By Otis Kirk
Ole Miss got a great pitching performance from Dylan DeLucia and enough offense to take a 2-0 win over Arkansas on Thursday in the College World Series.
The win allows Ole Miss (40-23) to advance to the finals where they will face Oklahoma beginning Saturday night. The Ole Miss win overshadowed a great pitching performance by Arkansas’ Connor Noland. The senior from Greenwood pitched eight innings, allowed just seven hits, two runs and fanned seven. Evan Taylor pitched a perfect ninth in place of Noland. An incredible stat is both DeLucia and Noland were working on short rest and neither allowed a walk.
Dave Van Horn praised both pitchers for their performance.
“What a great pitchers’ duel actually,” Van Horn said. “I think both pitchers, they gave it everything they had. Connor, seven innings, gave up seven hits. You look at DeLucia, the same thing, four hits, seven strikeouts. Connor had seven strikeouts.”
Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco also was quick to obviously credit both DeLucia and Noland for the outstanding performance by both.
“I don’t know how many times that happens where both clubs pitch it so well two days in a row,” Bianco said. “Both Connor and I thought Dylan pitched today like Friday Night aces in the Southeastern Conference and were terrific and really kind of matching each other pitch for pitch.”
Ole Miss first baseman Tim Elko talked about what made Noland so difficult to hit.
“He had all of his pitches working,” Elko said. “He had that curveball working, his cutter, and would throw the fastball in there too to keep you off balance. Just hat’s off to him. He pitched really well. Kept us on our toes. We were just able to put enough of a couple innings together to get those big hits from Kevin and Calvin and score a couple of runs.
“He pitched really well, but at the end of the day, DeLucia just kept us in it the whole time and put up all those zeros. So just proud of how we all played.”
Noland talked about what it was like knowing he had to almost pitch perfectly since DeLucia was so sharp.
“Just using both curveballs, sliders and the normal curve, that’s the big thing,” Noland said. “Yeah, I mean, he’s pitching lights out, and I knew it. I was in the tunnel for most of the game, but I could hear the crowd going crazy. There was added pressure, but I already knew that coming into this game.”
In the top of the fourth, Justin Bench singled to right field to open the inning. After Noland retired the next two hitters, Kevin Graham doubled to right field allowing Bench to score.
The scored stayed that way until the top of the seventh when Elko singled to left. Kemp Alderman then followed with another single to left. After an out, Calvin Harris singled to right field to plate Elko. Alderman went to third on the play and Harris was gunned down at second by Michael Turner to Jalen Battles on a relay from Chris Lanzilli in right field. Van Horn felt Arkansas didn’t give itself enough opportunities to score.
“We had a couple opportunities, but just kind of baseball, the way it works, we hit some balls hard in the middle innings, and we just kept hitting the ball at them, and they made the other plays,” Van Horn said. “Dylan just did a great job over there. He didn’t walk anybody. He didn’t give us a chance. We didn’t have a leadoff man on one time in nine innings.
“It’s hard to score against good pitching when the leadoff man doesn’t get on here and there. So just disappointed that we lost, but so proud of my team. Just proud of the way they fought really the last four or five weeks to get back to where we knew we should be, and that’s here in Omaha.”
Arkansas only managed four hits in the game. Two of those came in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Cayden Wallace singled to left field and Turner did the same to center field. However, Lanzilli grounded out to first to end the threat. Bianco was impressed with Arkansas’ defense.
“They played great defense, like Arkansas can,” Bianco said. “There’s a couple when you’re so — when hits are at a premium, some plays by Moore and others that shut down innings, Stovall and Wallace at third and some double plays they turned to kind of squelch out what rallies you had, rallies where if you had a guy on today.
“I thought it was a super game. We got a couple of huge hits by Kevin and Calvin Harris, the timely hit that we talk about so much. But the story of the day was Dylan, just legendary performance.”
DeLucia talked about Bianco calling his performance legendary.
“I thought I didn’t really have command of my fastball that well until later on in the game, but I was committing the slider so well, so we just stuck with it,” DeLucia said. “Throwing it for first pitch strike, throwing it late in the count. But just attacked them, at the end of the day.”
Lanzilli had a single in the fourth and Robert Moore also had one in the seventh inning. The Hogs had a bit of a threat going in the seventh following Moore’s single with two outs. Battles then reached on an error on Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez. However, Brady Slavens then grounded out to second to end the last threat of the game for the Hogs.
Arkansas (46-21) had a good run in Omaha, but just came up one game short of reaching the finals. Van Horn was understandably emotional following the tough loss.
“I told them after the game how proud I was of them,” Van Horn said. “I’m not going to — I had a little trouble talking, but I told them that I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry when you finish your season in Omaha.”
DeLucia’s complete game including seven strikeouts, facing 32 hitters and a pitch count of 113. Oklahoma (45-22) is undefeated in Omaha and has a rested pitching staff whereas Ole Miss likely will be without DeLucia.