If you missed the first installment of this two-part blockbuster event, you can find it here.
When Ole Miss fans woke up Sunday morning, one national championship was already a lock. Not the one to be played at Charles Schwab Field that afternoon, but the one taking place across the street in Rocco’s Pizza & Cantina, the establishment that gave the gift of the Men’s College World Series Jell-O Shot Challenge to the people.
During the first week of baseball in Omaha, Arkansas fans took a strong lead in the Jell-O Wars, with Ole Miss trailing but well ahead of the rest of the field. As time marched on, Ole Miss closed the gap, eventually taking the lead on the same day the baseball team vanquished Arkansas for the final time.
From there, Ole Miss fans began buying shots as if it was life-sustaining oxygen. On Thursday, following the elimination game win over Arkansas, Ole Miss’ shot tally was 9,360. Three days later at 10:15 on Sunday morning, evidence suggested things escalated:
This thing is like the Mona Lisa for SEC fans. People traveling from all over just to take a picture with it. Only y'all have helped paint this masterpiece. 15,000 will hit pre-game and I can only imagine what happens post game. Let's play ball! #CWS2022 #CWSS #RoccosOmaha pic.twitter.com/cZSsqxgsgk— CWS Jello Shot Challenge (@CWSShotBoard) June 26, 2022
Just your very normal behavior of buying 5,000+ shots in three days. A finer example of cutting life’s brake lines and seeing where it rolls, I cannot recall.
With that maniacal surge and Arkansas fans headed home, Ole Miss locked up one of two titles remaining in Omaha. Winning the second title did not require multiple deposits of $4.50 and credit card receipts so long they could be from CVS, but it did require the continuation of anti-WAOM events.
Let’s begin Game Two.
Sim to the Sixth Inning
If you recall, not a lot happened in the first five innings. Ole Miss and Oklahoma combined for three hits, and Sooners starting pitcher Cade Horton struck out a quarter of a million Ole Miss batters.
The upside was things moved along swiftly, ensuring the game wasn’t going to be a four-hour wrestling match with stress and anxiety. Emotional efficiency!
There was a good moment between innings when ESPN’s cameras found a child who gets it.
The Sixth Inning
As on Saturday night, the college baseball gods were notably absent until the sixth inning. Unclear if they were back at the blackjack table on another heater on Sunday, but they showed up in the top half of the inning and decided the game needed 400 percent more chaos.
In the top of the inning, Ole Miss pitcher Hunter Elliott hit the first batter, and the second batter sacrifice bunted to get the runner to second. Fairly normal baseball.
Then things took a turn. Elliott struck out the third batter, but pitch got away from Hayden Dunhurst, who then sailed his throw to first, pulling Tim Elko off the bag.
It should be noted that this play hopefully helped eliminate one potential Tim Elko statue design. I, for one, would not like his statue to be of him showcasing the 10-inch vertical leap.
Just some food for thought, sculptors.
Instead of a guy on third and two outs, Ole Miss faced runners on the corners with one out, and the top of the order. On the second pitch he faced, Oklahoma’s leadoff hitter attempted a safety squeeze, and this became the scene:
In review, we’ve got:
- First basemen lying facedown grabbing his hand
- First basemen’s glove not on his hand but almost in the outfield
- Second basemen in foul territory chasing the ball
- Right fielder almost in foul territory chasing the ball
- Oklahoma runners running everywhere
Yep, checks all of the NOT IDEAL boxes.
It appeared Ole Miss was now down 1-0, with runners on second and third with one out. HOWEVER, Mike Bianco, who admitted after he doesn’t look at the Jumbotron a lot, happened to watch the replay on the big board and noticed SOONERS CHEATIN’.
Bianco challenged the call, and the replay overlords agreed with him that the runner was inside the baseline, thus committing the crime of interference and was out. The real kicker was the runner who scored had to go back to third, and the guy on third returned to first because those are apparently the rules.
Instead of being up 1-0 and likely getting at least one more run, Oklahoma was now tied, mad, and hollerin’ over a mistake of it own malfeasance. A great way to not be mad would’ve been to not run inside the line down to first because the guy on third was scoring with a good or bad throw to first.
As we know, Elliott got the next batter fly out to right field, and Jacob Gonzalez cooked in the bottom half of the inning to give Ole Miss a 1-0 lead.
The Seventh Inning: A lot like the sixth inning of Game One but worse
After retiring the first two batters on five pitches, Elliott then:
- Gave up a two-out double
- Walked a guy
- Gave up another two-out double
- Was removed from the game
Bianco brought in Mason Nichols, who struck out five of the seven batters he faced in Game One. That did not happen this time!
Instead, Nichols went:
- Hit batter
- Walk (run scored)
Now down 2-1 with the bases loaded, Bianco turned to future doctor John Gaddis to perform escape surgery. After two pitches, this was the scenario Ole Miss faced:
NOT GREAT, BOB.
Yet, for the second day in a row, an un-Ole Miss postseason event came to pass. Gaddis pushed the count to 3-1 before striking out the batter two pitches later to get out of the inning with no more damage.
THE EIGHTH INNING: REDUX
After dropping a house on Oklahoma in the eighth inning of Game One, it was a savvy veteran move by Ole Miss to wait until the eighth inning of Game Two to do the same. It’s important to allow your opponent hope in order to achieve maximum emotional devastation that will carry with them for years.
Just like the top of the seventh, Ole Miss was not in a great spot two batters into the inning.
Dunhurst struck out to start the inning, and TJ McCants was instantly in an 0-2 hole. But the guy who started the beer showers trifecta the previous night once again got things started.
I suppose we could call Mike Bianco somewhat of a coward for not calling the back-to-back-to-back home runs play again, but the back-to-back-to-back singles play from McCants, Justin Bench, and Jacob Gonzalez was enough to get the job done.
After McCants scored to tie the game on Gonzalez’s single, the stage was set for Tim Elko to add to his legacy and send the baseball to hell (the parking lot behind the outfield), while driving in the national championship-clenching runs.
OR THIS TIMELINE WORKS AS WELL:
On a personal note, when the ball blew by the catcher and Bench started his sprint home, I sprang out of my chair and started bear crawling toward the TV and screaming at him to get down. I am glad Johnny Bench’s son listened to my expert coaching from hundreds of miles away.
Four pitches later, Gonzalez scored on another wild pitch, and what do we have here?
Wild pitch giggity.
In about a five-minute period, Oklahoma went from leading in the bottom of the eighth to SHOOK, and Ole Miss was three outs away from a national title.
The Ninth Inning
Brandon Johnson struck out the first batter on five pitches and:
Johnson struck out the second batter on four pitches and:
Johnson struck out the last batter on five pitches, and we love to see it:
As I said in the first installment of this exercise, I never thought Ole Miss baseball would win a national championship in my lifetime. Or probably anyone’s lifetime. But here we stand in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty Two and they gosh dang did it.
What’s really staggering is the Rebels went 10-1 over a three-week period (+57 run differential), and maybe three of the games were blindingly stressful? The 2-1 game against Miami in the regional, and the last two Arkansas games in Omaha. Obviously, everything with Ole Miss is stressful, but I’m talking about the stress that affecting your ability to function as a contributing member of society.
Heading into the top of the ninth in Game Two, all the ingredients for blindingly stressful were there, but Brandon Johnson never let it even lean that way. After the first batter, it was a foregone conclusion we were headed for a dogpile.
At that point, existence as an Ole Miss fan was more about trying to suppress the level of sports joy you never thought you’d have. The joy was ready to boil over, but even though winning was a foregone conclusion, WE STILL NEEDED TWO MORE OUTS. When Johnson got us to the finish line, what an outpouring it was.
Those three weeks in June were as highly enjoyable and bizarro world of an Ole Miss sports experience as we may ever have. What a privilege it was to be on the ride.
Well, it’s the number one experience until Lane Kiffin in Year 7 defeats Alabama for the second time in a season to win the college football playoff PAWWWWWWWWLLLLLLL.
But for now, congratulations to Mike Bianco, assistant coaches, players, and everyone, past and present, who had a hand in making the 2022 season happen.