OMAHA – While the Ole Miss run to the 2022 College World Series might seem like a fairytale, rest assured of one thing – the Rebels knew they had this in them all along.
Ole Miss was one of the final teams selected into the NCAA Tournament field, spending parts of the season off the bubble entirely after a 7-14 start in SEC play. But before the season started, the Rebels were a top-five team. And, at one point during the season, the Rebels were ranked No. 1.
A midseason slide might have changed perceptions outside the program, but within it, this was still the same team that had Omaha on its mind when the spring began.
After its win over 13-5 win over Arkansas on Monday night, Ole Miss is 2-0 in the 2022 College World Series and a win away from making it to the championship series for the first time in program history.
The Rebels will play the winner of Tuesday night’s Arkansas-Auburn game on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
“This doesn’t feel like some Cinderella story to us,” said senior leftfielder Kevin Graham, who has five hits and three RBIs so far in the College World Series. “We just shot ourselves in the foot early, but this feels like the baseball we should have been playing all year.”
Ole Miss is 7-0 in the postseason, the only undefeated team left in the field. Even when things were bleak in the middle of the season – the Rebels at one point lost four-straight weekend SEC series, including a home sweep to Alabama – Graham and teammates remained positive and never lost hope.
“(We’re) definitely not an underdog. We knew we were good going into the year. … We showed it in the start of the year, and then kind of fell off a little bit there,” senior Justin Bench said. “We just stuck together, and look at us now. We’re just competitors, and the belief that we have goes a long way.”
Part of the Rebels’ confidence comes from knowing the success they had in previous years with many of the same pieces; the team made three-straight super regionals and, prior to COVID-19 shutting down the 2020 season, Ole Miss won its last 16 games and was among the best teams in college baseball. That helped provide an assuredness that the Rebels could right the ship.
“We’ve won a lot of baseball games. This group has had a great three, four-year, five-year stretch. And it’s the same group of guys that we had last year,” Graham said. “We just knew that that wasn’t going to be the way we ended this thing. And nobody internally ever doubted that.”