Dylan DeLucia out-duels Connor Noland, ends Arkansas Razorbacks' 2022 season in College World Series semifinals
{{ timeAgo('2022-06-23 20:04:41 -0500') }} baseball Edit

DeLucia out-duels Noland, ends Arkansas' season in CWS semifinals

Dylan DeLucia pitched a shutout for Ole Miss on Thursday.
Dylan DeLucia pitched a shutout for Ole Miss on Thursday. (Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)

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OMAHA, Neb. — Connor Noland’s masterful performance wasn’t enough to punch Arkansas’ ticket to the national championship series Thursday afternoon.

Unfortunately for him, Dylan DeLucia was even better for Ole Miss and won the battle of aces with a 2-0 score that ended the Razorbacks’ season at Charles Schwab Field.

“I told them after the game how proud I was of them,” Van Horn said. “I had a little trouble talking, but I told them that I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry when you finish your season in Omaha.”

Neither starter walked a batter and the Rebels’ right-hander went the distance in the 2-hour, 6-minute pitchers’ duel, scattering four hits and striking out seven in nine shutout innings to send Ole Miss to its first ever College World Series finals.

Noland got through eight innings himself, but gave up two earned runs on seven hits while also striking out seven and earned the tough-luck loss.

“It’s one of the best pitchers' duels I've seen up here,” Arkansas head coach Van Horn said. “The game lasted 2 hours and 10 minutes or something. Pitchers were just throwing strike after strike.”

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco echoed his counterpart’s sentiment.

“Both Connor and Dylan pitched today like Friday Night aces in the Southeastern Conference and were terrific and really kind of matching each other pitch for pitch,” Bianco said.

As good as Noland was, DeLucia turned in what his coach described as a “legendary performance” for the Rebels just five days after he threw 114 pitches in 7 2/3 innings in a win over Auburn.

The Razorbacks managed only five base runners all game and one of them reached via an error, plus all of them came with two outs.

“We hit some balls hard in the middle innings and we just kept hitting the ball at them, and they made the other plays,” Van Horn said. “Dylan just did a great job over there. He didn't walk anybody. He didn't give us a chance. … It's hard to score against good pitching when the leadoff man doesn't get on here and there.”

Incredibly, DeLucia told reporters following the game that he didn’t have great command of his fastball until later in the game. Instead, he leaned on his slider and was able to attack Arkansas with it for a first-pitch strike and late in the count.

The result was 10 ground outs and 10 fly ball outs to go along with his seven strikeouts, enabling him to finish the complete game on 113 pitches.

“We obviously can make some plays behind him, but he takes care of a lot of it,” Ole Miss first baseman Tim Elko said. “Just hat's off to him. I don't know if I've ever seen a better pitching performance in a clutch game like that.”

There were really only two times DeLucia was in any trouble at all.

One came in the first inning when Cayden Wallace and Michael Turner hit back-to-back two-out singles, only to be stranded when Chris Lanzilli hit a weak pop up in foul territory.

The other came in the seventh. With two outs, Robert Moore legged out an infield single and then Jalen Battles reached on shortstop Jacob Gonzalez’s fielding error. The latter of those plays came on DeLucia’s 91st pitch of the night, so it prompted a mound visit by Bianco.

Sure enough, on the very next pitch, he got Slavens to ground out and end the threat.

“I wasn't going to take him out at that point,” Bianco said. “I wanted him to face Slavens with the breaking ball. … Another one where, hey, just kind of check his emotions, kind of get him back, grounded, and how we wanted to approach Slavens' at-bat and what we were going to do. Of course he throws a good slider, first pitch gets off the field.”

Between that pair of two-out threats, though, DeLucia retired 18 of 19 Razorbacks. The lone base runner came on a two-out single by Lanzilli.

“He did a good job keeping us off balance and throwing strikes,” Wallace said. “He threw well, mixed up in and out. Our approach was to hit a line drive up the middle and just let the off-speed get in our bat path.”

Van Horn said he got Braydon Webb and Lanzilli out with inside fastballs all game, but also threw some breaking balls away to others, which got them leaning over the plate — at which point he’d bust them in.

“His stuff wasn't overpowering today,” Van Horn said. “What do you expect, he's on three, four days' rest. Normally he's probably 92, 93, 94, maybe a little more every now and then. You go off of the board over there, he's right around 90 every pitch, but he located and he pitched. That's what it's all about, it's about pitching, and he did.”

Two of the last three individual shutouts thrown at the College World Series have come at the expense of the Razorbacks. Michigan’s Tommy Henry threw one against Florida State in 2019, but before that, Oregon State’s Kevin Abel infamously shut them down in Game 3 of the 2018 College World Series finals.

Here are several other key takeaways from Arkansas’ season-ending loss to Ole Miss…

Noland’s Gem

It will be overshadowed by DeLucia’s performance, but Noland was also incredible. Also pitching on four days rest after a 79-pitch, 7 2/3-inning outing against Stanford, the senior nearly matched the Ole Miss ace pitch for pitch.

“He's pitching lights out and I knew it,” Noland said. “I was in the tunnel for most of the game, but I could hear the crowd going crazy. There was added pressure, but I already knew that coming into this game.”

The cliche that it’s a “game of inches” came into play in the fourth inning and it proved to be the difference.

Justin Bench started the inning with a leadoff single that just guy by Moore’s glove at second and then, with two outs, Kevin Graham drove him in with a double that grazed Peyton Stovall’s glove at first base to make it 1-0.

“It was a curveball right down the middle,” Noland said. “I was just trying to get ahead on him and he's a good hitter. They had a good approach on that. They were just sitting soft the first pitch. It's unfortunate. I got away with it during the game, but he turned on that one.”

The Rebels’ other run came in the seventh when Elko and Graham started the inning with back-to-back singles and Calvin Harris drove them in with a single.

Other than that, though, Noland was phenomenal. He had four perfect innings and two other 1-2-3 frames thanks to double plays — meaning he faced the minimum in 11 of his 15 full innings at the College World Series. Noland also had seven innings in which he threw fewer than 10 pitches in Omaha.

“That was an incredible outing by Noland,” Graham said. “He was really sharp, mixing it up with that fastball/cutter. Mixing in the big breaker, tunneling that thing well. Just one of those days you had to take care of your opportunities when you got them because there weren't going to be many of them.”

It was similar to the first matchup between the two aces back on April 29 at Baum-Walker Stadium, when both of them worked deep into the game, but they actually took it up another notch at Charles Schwab Field.

DeLucia also earned the win in that game, giving up two earned runs in seven innings, while Noland took the loss with four earned runs in eight innings.

“It was cool to have ace versus ace again,” DeLucia said. “Noland's a great pitcher. Last time it was a dogfight. This time it was a dogfight. So it was just really cool to have that again.”

Offense Falls Flat Again

The loss was particularly tough for Arkansas fans because it felt so familiar in how the season ended.

As a team, the Razorbacks were just 4 for 32 — the exact same stat line they had in their back-to-back losses to North Carolina State in the super regionals last year.

It’s now five straight seasons Arkansas’ offense has fallen flat at the end of the season.

In the final loss to Missouri State in the 2017 Fayetteville Regional, the two losses to Oregon State in the 2018 College World Series finals, the losses to Florida State and Texas Tech in the 2019 College World Series, the aforementioned pair of losses last year and this game against Ole Miss, the Razorbacks averaged just two runs and hit .153 (39 for 255) as a team.

Other Tidbits

~The announced attendance for Thursday’s game was 20,443.

~Arkansas turned a pair of double plays against Ole Miss, with a 3-6-3 in the third inning and a rare 5-6-3 in the sixth inning. That gave it 60 double plays this year, which will finish second nationally behind Baylor’s 64.

~The Razorbacks are now tied with North Carolina for the third-most trips to the College World Series without a national title. They trail only Florida State (23) and Clemson (12).

~Van Horn is also tied for third on the same list for head coaches, matching North Carolina’s Pete Butler with nine. They trail only Florida State’s Mike Martin (17) and Oklahoma State’s Gary Ward (10).

~Just before first pitch, football coach Sam Pittman tweeted a video that showed the football team calling the Hogs before watching the game from the team meeting room. Men’s basketball coach Eric Musselman, meanwhile, was once again in attendance at Charles Schwab Field.

Up Next

With the loss, Arkansas’ season comes to an end with a 46-21 record. It’s the second time a Van Horn-coached team came up one win shy of the national championship series, with the first coming in 2012 against another SEC opponent in South Carolina.

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