Neshoba countians trek to Omaha for the Rebs
Ole Miss baseball fans were in no hurry to leave Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb., Sunday afternoon. The Rebels baseball team had just completed its two-game sweep (10-3, 4-2) of Oklahoma and claimed the first College World Series National championship in school history.
“We didn’t want the moment to end,” said Philadelphia’s Sarah Mars, who traveled with friends and family to attend the series. “It was the fun, vibrant atmosphere. It was a happy moment; I was happy for the boys. The Ole Miss crowd was great. Ole Miss really showed up.”
The Rebels opened World Series Saturday (June 18) with a 5-1 win over Auburn. They advanced to defeat Arkansas 13-5 on Monday (June 20) but lost a 2-0 decision to the Razorbacks Wednesday (June 22). All eyes were on Thursday’s elimination game with Arkansas and the Rebels pulled through, winning 2-0.
Many Ole Miss Rebel fans hit the road soon after that victory for a 13-hour drive to Omaha.
“I had a feeling this was going to be the year,” said Mars. “On Thursday (after Ole Miss qualified for the championship series) my mom and I decided to go.”
Tyler Comans of Sebastopol made the trek to Omaha and was captured by the NCAA Baseball instagram account praying with Ole Miss team captain Tim Elko before the series.
Comans first met Elko back on April 10, after the Rebels lost a series to Alabama and postseason play seemed more unlikely. Comans said he felt drawn to Elko then and asked if they could pray together.
He said they saw Elko behind home plate on Saturday and he remembered Comans. Comans said he felt drawn to prayer again and that’s when the moment was captured.
“I didn’t pray for us to win a national championship,” Comans said. “I thanked him for being in this spot and I just prayed God would help him with confidence and everything they do. The good Lord works in mysterious ways. I’ve never talked to Tim Elko before April and I had a drawing in. And he remembered that on Saturday.”
Trent Butler described the trip as one of his bucket list events.
“When Ole Miss beat Arkansas Thursday night, I had to go,” Butler said. “I got online and looked for rooms. We stayed about 19 minutes from the stadium. Being there was unbelievable. It was an expensive trip but well worth it.”
Similar decisions were that evening. It’s 13-hour drive to Omaha from Mississippi and everyone was scrambling on line to find a hotel room but it seems to be part of the experience.
John Wilkerson actually made the drive twice.
“My son and I came up last weekend and stayed from Saturday until Tuesday,” Wilkerson said. “We left my wife at home the first time. She said you aren’t leaving without me this time. So, she and me and my son and my nephew all drove up Friday.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience. I am 42 and I never thought I would see Ole Miss win a national championship. It was magical there at the end. We were hugging and shouting. It was exciting.”
Joey Kilgore attended the Saturday game but had to come home Sunday.
“We got to see the back-to-back-to-back home runs, which was really neat,” Kilgore said. “I am so proud of how the Rebel fans showed up in Omaha. It was red and navy and powder blue everywhere you looked. Everywhere you went, even in town, you bumped into people you know from college or from here in Philadelphia. It looked like a home game. It looked to me that it was 90-10 Ole Miss fans.”
This is the second year in a row a team from Mississippi won the College World Series with Mississippi State winning it last year.
“We are the baseball capital of the world right now,” said Wilkerson, who traveled with his wife, Laney, son, Ryals, and nephew Blake Hutcherson. “My neighbor is Stanley Salter. He’s a State and went to Omaha last year when they won it all. I talked to him a couple of times and he was giving pointers on what to do when we got up here.”
Ole Miss fan Cheryl Mars said she was happy for State fans when they won last year and has received similar responses.
“Two Mississippi teams winning back-to-back says a lot about Mississippi sports,” she said. “It is going to bring a lot of recognition to Mississippi. It doesn’t happen often.
“The State fans have been wonderful. They have sent texts and commented on our pictures on Facebook. They were excited and supportive for us.”