OXFORD • Thomas Dillard hit two home runs, drove in seven runs, and Ole Miss is back in a super regional.
The Rebels jumped on pitching-depleted Jacksonville State when Dillard homered on the game’s first pitch and went on to win 19-4 in the Oxford Regional championship before a crowd of 9,505 fans at Swayze Field on Sunday night.
Many of those fans were comfortable enough to leave when the Rebels (40-25) led 16-2 in the sixth inning.
It was after 10:30 p.m. at that time. The game ended at midnight.
In three regional games Ole Miss outscored opponents 41-7, slaying the ghosts of a doubleheader loss to another Ohio Valley Conference team, Tennessee Tech, on the regional championship day last year.
"It's a little bit of redemption. For guys like me and Cooper (Johnson), some other guys that played last year and saw how that felt, we didn't want to feel that way again," said Dillard, a junior from Oxford. "It's a good feeling now, looking back on that. I'm just really proud of how we fought this weekend and really proud of our team."
The Rebels last played in a super regional in 2014 when they defeated Louisiana-Lafayette in three games to advance to the College World Series. This time they will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for the second time this season as the No. 5 national seed Razorbacks also won their regional.
Ole Miss has won three of five against Arkansas this season including two in the regular season series March 29-31 in Fayetteville.
Jacksonville State eliminated Clemson earlier Sunday to become the first No. 4 seed to advance to an Oxford Regional final since Sam Houston State in 2007. Ole Miss defeated the Bearcats 21-13 then, the most runs scored by the Rebels in a regional final.
Ole Miss defeated Jacksonville State 16-2 in the regional opener on Friday.
In the rematch, the fourth game for the OVC regular season and tournament champs, Gamecocks pitchers walked 15 batters, 11 of them in the first 3 1/3 innings by Trey Fortner and Colin Casey, the first two pitchers.
Two Gamecocks walks came with the bases loaded.
The Rebels missed opportunities to blow open the game in the first two innings as Fortner ended the first with a double-play ball by Kevin Graham and escaped a bases-loaded one-out situation when Tyler Keenan was thrown out at home, and Grae Kessinger struck out.
“Early in the game things worked out, and we were able to get out of some situations. Then the game got away from us in the middle innings,” Jacksonville State coach Jim Case said. “We just ran low on pitching.”
A year ago Tennessee Tech starter Ethan Roberts pitched 7 2/3 innings in the first game of the doubleheader. Ole Miss starter James McArthur was gone after 2 2/3 innings, and Tech won 15-5.
"I went through the dugout before the game and talked to the guys in the lineup and on the bench and said, 'We've just got to jump on them from the start,'" Dillard said. "I didn't know how much pitching they had, but it was one of those games where if you go out there and set the tone it could really help you throughout the game."
Ole Miss put up five runs on two hits in the third – including a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Dillard – and Dillard’s grand slam was part of a six-run fourth making the score 12-2.
Ole Miss right-hander Gunnar Hoglund gave up two runs, one earned, in the second but threw four scoreless innings leaving with one out in the sixth and a 16-2 lead.
Dillard also doubled and finished 3 for 3.
Cole Zabowski had four hits.
Anthony Servideo had a solo home run in the seventh, his only official at-bat. In other plate appearances he walked four times and scored three runs.
"I don't know if satisfied is the word, but I just feel good," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "We're all proud. We're proud of one another. I'm happy. Everybody deserves this, even the new guys, but the guys that were here last year deserve today. They deserve to finish their last games at Swayze Field like this."