It’s been just over 2 weeks since Ole Miss won a baseball national championship on the western bank of the Missouri River and in the shadows of the HOT MACHINES and HOT TABLES in the Council Bluffs casinos on the opposite riverbank. One may think we can’t possibly have anything left to say or find new joy to experience, but don’t be fooled, the July Content Train™ will find a way.
Unlike some of you, I did not go to Omaha for the championship series, mostly because I am a dumb. I listened to the part of my brain that was screaming 25-HOUR ROUNDTRIP DRIVE* rather than the part that was loud-whispering BUT WHAT IF. However, like most of you, I did watch every second of it on Saturday and Sunday, and then roughly a bajillion times since.
*For the record, I went in 2014 and had flashbacks of the drive across the entirety of Oklahoma and Kansas and like halfway up Nebraska (I live in Austin, Texas). It was not great! Combined with a drive on a ski trip to Colorado in college, the 2014 drive certainly made me the only non-Kansan alive who has driven across the entire Sunflower state horizontally and vertically. No autographs at this time, please.
Throughout the viewings, I noticed a few things that did not get enough recognition, celebration, or enhancement. To right that wrong, let us look back on the two games that turned Ole Miss baseball from an unending source of creative postseason pain into national champions.
We’ll start with Game One today and drop Game Two tomorrow.
Tim Elko Facts Only
In Men’s College World Series championship games, Tim Elko has started a two-out rally and hit a home run in every game where he received a documented pre-game pat on the head.
In the top of the first, he singled with two outs, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored the first run of the game on Kevin Graham’s double. Two innings later, he hit a ball that was here:
And it ended up bouncing up into the bullpen wall here:
I realize it’s a controversial opinion, and perhaps out of place in the Tim Elko Facts Only section, but I think Tim Elko was good.
[Extreme Karl Ravech Voice]: (unintelligible French)
His correct pronunciation batting average was the same as the Tennessee baseball team’s batting average in Omaha.
Mike Bianco Coaching Expertise
That’s why he gets paid the big bucks, friends.
Omaha Facts Only
Folks, we are trying to delete this. Please stand by.
30 for 30: Living to Tell the Tale of the Sixth Inning
What if I told you Ole Miss faced this scenario and came out alive on the other side?
After Jack Dougherty cruised through five innings of perfect baseball (literally perfect!), the college baseball gods, who assumed Ole Miss would naturally self-destruct and were at a casino on a blackjack heater, became apprised of the developing situation. Within seconds of their on-scene arrival, Dougherty suddenly couldn’t get anyone out.
Enter freshman Mason Nichols, with the bases loaded and no one out, to face Oklahoma’s two, three, and four hitters. Nichols casually went:
- Walk (run scored)
- Tapper back to himself for the third out
Up is down. Down is up. Hello means goodbye. Goodbye means hello. Tennessee is not in Omaha. Omaha is not...well, now this bizarro example kinda falls apart. But facts are facts.
Anyway, instead of staggering into the bottom of the inning tied or having to play from behind, Ole Miss emerged from impending doom without taking a haymaker to the temple and still led.
A wildly underrated un-Ole Miss postseason sequence of events. In fact, Nichols went back out in the 7th and struck out the side, leading the way to the top of the 8th, which was when the fellas decided to kick baseball-related #WAOM down an abandoned mineshaft.
THE EIGHTH INNING
Because we won and everything is fine, let’s ignore the disastrous first two outs of the inning (after getting two on with no one out). But we should acknowledge that, prior to having our faces melted, the mood was very much:
Then TJ McCants, Calvin Harris, and Justin Bench proceeded to initiate said face melting in a sequence of events that defied the previous 128 years of Ole Miss baseball. ROLL TAPE:
After McCants’ home run, the 20,000+ Ole Miss fans celebrated exactly like fans who knew their chances of winning a national championship series dramatically increased, with a dash of praise little tiny baby Jesus we didn’t cost ourselves runs. It was loud, and the volume rolled through the stadium.
Two pitches later when Calvin Harris deposited a ball about seven rows into the right-center field stands, the crowd levitated. This shot covered just about everything:
Even Nebraska fans were excited about the scene unfolding in front of them.
But as we know, more madness was on the way. On the third pitch of his at-bat, Justin Bench caused the crowd to ascend into heaven.
My favorite scene of the two days (other than when it ended in the dogpile) was the guy who caught Bench’s home run being bear hugged by the person next to him as they both jumped up and down in mid-ascension, surrounded by those going with them.
Absolutely beautiful. 10/10. No notes.
Those few minutes were so outrageous and beyond what anyone could’ve imagined happening that even an LSU fan joined the celebration.
While we’re taking inventory of the crowd, let’s a get a shirt removal celebration check:
The ping of Bench’s bat immediately followed by the crowd’s roar rising, as something they can’t believe is happening is in fact happening in front of them, are sounds I would like my brain to always be able to instantly recall.
Baseballs have wronged Kemp Alderman in a past life
One hundred and thirteen miles per hour. The analytics wizards have a technical phrase for this which is “smashing the shit out of the baseball.”
Although somewhat cheating since this is just prior to Game Two, here was documentation of Alderman lapping the field in smashing the shit out of the baseball:
If that’s super tiny on your screen or your eyes are old and tired, Alderman hit seven balls in Omaha with an exit velocity of 108+ miles per hour (!!!!!!!). No one else had more than three because they lack the Decatur, Mississippi country strength gene.
After the 10-3 win in Game One, I don’t remember being anxious or struggling to comprehend that Ole Miss was one (1) win away from a national title, which was something I never thought would happen in my lifetime (perhaps the alcohol to get through Game One did some doctoring?). Maybe the way the team chewed up teams in the postseason (+55 run differential at that point) was a preemptive strike against any crippling anxiety.
Whatever the reason for the unusual calm, that Saturday night was Getting Ready For A Dogpile vibes only.
Check back here later this week for Part II.