DeLucia rules out Arkansas, sends rebels to 1st CWS final

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Dylan DeLucia was very good in Mississippi’s first College World Series game.

He was amazing on Wednesday in the biggest game to date in the program’s 129-year history.

DeLucia gave up four hits in his first shutout for Ole Miss, Kevin Graham’s runscoring double in the fourth held out and the Rebels advanced to the CWS Finals for the first time with a 2-0 win over Arkansas on Thursday.

The Rebels (40-23), the last team picked for a big bid in the NCAA tournament, recovered from a 3-2 loss to the Razorbacks on Wednesday night. They will face Oklahoma in a best-of-three series starting Saturday.

DeLucia (8-2) defeated Connor Noland in an aces matchup to make his second consecutive dominant CWS start.

“Just a legendary feat,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco.

DeLucia was even better than he was against Auburn in the Rebels’ Omaha opener last Saturday, showing more control of his fastball as the game progressed and working his slider effectively to both sides of the plate.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen a better pitching performance in a clutch match,” said team captain Tim Elko.

DeLucia knocked out Chris Lanzilli to end the 2-hour, 6-minute game. The junior right-hander clenched his fist, threw his glove and hugged catcher Hayden Dunhurst after the first individual shutout since Oregon State’s Kevin Abel defeated Arkansas 5-0 in the 2018 national title game.

“It was interesting, a fun ride,” DeLucia said. “Coach B says enjoy the ride. That’s what I’ve done, taking every chance I get. This team has played so well over the past few weeks and we’ve encouraged it so far.”

The loss ended the Razorbacks’ seventh CWS appearance since 2004 under Dave Van Horn.

“I told them after the game how proud I was of them,” he said. “I had some trouble talking, but I told them I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry when you finish your season in Omaha.”

DeLucia gave up four hits and one run with 10 strikeouts and no walks in the Rebels’ 5-1 victory over Auburn. Working on four days of rest against the Razorbacks (46-21), he struckout seven and walked no batter in a 113-pitch outing.

In 16 2/3 CWS-innings, he gave up one run, eight basehits, walked zero and struckout 17 batters.

Noland (8-6) was almost as good as DeLucia on Thursday, giving up seven hits and striking out seven in eight innings.

“I think both pitchers gave everything they had,” said Van Horn.

The Rebels broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning. Justin Bench singled past second baseman Robert Moore, advanced on a groundout and came home when Graham doubled down the rightfield line.

The other run by Ole Miss came in the seventh when Calvin Harris singled into right field after Tim Elko and Graham led off with singles. Harris tried to extend his single to a double and Noland flied out at the end of the inning to make it a two-run game.

Most of the problems DeLucia faced came in the seventh. He retired 18 of 19 batters before Moore, who got an extra chance when Dunhurst dropped a foul tip on what would have been strike three, chopped a slow roller into second for an infield hit. Jalen Battles reached when shortstop Jacob Gonzalez grounded out.

Second baseman Peyton Chatagnier got the Rebels out of the inning, went far left to pick up the ground ball from Brady Slavens and throw it out first.

Bianco said he never had the inclination to take out DeLucia and turn to Brandon Johnson.

“There was no reason to take a step, I didn’t think,” Bianco said. “He was too good. He didn’t look like he was taxing himself. He wasn’t counting. He was in complete control.”

This was the sixth time the Southeastern Conference West rivals have met this season. Arkansas won two out of three at home in the regular season. Ole Miss won two out of three in Omaha.

“A lot of people have the goal of being here,” Bianco said. “One of the challenges we talked about was not to get here, but to win. This is not like going to a bowl where people know years later you went to a bowl and no one remembers if you won or lost. You’re supposed to win and move on.”

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