great job responding to failure. And John Elko sure is proud. That’s what it’s all about for the Elkos and for all of us.

I’ll be watching the remainder of Ole Miss’ run here in Omaha, and my dad will be back at home. We’ll talk on the phone after the games and discuss the key plays and big moments. But for the remainder of the College World Series, we’ll both be watching out for that same old maxim: How do players and teams respond to the inevitable failure?

My dad and I like the chances of the team whose leader has proven he knows how to respond to failure well. And you have to believe John Elko feels the same way.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Ole Miss’ remarkable resurgence reaches to within one win of Omaha

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Ole Miss Rebels’ remarkable resurgence reaches to within one win of Omaha

HATTIESBURG — The won only seven of their first 21 SEC games. They were one and done in the SEC Tournament. They dropped from No. 1 in the nation early in the season to far out of the various college baseball polls.

Many fans were openly calling for Coach ’s dismissal, saying the game had passed him by. Most bracket experts thought the Rebels had little hope, if any, of receiving an at large bid to the .

Rick Cleveland

And now, Bianco’s Rebels stand one victory away from the College World Series at Omaha, and that victory could come Sunday.

The Bible had Lazarus. College baseball has Ole Miss.

The Rebels dispatched the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, the No. 11 seed in the tournament and winners of 47 games, 10-0 on Saturday to win the first game of the Hattiesburg Super Regional. The two teams square off again today in the oven Pete Taylor Park becomes this time of the year. Simply put, if Ole Miss wins, Ole Miss goes to Omaha. If Southern Miss wins, they’ll play again Monday at a time to be determined.

The announced attendance was 5,474, of which more than 4,500 were Southern Miss fans. Those gold-clad fans, loud to begin with, were drowned out in the end by the Ole Miss cheering section down the first baseline. The Hotty Toddies had plenty to cheer.

Ole Miss had only one anxious moment. The Rebels led 3-0 when Southern Miss loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Reece Ewing yanked a Dylan DeLucia pitch down the right field line that cleared the fence right at the foul pole. Foul or fair? Grand slam or loud foul?

Ewing clearly thought it was fair. DeLucia? “Honestly, I didn’t know if it was foul or fair,” DeLucia said. “Sure am glad it was foul.”

It was so close plate umpire Linus Baker called for a video review. After a long delay, the call on the field was upheld. DeLucia, who was only splendid for the Rebels, fanned Ewing with a wicked slider on the next pitch — by far the biggest pitch of the game.

And then Ole Miss scored seven runs in the sixth, and what what looked for a moment like it might be a 4-3 game with Southern Miss leading became a 10-0 Rebel runaway.

Best evidence that the umpires got it right? This: There wasn’t a full-scale riot in the Right Field Roost where hundreds of the most rabid of Southern Miss fans sit, cheer, eat barbecue and have been known to consume more than a few adult beverages.

Your dutiful reporter went right to the source for conclusive evidence. Said a gold-clad fan, between gulps of a Miller Lite, “It was a foul ball — dammit.”

Ole Miss proceeded to do what LSU couldn’t do last weekend. The Rebels beat Southern Miss right-hander Hurston Waldrep, who Bianco said “is going to be a Big Leaguer. He’s terrific.”

Waldrep struck out 12 Rebels in just five innings. But Ole Miss was patient enough at the plate to draw four walks and opportunistic enough to touch Waldrep up for six hits. The Ole Miss legend, also known as , produced two of the hits and knocked in three of the runs.

Meanwhile, DeLucia did what he has been doing since mid-April, which is string zeroes across the scoreboard. Said Bianco of DeLucia, “He not only gives a good chance to win, he gives us a great chance to win. He has pretty much saved our season.”

Said Southern Miss coach Scott Berry, “We had our chances, but that young man really stepped up for them. He pitched really well.”

DeLucia went 5.2 innings, throwing 108 pitches and allowing only four hits. Jack Dougherty then pitched 3.1 innings of hitless relief. This was a Super Regional billed by many as Ole Miss’ superb hitting against Southern Miss’ exceptional pitching. DeLucia and Dougherty, at least for one game, have rewritten that script. Ole Miss can pitch it, too.

We’ve come to expect such heroics from the likes of Elko and DeLucia. But to win at this time of the year in college baseball, a team needs help from where you don’t necessarily expect it. Enter little-used third baseman Garrett Wood, who hit a run-scoring double, scored a run himself and walked three times. Not bad for a guy known as a defensive replacement.

Of Wood, Bianco said, “It’s really cool. … Good things happen to good people and that is certainly the case here. He’s one of the most popular guys on our team. Everybody loves him. He’s always upbeat, always a smile on his face.”

Anybody who believes this Super Regional is a done deal now hasn’t been paying attention. Southern Miss was in a worse situation last weekend in the Hattiesburg Regional when, after a Saturday night loss to LSU, the Golden Eagles had to come back and win three games in two days and beat LSU twice in the process.

“We’ve had our backs against the wall before,” Berry said. ”We’re not ready to be done with this season. We have the pitching to still win this thing. We’ve just got to start hitting.”

Somebody asked Bianco if his Rebels might be looking ahead to Omaha. Bianco smiled as if break into laughter.

“Really,” he answered. “I don’t think they are looking ahead to anything. They know what they are playing for. You don’t have to remind them.”

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Mississippi, where college baseball tickets are like gold

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Mississippi, where college baseball tickets are like gold

More than 6,300 fans at Pete Taylor Park watch a game against the Rebels on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. They probably could sell three times that many tickets this weekend. (Photo by Joe Harper/BigGold Photography)

Toughest ticket in Mississippi sports history?

If not, tickets to this weekend’s Ole Miss-Southern Miss NCAA Super Regional baseball series in Hattiesburg are certainly in the first sentence of any conversation on that subject.

Tickets with a face value of $60 are going as much as $1800 on StubHub. It goes back to the old economics principle of supply and demand. In this case, the demand for tickets is far, far higher than the number of tickets available for sale. The seating capacity at USM’s Pete Taylor Park is just over 5,000. Southern Miss could probably sell 15 or 20 thousand tickets if that many were available.

Ole Miss (35-22) and Southern Miss (47-17) play Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. in Games 1 and 2. A third game, if necessary, will be played Monday at a time to be determined (by ESPN, of course). The winner of the series goes to the College World Series at Omaha.

Jeremy McClain

Says Southern Miss athletic director Jeremy McClain, “The bottom line is that we are not able to sell tickets to some people who have been very supportive of our baseball program.”

Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter is in the same boat, if not one even more submerged. By NCAA rules, Ole Miss was allotted 600 tickets. About 250 of those are committed to players’ and coaches’ families, leaving about 350 to be sold to Ole Miss supporters. This will give you some idea of how insufficient that number is: Ole Miss baseball has more than 136,000 Twitter followers, about 8,200 season ticket holders. Carter said the Ole Miss ticket office received 3,500 Super Regional ticket requests — that, despite people knowing how unlikely it was to obtain tickets.

So it is tickets with a face value of $60 are selling online for several hundreds of dollars on. secondary ticket markets. So it is people are celebrating scoring a ticket on the various Internet message boards as if celebrating a national championship.

So it is both Ole Miss and Southern Miss are setting up different venues where their fans can watch the game in a crowd atmosphere. Ole Miss will hold watch parties at the school’s baseball stadium. Southern Miss will have watch parties at Spirit Park on the school’s campus, about a half mile from Pete Taylor Park where a 20-foot video wall will be set up for the ESPNU feed.

No doubt, Mississippians by the thousands will opt to view the game in their own living rooms in air-conditioned comfort.

McLain was asked if Southern Miss is considering an expansion of Pete Taylor Park — or “The Pete” as it often called — where the Golden Eagles shattered season ticket and attendance records this past spring.

“We’re exploring it,” McClain said. “Actually, we’ve been looking at it for several months. We are in the early stages and we have some issues with expansion because of the ballpark’s surroundings. But we are looking at it and feel like there are some ways to add quality seating.”

That won’t help disappointed fans this weekend, although any athletic director — or businessman — will tell you that when demand far exceeds supply, it is a nice problem to have.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Ole Miss shows they have some fight left in them. Meanwhile, USM must find some.

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Ole Miss shows they have some fight left in them. Meanwhile, USM must find some.

Every seat was taken and there was little standing room at Pete Taylor Park Wednesday night. (Photo by Joe Harper/BigGold Photography)

HATTIESBURG — To paraphrase the great Twain: Reports of the demise of the Rebels baseball team have been greatly exaggerated.

Yes, the road to a fourth consecutive — and the 21st in ’s 26-season Ole Miss coaching stint — looked at dead end just a few days ago. The Rebels were floundering at 24-19, and a lowly 7-14 in the SEC. 

But that was before the Rebels swept three straight from Missouri by a combined score of 25-8 and then bested Southern Miss 4-1 before a packed house of 6,346 at Pete Taylor Park.

All of the sudden, the Rebs are 28-19 with a No. 49 RPI (up six places in one night) and with a chance to make a quantum leap this weekend at LSU.

Rick Cleveland

As mid-week victories go, the Rebs’ conquest of the Golden Eagles was about as big as they come. Southern Miss came in at 36-12 and with a No. 16 RPI. The victory was earned before a standing-room-only crowd of 6,346, the largest in Southern Miss history by more than 600. You’d have needed a shoehorn to get another warm body in the place.

There’s a baseball lesson here for the taking. In this most capricious of sports, things are never quite as desperate as they may seem. Seasons can turn around as quickly as a couple bats heat up or a key player gets healthy. Look at the Atlanta Braves or the Mississippi State Bulldogs last season. Look at Southern Miss’ only College World Series team back in 2009. The Eagles were dead in the water in early May, in Omaha in June. This stuff just happens in baseball. Things change. Fast.

And here’s another lesson: In baseball, things often aren’t nearly as rosy as they may seem, either. Just two weeks ago, Southern Miss had just won its school-record 15th straight game, had a 33-8 record and was ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation. Then a couple sluggers got hurt, a couple breaks went the wrong way, and now the Golden Eagles have lost five of their last eight games and back-to-back Conference USA series, and seem to be limping toward the finish.

Their Conference USA lead is down to two games over UTSA. And guess who comes to town Friday. If you guessed the UTSA Roadrunners, winners of their last six conference series, you would be absolutely correct.

Southern Miss.catcher Rodrigo Montenegro (15) tags out Ole Miss infielder Peyton Chatagnier (1) trying to score from third base. (Photo by Joe Harper/BigGold Photography)

But let’s get back to Ole Miss for the moment. Once the No. 1 ranked team in the land (before the Tennessee monster appeared), the Rebels are fully capable of extending this modest four-game win streak and playing their way into the NCAA Tournament. Few teams can slug with the Rebels when they are on seeing the ball as they appear to be seeing it now.

They can strike like lightning, as they showed in the fourth inning Wednesday night. Southern Miss starter Matt Adams had faced the minimum through three innings and the Eagles held a 1-0 lead. Then, Jacob Gonzalez singled up the middle, and one batter later, sweet-swinging Kevin Graham slammed a two-run home run into USM’s Right Field Roost. Before the home crowd could recover from that, Kemp Alderman then launched a massive, solo home run to left field. Little did we know, the Rebels had all the runs they would need with five innings still to play.

Graham’s homer was the game’s big blow and it came on a change-up from Adams that Graham was totally expecting. “He threw me four changes my first at bat,” Graham said. “That’s what I was expecting. That’s what I got, over the middle of the plate and down.”

Drew McDaniel gave the Rebels a quality start, five innings 0f one-run baseball. Jackson Kimbrell, Josh Mallitz and Brandon Johnson then shut the Eagles down on one hit over the last four frames.

“This was obviously a big win,” Bianco said. “They’ve been a top 10 team and this is a tough place to play. You can’t say enough about the job Scott Berry has done here. We needed this and it’s nice to play well tonight in this atmosphere after we played so well last weekend.”

Across the field, Berry lamented what he called “too many non-competitive at bats.”

“We struck out 15 times, and I can’t remember a time when we’ve struck out more than our opponents, but that’s what happened tonight. Not taking anything away from Ole Miss, they pitched it well, but we just didn’t compete. We had runners in scoring position in four innings and didn’t get a hit. We didn’t get anything but Sarge’s (Christopher Sargent’s) second inning home run.

“We’ve scored five runs in our last three losses,” Berry continued. “That’s not going to get it.”

Slugger Slade Wilks is back in the Eagles lineup after missing four games, but Reece Ewing, the normally the No. 3 hitter in the Southern Miss order, has now missed nine straight games with a broken hand that has healed slowly. Let’s put it this way: The Eagles lineup looks a lot different without him in it.

Berry said Ewing will visit a hand specialist Thursday, but he didn’t sound hopeful of getting him back any time soon — and certainly not for this weekend’s big conference series.

Berry’s offense currently needs a shot in the arm, and Ewing is not where it’s coming from — at least not immediately. If there’s a silver lining for the Golden Eagles, it’s this: This is baseball. It can turn back around as quickly as it just turned around.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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