Dylan DeLucia pitches Ole Miss into College World Series finals

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Jun. 23—OMAHA — The championship dream lives on, and it's in no small part to what Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco deemed an all-time "legendary performance."

Ole Miss junior Dylan DeLucia saved one of the best outings of his career for the biggest possible stage, tossing a complete-game shutout on four days rest in Thursday's College World Series elimination game against Arkansas.

On an afternoon where DeLucia was matched up with rival ace Connor Noland, the Rebels were able to get just enough offense and win a tight 2-0 game to advance to the championship series for the first time in program history.

Ole Miss (40-23) will play Oklahoma in a best-of-three series, starting on Saturday at 6 p.m.

It was the performance of a lifetime — so far, anyway — for a pitcher who began his first season at Ole Miss as a fairly non-descript member of the bullpen after transferring from Northwest Florida State.

Oh how the times have changed.

"I just looked up and saw all those zeros going into the eighth, and I was just like 'It's my time to finally finish this game,'" DeLucia said.

DeLucia — who started the Rebels' CWS opener against Auburn on Saturday — was stellar, surrendering just four hits to go along with seven strikeouts. He did not walk a batter and made 113 pitches in a well-pitched game by both teams that lasted just over two hours.

In four CWS games, Ole Miss has given up just nine runs and six walks.

Despite being one of the last teams selected into the tournament after a midseason slump saw them start 7-14 in SEC play, Ole Miss has played as well as anyone this postseason, improving to 8-1. The pitching staff has thrown three shutouts over those nine games.

"One of the things is, our guys have really attacked the strike zone. Another game with no walks today. When you get good starts like Dylan and Hunter (Elliott) — but even (John) Gaddis last night, Gaddis gets through the fifth inning with a couple runs," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "The starters have been terrific. We know the bullpen, how good they've been. I think on the front end and the back end we've really pitched it well."

After striking out Chris Lanzilli to notch the final out of the game, DeLucia threw his glove into the air with glee. For seniors like Tim Elko and Kevin Graham, emotions ran high.

"This is why we came back," Elko said. "We knew that this team had the potential, and obviously we had a little bit of a rough patch there in the middle. Through and through, we always knew that, if we just kept believing and stuck together, we could be right here.

"We're excited to get to play this weekend."

Graham drove in the game's first run in the fourth inning, banging a double down the right field line to drive in Justin Bench. Sophomore Calvin Harris drove in the game's only other run in the seventh, a single that plated in Elko.

It was more than enough support for DeLucia, who pitched with authority from the start. Josh Mallitz and Brandon Johnson were both warming up in the bullpen during the latter innings of the game, but with the way DeLucia was pitching, there was no reason to bump No. 44 from the mound.

"There was really no reason to make a move, I didn't think. He was too good. He just didn't look like he was taxing himself," Bianco said. "He didn't look like he was running counts. He just looked like he was in total control."

Arkansas (46-21) had a chance to make a dent in deficit or jump in front in the seventh, putting a pair of runners on with two outs with Brady Slavens — who hit a 436-foot home run on Wednesday — at the plate. Second baseman Peyton Chatagnier made a slick play on the right side of the infield to steal a potential hit and end the threat.

Ole Miss started the season inside the top-five of the D1Baseball rankings, climbed to the top of the college baseball world before taking a slight tumble off the tournament bubble entirely. But the Rebels rallied late in the season when it mattered most.

And now, Ole Miss is two wins away from bringing home the national championship.

After hearing they had made the tournament field on Memorial Day, all players said they wanted was a chance. And all the Rebels have done is take advantage of every opportunity they've gotten.

"Coach B always says, 'Enjoy the ride,' and that's what we've been doing, and that's what I've been doing, just taking every chance I get, kind of running away with it. Just not looking back," DeLucia said. "But, I mean, this team has just played so well the last couple weeks, and we turned it on so far."

MICHAEL KATZ is the Ole Miss athletics reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at michael.katz@djournal.com.