RebelGrove - Dylan DeLucia spins complete game shutout to put Ole Miss in title series
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Dylan DeLucia spins complete game shutout to put Ole Miss in title series

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OMAHA | Dylan DeLucia couldn’t stand still in the final minute before he took the mound for the ninth and final time on Thursday.

In the middle of the Ole Miss dugout, DeLucia put all his weight on his right foot and then his left, alternating back and forth and staring into the field. It was a couple minutes after he’d casually strolled off after the eighth inning, giving teammates calm high fives and finding a seat to wait for his date with immortality.

But as it became time to move, the energy was causing him to dance around and briefly collect himself before a television camera linked up with him as he exited the dugout and picked up the baseball.

When the final pitch, his 113th on only four days rest, found Hayden Dunhurst’s mitt for the clinching strikeout, DeLucia threw his glove in the sky, let out a scream and celebrated with his teammates. There’s work to do for the Rebels, but DeLucia’s place in history is secure.

Ole Miss beat Arkansas, 2-0, in an elimination game to move on to the College World Series championship where it will face Oklahoma in a two out of three series starting Saturday for the national title. The Rebels are guaranteed their best finish in school history. Ole Miss has two third place finishes in the College World Series — in 1956 and 2014.

DeLucia pitched the complete game and struck out seven with no walks and four hits allowed. Arkansas didn’t hit him hard after the fifth inning, and Mike Bianco never asked how he felt between innings.

There was a mound visit when Arkansas got two men on despite a ball not leaving the infield in the seventh inning, and DeLucia quickly told him Bianco he was OK and that was the end of it.

“He was too good,” Mike Bianco said. “He didn’t look like he was even taxing himself. He just looked like he was in total control.”

The JUCO transfer, who wasn’t even in the starting rotation until the middle of SEC play, hasn’t walked a hitter in 16.2 innings. The CWS record is 17.2 by Roger Clemens in 1983. Starting with the super regional against Southern Miss, DeLucia has allowed one earned run in his last 22.1 innings. He’s given up one run in 16.2 innings in the College World Series.

For the last 13 years, Drew Pomeranz was the easy and correct reflex when anyone asked about the best outing in Ole Miss history. Pomeranz, who was the No. 5 pick in 2010 and the runner-up for the Golden Spikes Award, struck out 16 in a complete game effort on two days rest against Western Kentucky. It was an otherworldly effort and in a vacuum has an argument, but considering the setting and stakes, DeLucia took that crown at Charles Schwab Field.

“A bigger stage, obviously here,” Bianco said. “That was a regional final, and that was at hom. Very similar. You’re splitting hairs, and you’re comparing yourself to Drew Pomeranz, that’s pretty good.”

Facing SEC West nemesis Arkansas and to elevate the Rebels to a unique place in program history, this one was a meat-grinder that DeLucia turned into his own personal playground. And he did it opposite Arkansas Connor Noland who was trying to paint his own postseason moment.

Noland was on the same short rest and went eight innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. He forced DeLucia to be perfect. DeLucia did the same to him, and Noland blinked twice.

With two outs in the fourth inning, Noland threw a get-over curve ball to start off Graham who laced it down the first-base for an RBI double to give the Rebels the lead.

“Thank God I don’t have to see Kevin Graham hit against us again,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “I have nightmares about him.”

Three innings later, Calvin Harris singled in Tim Elko with a shot past Robert Moore at second base.

Noland knew those couple mistakes might be enough for Ole Miss. He didn’t watch, but he knew what was going on.

“He was pitching lights out,” Noland said. “I was in the tunnel for most of the game, but I could hear the crowd going crazy.”

The Rebels, when it was over, took turns hugging DeLucia and slapping him on the back before handshakes and other celebration. He had been singular-focused all day and was finally exhaling with joy and accomplishment. Through the first seven innings, DeLucia didn’t look to the board or know what was remaining. Then, he saw how close he was and knew it was his game.

DeLucia sat down Arkansas in order in four of the last five innings.

“I saw all those zeroes going into the eighth, and I was knowing it’s finally my time to finish the game," DeLucia said.