For the third time in program history, the Oklahoma Sooners are set to play for a national championship in Omaha. The last two times that the Sooners reached this point, they went on to win the College World Series and the 2022 team would sure like to do the same.
Standing in their way are the Ole Miss Rebels, who came into the postseason tournament with a losing record in SEC play but starting playing up to their potential as the tournament went on and now have a chance to take home the hardware. This is the first time in school history that the Rebels have made the championship game as they look to follow up their in-state rival winning it all in 2021.
Here is our preview and prediction for the best-of-three series between the Oklahoma Sooners and Ole Miss Rebels.
Saturday, June 25
Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma (Game 1 of best-of-three championship series), 6:00 p.m. CT, ESPN
Sunday, June 26
Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma (Game 2), 6:00 p.m. CT, ESPN
Monday, June 27
Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma (Game 3, if necessary), 6:00 p.m. CT, ESPN
How They Got Here
Oklahoma Sooners (45-22, 15-9 Big 12) – After the Sooners left Stillwater with a series loss back on April 10, the Sooners were sitting at 18-12 and looked to be on their way to another disappointing year in 2022. However, Oklahoma has not lost a series since that point and has run through the Big 12 tournament and the NCAA tournament since then, compiling a record of 27-10 since that point. OU went through the Gainesville Regional and Blacksburg Super Regional to get to Omaha and has went a perfect 3-0 since getting here. This team is red-hot and has looked unstoppable over the last seven days.
Ole Miss Rebels (40-23, 14-16 SEC) – Like the Sooners, Ole Miss had a hard time getting things going in the regular season, and was just 35-22 coming into the NCAA Tournament. Since then, the Rebels have been on a tear, going a perfect 5-0 through Regional and Super Regional play and going 3-1 since getting to Omaha. Ole Miss had to take down one of the hottest offenses in baseball in Arkansas not once, but twice, to get to this point and is the public favorite to take home to National Championship Trophy after this series.
Jake Bennett, LHP, Oklahoma
One of the distinct advantages that Oklahoma will have coming into this series is that the Sooners went a perfect 3-0 on their side of the bracket and will come into the weekend completely rested. Oklahoma ace Jake Bennett will have had an entire week to rest up and will get the start for Oklahoma on Saturday. Bennett was solid against a tough Texas A&M offense last Friday, allowing five hits, four earned runs, while striking out three with no walks in six innings of work.
Peyton Graham, SS, Oklahoma
Undoubtedly the best overall player left in Omaha, Graham is a difference-maker in the field and at the plate. Graham has batted .545 since getting to Omaha and has scored four runs himself, along with four BBs and an RBI. Graham makes routine plays at the shortstop position and has been pivotal in helping turn big double plays to get the Sooners’ pitchers out of binds. Graham, along with a host of other hot bats, make the Sooners offense scary right now.
Hunter Elliott, RHP, Ole Miss
Elliott might be the most important player in this series because the Rebels were forced to use Dylan DeLucia is Thursday’s win over Arkansas to make the finals. As a freshman All-American Elliott has been vitally important for the Rebels, and was the starter agaisnt Arkansas on Monday when Ole Miss ran away with a 13-5 victory. In that game, he pitched 6.1 innings, finishing with only one earned run on six hits with four strikeouts and two walks in exactly 100 pitches thrown.
Dylan DeLucia, RHP, Ole Miss
While batters like Tim Elko and Justin Bench could be in this spot, I’m going to DeLucia, and here’s why. When Ole Miss’s offense has gone cold, the pitching for the Rebels has been there to bail them out. Neither team that faced DeLucia in Omaha was able to get going and only one team has scored more than five runs against him this postseason. If this series goes to three games the Sooners will have to try and crack the code on junior transfer.
Storyline to Watch
Will Fatigue Play a Role in Ole Miss’s Game?
As I mentioned above, Oklahoma comes into this series having won all three games it has played in Omaha, giving the Sooners a chance to rest for two days while the other side of the bracket figures things out. On the other hand, Ole Miss had to play an extra game on Thursday to make the Championship series and had to burn its starter as well. The effect that could have on Ole Miss can’t be understated and I believe it might play a role in how this series plays out.
Prediction: Oklahoma Wins in Two Games
Here’s the deal. If Dylan DeLucia was ready to go in Game 1, I think this series goes to three games and I would probably take the Rebels to win the series. However, the Sooners’ offense has been nearly unstoppable and I think that them getting a shot at the Rebels’ two and three pitchers will give them the leg up they need to get an early lead and run with it.
In the end, Oklahoma has the hotter bats, three good arms, and is better rested.
Oklahoma shocks the world and gets it done in two games, wrapping up their perfect run in Omaha and becoming the first school ever to win a national title in both softball and baseball in the same year.