Men’s College World Series roundtable

The Men’s College World Series Finals is finally here.

The Oklahoma Sooners are entering the three-game streak after going three games unbeaten in Omaha, Nebraska, while the Ole Miss Rebels used a dominant pitching performance to advance into Saturday.

The Sooners last won the MCWS in 1994, and Ole Miss is seeking her first title in program history. The best-of-three series begins Saturday (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App).

What was the key for these two teams to reach this point?

Chris Burke: The keys to getting these two teams to the finals are pitching and defense. The numbers speak for themselves: Oklahoma is 3-0 with a 3.67 ERA, 34 K’s and just six walks. Combine that with just two mistakes and you’ve got a team that only has a finite number of runners, which is always a good winning formula. Ole Miss was even better on the hill and almost as good defensively. In four games, the Rebels have conceded just seven earned runs (1.75 ERA) while giving up a measly six walks at 38K. The defense was rock solid with just three penalties: when you add that up it’s pretty clear to see why those two are left for the final.

Mike Rooney: OU is the most improved team in the country since the start of the season. The Sooners tick every box and there is no apparent weakness for this team.

Ryan McGee: I don’t want to go to every sportswriter psychologist, but both teams had full buy-ins all season. Ole Miss went from #1 to “Fire the Bus!” to “Last Four In” to a now almost perfect postseason record. Oklahoma wasn’t in the top 25 last season and flew low all season, and now it’s had a brave run in the postseason with all away games and is 3-0 in Omaha. Both clubhouses never stopped believing they could do this reach the finals even if the rest of us didn’t.

Oklahoma wins the national championship if…

Rooney: Cade Horton continues batting like a first-round pick.

McGee: The Sooners hit it like they did a week ago. They opened with a 13-8, 11-hit win over Texas A&M and then went an 8-1 lead against Notre Dame after an inning and a half. They have more rest than Ole Miss and more starters ready to go than Ole Miss. If they can give these starters one more big head start to work with, this could all end very quickly.

burke: Oklahoma wins the title if it continues to be lifted heavily by its starters. The formula of starters handing the ball to their closer Trevin Michael got the Sooners to this point. If they can keep getting the ball back to Michael late in the games, I like their chances.

Ole Miss wins the national championship if…

McGee: It can hold together Saturday night on the hill. Warm up everyone. See if bullpen alums still have a place in the stands and warm them up, too. Throw nine guys over nine innings. Do whatever it takes to get to your top launchers Elliott and DeLucia after they charge up.

Rooney: It may expand this series into a Game 3 (when DeLucia might be available).

burke: If his offense can squeeze some production out of the bottom third of his lineup. Right now, the trio of Dunhurst, Chatagnier and McCants are 4-35 (.114) in Omaha. If the goal is to get into middle relief of the Sooners’ bullpen, then Ole Miss needs quality bats from the bottom of the lineup that will increase the pitch count and reverse the order. If they get that, the rebels will be in business.

The most watched player in Oklahoma?

McGee: I’ll give you a position to observe. outfielder. All three. It’s a real pleasure to watch Kendall Petti, Tanner Treadaway and John Spikerman go about their business. They’ve got this three-man mind-meld running. And they can meet.

burke: Peyton Graham is perhaps the most talented player in this MCWS field, and he’s certainly produced at a level worthy of all the excitement. He’s reached base in 10 of 15 trips to the plate and scored four runs while also stealing two bases. Graham is the first player in OU history to hit 20+ home runs and 30+ stolen bases in the same season. Something tells me that he will also be in the middle of the final.

Rooney: Graham also solidified center field for OU.

The most viewed player at Ole Miss?

McGee: Dylan DeLucia. He dominated Mississippi’s Thursday afternoon win that propelled it to the finals. The good news? He released a much-needed game to the bullpen. The bad news? He threw 113 pitches in the full game of shutout. If Ole Miss loses Saturday’s opener, he could be called upon to save Sunday’s series.

burke: Kevin Graham. The senior left fielder leads the Rebels in hits so far in Omaha and has a knack for making it big in big spots. Graham, who sits just behind Tim Elko in the order, is often overlooked but he is dangerous on the cleanup spot. Watch out for KG. If he’s hot he can wear the rebs.

Rooney: It offers power and excellent hit-to-ball skills. His running production will play a key role in this final.

Who wins everything?

Rooney: OU has a huge rotation advantage as Jake Bennett and Cade Horton go into the finals in complete tranquillity. Horton’s draft stash is high in helium right now.

burke: This series is sure to be full of drama. The way each team fields and defends seems like these games are going to be very close and potentially low scoring. Difficult to say who will end up top but I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t go three games.

McGee: The Sooners are rested and ready to go. Sometimes that’s bad, as it buys a team too much time in Omaha and forces players to shake off some rust to start the title series. But this is the new MCWS format. A few days off isn’t as long as some teams in the old group would have, and those rounds of play have been close this week, so rest is more important than ever. Fresher arms plus more arms equates to a big Sooners advantage. Men’s College World Series roundtable

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