By Rick Cleveland
Way back when, after the New York Yankees won several consecutive World Series, the cry around the Major Leagues was: “Break up the Yankees!”
If this remarkable Ole Miss domination of late continues, the cry in college baseball will soon be: “Break up the Rebels.”
This is getting absurd.
Ole Miss pounded Southeastern Conference rival Arkansas 13-5 on a hot, windy Monday night to remain undefeated in the College World Series – and remain the only undefeated team in the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
But it’s not just the winning, it’s the dominance. Through seven NCAA games, the Rebels have now out-scored their opponents 64-18. Through two CWS games, the Rebels have outscored opposition 18-6. In their last five games the Rebs have scored 56 runs, while the opposition scored only 13. These aren’t mid-week opponents they are playing, these are some of the best college baseball teams in the country.
There’s hot and then there’s scalding. The Rebels are scalding hot.
They are also comfortably in the driver’s seat on one side of the world series bracket. Ole Miss will enjoy an off day Tuesday, while Arkansas and Auburn play one another at 6 p.m. to try to keep their championship hopes alive. The winner will then have to beat Ole Miss twice in order to advance to the best-of-three championship series.
Another way to put it: Ole Miss, the team that was once 7-14 in the SEC and seemingly headed nowhere, now sits three victories away from a national championship. The Rebels do not play again until Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Mike Bianco said all he really needed to say in the first three words of his post-game press conference: “We were terrific…”
The Rebels were – and have been for three straight weeks.
On the other side of the bracket, Oklahoma remains undefeated, while Notre Dame and Texas A&M will play Tuesday at 1 p.m. to see who gets to try and beat the Sooners twice.
Ole Miss’ Monday night heroes should be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to this postseason Rebel resurrection:
- Tupelo freshman Hunter Elliott, 19, pitching with the poise of a man a decade older and more experienced, weathered some early fielding problems from his teammates and for the most part shut down the high-powered Razorbacks. Elliot gave the Rebels 6.1 innings, allowing just one earned run and leaving with a 10-3 lead.
- Tim Elko, a still-playing Ole Miss legend, hammered the longest home run of this College World Series, a two-run, second inning blast into the wind measured at 416 feet. At this point, it is difficult to fathom why anyone throws Elko a pitch he can reach. Elko hit a slider that didn’t slide. He reached across the plate and yanked the ball deep into the left field stands.
- Calvin Harris, batting ninth in the order, slammed two doubles and a two-run home run. The Rebels benefitted from four hits, five runs and four runs batted in from their 8- and 9-hole hitters. How good is that?
- Sweet-swinging Kevin Graham provided two more timely hits and two more runs batted in – and reached base four times.
- Garrett Wood, making only his fourth start of the season, continued his postseason excellence, playing error-less ball at third base, and reaching base three times.
- Justin Bench did what lead-off hitters are supposed to do, hitting three singles and a double and scoring four times, while driving home two more. His third inning line drive might have killed Arkansas pitcher Cole Ramage if he hadn’t gotten his glove up just in time.
There were others, but you get the idea. When a team is as hot as these Rebels are and winning by these margins, everyone contributes.
How far can they go?
Look how far they have come.
Nothing seems impossible now.
“Getting hot is real,” said Bianco, who also said he has cut back on team meetings during this hot streak and an cut back on the length of the meetings the Rebels do have.
“When they’re playing like this the best thing you can do is to just let ’em go,” Bianco said. “Just get out of the way and let ’em play.”
This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.