Galleries swell on final practice day at St. Andrews’ Old Course

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, ranked No. 2 in the world, tees off Wednesday during the final day of practice for the 150th Open Championship. — Photo special by Tom Reiter, to The JB Replay

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — No rain or too much wind on Wednesday, just an abundance of unexpected sunshine. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place (sorry that does include Texas) on this July morning.

After three days I’m beginning to talk like the locals (I bought a hat for me napper today). The people I meet are the friendliest people I’ve come across. Enough chitchat. Let’s get down to business.

Things started getting serious on the Old Course today. With The Open Championship starting tomorrow, the players were focused on studying the greens and determining everything about the way the golf ball could roll.

The galleries were larger, but there was less interaction with the players. The golfers’ eyes were on the prize, the Claret Jug, bestowed upon the winner of the world’s most prestigious tournament, on its most prestigious course.

I’ve watched them practice for three days, and I’ve just left a betting parlor where I’ve placed 10 quid on Rory McIlroy. Now it’s time for me to have a lovely pint with some outstanding chilli fries. As we say in the states, at 6:30 tomorrow morning, ‘Game on.’

World rankings: 1, Scottie Scheffler; 2, Rory McIlroy; 3, Jon Rahm; 4, Patrick Cantlay; 5, Xander Schauffele, 6, Cameron Smith; 7, Justin Thomas; 8, Collin Morikawa; 9, Viktor Hovland; 10, Matt Fitzpatrick.

Tom Reiter dons an Open Championship cap on the Old Course Wednesday. In the background at right is the famed Swilcan Bridge. The 30-foot, rock bridge is estimated to be 700 years old, thought to be built originally for shepherds to herd livestock over the Swilcan Burn. Some believe golf in St. Andrews has been played for 500 years, according to brittanica.com. — Photo special to The JB Replay

Taking a look at the ‘Home of Golf’ in St. Andrews, Scotland

The best golfers in the world have gathered at the Old Course in Scotland for the 150th Open Championship. — Photo by Tom Reiter, special to The JB Replay.

Editor’s note: Good morning, all. My friend Tom Reiter has graciously agreed to send journal entries and photos during his bucket-list vacation to St. Andrews, Scotland.

Tom Reiter is a retired school teacher who makes his home in North Carolina. He lived in San Antonio in the 1970s. – Photo special

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — You know what Robert Burns said, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’ Well, after more than a year of preparation, I thought I had covered everything, but who would have thought I would need sunblock in St. Andrews!

My neck says I did. Instead of rain and wind that the Open is famous for, we had 76 and sun today (Tuesday). A beautiful day for watching some practice and do a little shopping on Market Street.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the last day of practice before the 150th Open Championship begins. I’ve filed one picture of me with the Firth of Forth in the background. Another is looking down the 18th fairway, and the third is Ernie Els putting on the seventh green.

Editor’s note II:

Golf has an epic 500-year history in Scotland, a country buffeted by breezes off the North Sea. The game has been traced by historians as dating back to the late 1400s in the era of King James IV.

The Open Championship, sometimes known as the British Open, was first played in 1860 It was first played at the Old Course in 1873. This year marks the 30th Open at the Old Course and the first here since 2015, according to the Associated Press.

Reiter is a retired school teacher living in North Carolina. He lived in Texas and attended school in the 1970s at San Antonio College, where he was editor of The Ranger.
He arrived in Scotland on Monday and took in a four-hole exhibition of past Open champions. Enclosed are a few of his photos from Tuesday.

The four-day, 72-hole tournament, considered one of golf’s majors, starts Thursday. The pros always look forward to playing St. Andrews.

“I am looking forward to St. Andrews,” Tiger Woods said in April in a story published by the AP. “That is something that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve won two Opens there, it’s the home of golf. It’s my favorite golf course in the world, so I will be there for that one.”

Golfers in the Open Championship test the putting surface at St. Andrews. — Photo special to The JB Replay

Who needs sleep? St. Andrews beckons for two U.S. golf fans

A large crowd turned out Monday in Scotland to watch former British Open champions play a four-hole exhibition on the Old Course at St. Andrews. The 150th Open Championship starts Thursday. — Photo by Tom Reiter, special to The JB Replay

Editor’s note: U.S. travel partners Tom Reiter and John Conway arrived in Scotland Monday for the Open Championship at St. Andrews. Reiter, a former editor of The Ranger, the student newspaper at San Antonio College, filed photos and a journal entry.

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

Undaunted by a long day of travel to Scotland, Tom Reiter arrived at the Old Course on Monday, just in time to see a four-hole exhibition. — Courtesy photo

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Arriving at our hotel at 2 p.m. Scotland time and refusing to acknowledge our 36 hours of no sleep, we hopped on the 89 bus and 30 minutes later, we arrived at the most famous golf course in the world: The Old Course at St. Andrews.

We sat in the grandstand behind the 18th hole and watched former Open champions, men and women both, play a four-hole match.

Teams led by Tiger Woods, Sir Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and others treated those in attendance to a wonderful couple of hours of golf. Exhausted and elated, we finally are getting some rest for a return for tomorrow’s practice rounds.

The sprawling 18th fairway on the Old Course at St. Andrews is quite a sight. By the weekend, drama will unfold on this green expanse as the best golfers in the world compete for the Claret Jug. The Open Championship, one of the game’s four major championships, runs from Thursday through Sunday. — Photo by Tom Reiter, special to The JB Replay.

A dedicated fan vents: LIV Golf participants are making a mockery of the game

Tom Reiter (left) and John Conway prepare for takeoff Sunday night at JFK airport on their way to Scotland and the 150th Open Championship. The tournament starts Thursday on the Old Course at St. Andrews. — Photo special to The JB Replay

Editor’s note: After the Saudi Arabian government-backed LIV Golf group announced in March a $255 million, eight-event schedule, a controversy erupted that lingers going into this week’s British Open. Dozens of pros have linked with the upstart series, and while LIV golfers have been suspended from PGA Tour events, they’re allowed to compete in the major championships, including this week’s British Open in Scotland. My friend Tom Reiter, who is attending the 150th anniversary of The Open, doesn’t like the LIV concept at all. As he was packing his bags the other night, the former student journalist at San Antonio College filed a searing commentary.

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the best of golf, it was the worst of golf. It was a tale of two tours and two tournaments nearly 2,000 miles apart geographically and even further apart philosophically. Let me take you to the final hole recently of both The John Deere Classic in Illinois and the LIV Golf series in Oregon.

First, the LIV event. Famed lefty and suspended PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson walks up the 18th fairway of the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club at 10 over par, knowing if he makes bogey he will drop to 42nd place (out of 48 golfers) and his winnings will drop from $133,000 to $127,000, pocket change for a man who was paid $200 million by the Saudi Arabian government to join the LIV tour. As a matter of fact, if Phil scores a 12 on the last hole, he stills collects $120,000, the lowest an LIV tournament participant can earn. Pressure? You tell me.

Two thousand miles to the east, 29-year-old J.T. Poston walks up the 18th fairway at the TPC Deere Run course in Silvis, Ill. During his seven years of professional golf he has earned nearly $8 million and he knows if he only holds on to the lead he will earn his biggest payday ever at $1,278,000. Also, the victory would give him an invitation to the Open Championship at St. Andrews, as well as invitations to the 2023 PGA Championship and the 2023 Masters. Pressure? You tell me.

Walking next to Poston is Emiliano Grillo, a 29-year-old Argentinian ranked No. 151 in the world. Grillo knows if he makes par he will tie for second and earn $631,900, and an invite to St. Andrews. If he misses his par putt, his earnings drop to $423,633, and just as importantly he loses his St. Andrews invite. If he makes it, he packs his bags for Scotland; if he misses, he instead heads home less a quarter of a million dollars. He stands over his putt. Pressure? Ya think?

The LIV tour is a farce

This new tour financed primarily by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund is just plain bad for golf. Being a long-time lover of the game and a spectator at many professional tournaments, why would I watch what is basically a 54-hole exhibition? Besides Mickelson several other big names have jumped at the big money the Saudis are throwing around. It is reported that Dustin Johnson received $150 million to join. Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed quickly followed. Honestly, I have no problem with professional golfers making as much money as they can, but the hypocrisy of these turncoats drives me crazy. The LIV golfers say it’s not just the money. They say the tour will be good for the future of golf. I guess shortening tournaments 25 percent and adding rock music is good for those that like Happy Gilmore Golf. I would give them more credit if they just said the money was too good to pass up. I know if the Saudis offered me the big bucks to write this article, I would take the money and run, but I wouldn’t go on and on about how me making millions is good for The JB Replay.

Also ludicrous is the suggestion that the shorter tour (eight events this year) will give the overworked more quality time with their family. It’s ironic that more time off is given as a reason yet three players who were banned from playing in the Scottish Open (a four-day World Tour and PGA co-sponsored event ending today) were able to get a stay through international mediation that allowed them to play. I guess family was not important this weekend. I can happily report that one of those playing under that injunction, Ian Poulter, was in 156th place after the first day. Someone needs to tell Ian there is no money for last place in the real golf world. (Poulter played two rounds in the Scottish Open and missed the cut).

North Carolina resident Tom Reiter is attending the British Open in Scotland this week as a fan and will chronicle his adventure for The JB Replay. Here, he’s shown working as a marshall at a Tiger Woods-sponsored event in the Bahamas last December.

Golf etiquette

Now, as I am just days away from stepping on the most hallowed golf course of all time, I find myself facing a conundrum. I believe in rules, I believe in golf spectator etiquette, and I have enforced those rules as a marshall at the Hero World Championship in the Bahamas. People screaming, “Get in the hole,” or, “Mashed Potatoes!” makes my blood boil. As a spectator I cheer for a good shot and offer condolences for an errant one. Later this week on the four days of The Open Championship I will be rooting for three of my favorite players — Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Thomas — and rest assured I will be the gentleman spectator I have always been, but in my head I will be loudly booing Phil, Dustin, Brooks, Patrick, Ian and Sergio Garcia for their making a mockery of golf.

When a door closes, somewhere, a window opens

Tom Reiter (right) and friend John Conway are expected to leave Sunday on a trip to Scotland for the British Open. Reiter will chronicle his trip to St. Andrews for The JB Replay.

Editor’s note: Good morning, all. Today, you’ll be treated to a piece from my old friend Tom Reiter, who discusses the genesis of his upcoming trip to the British Open.

In his essay, he quotes from a wide range of pop culture icons. From Charles Schulz, the “Peanuts” comic-strip creator. Also, from the soundtrack to a 1965-movie classic, “The Sound of Music.” For the kicker, he throws in a line from “The A-Team,” a 1980s-era action television series.

I hope you enjoy Tom’s work. The 70-year-old North Carolinian is scheduled to take a commercial flight on Sunday morning — winging his way to New York and then on to Scotland — for next week’s 150th anniversary of The Open Championship.

By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay

It was a dark and stormy night (sorry, Snoopy) when the first seeds of a plan were planted in my brain. On April 6, 2020, I read the following statement issued by organizers of the British Open: The R&A has decided to cancel The Open in 2020 due to the current Covid-19 pandemic. The Championship will next be played at Royal St George’s in 2021.

Was it possible that as the pandemic sowed quite a bit of uncertainty and some fear into our lives, the R&A was throwing me a lifeline? As a long time sports fan, I was suffering through a myriad of cancellations. NCAA Women’s Final Four tickets purchased a year before now became just another piece of memorabilia. My brackets were as unfilled as my desire to attend the basketball festivities in New Orleans.

If I were a comic strip character, a balloon above my head would depict either a tree branch about to fall or a light bulb shining brightly, because an idea was about to form. An idea that could sustain me through this epic plague, along with shots and booster shots. The R&A’s announcement, to me, was a lifebuoy thrown from the deck of a ship. I grabbed it and was reminded of a line from ‘The Sound of Music,’ as Maria von Trapp exclaims, “When The Lord closes a door, somewhere, He opens a window.” For many, a door closed when the 2020 Open Championship was cancelled. But for me a window opened, a window that I would jump through for the next 26 months.

A plan begins to form

Although I only taught English for some 40 odd years, I was very proud of my math skills and those skills immediately went to work following cancellation of the 2020 Open. In assessing the situation, I noted that the 150th Open Championship would no longer be played at Royal St. George’s in 2021 but at St. Andrews in 2022. It was fate. In my 70th year, I was going to the birthplace of golf.

As a good buddy of mine was fond of saying, “Wishing it don’t make it so.” I quickly realized there would be many hurdles to clear and I’m no Edwin Moses. First and foremost I had to determine if my dream was even feasible. Heading straight to my computer, my Internet search began. Getting tickets was going to be through a worldwide lottery and I certainly did not want to leave my journey up to chance. I wanted a guarantee, so I started looking at packages. Narrowing it down to two companies was easy. I found two — Voyages Golf and Golfbreaks. Both were licensed by the R&A to offer packages to The Open. The cost was similar so I decided to go with the one headquartered in the USA, Golfbreaks.

After several phone calls, I had decided on a package that would give me a week’s lodging in Dundee (breakfast included) and a Wednesday-Sunday ticket to the championship all for just under $3000, based on double occupancy. Okay, one hurdle jumped; it was feasible. Hurdle number two was my wife of nearly 50 years. Rather than beat around the bush, I just explained why I wanted to go (although not a golf fan, she did know about the British Open and St. Andrews) and how much it would set us back. How could I forget her wonderful reply, “Just get someone to go with you because I’m not.” Hurdle number two jumped but perhaps the toughest hurdle loomed directly ahead. How do I find someone as crazy about this idea as I am?

My two best buds were still in New York. Chris, a teacher and colleague of mine before I retired and John who I worked and coach with for a dozen years and like me had recently retired. I sent them a link to my Golfbreaks package. I didn’t ask either John or Chris to join me, but rather I was just sharing my trip with them.

I was pleasantly surprised when I read John’s text which simply said, “I’m in.” Two days later and a $600 deposit by each of us we were locked in to the 150th Open at St. Andrews. As Hannibal Smith on “The A Team” often announced, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Corpus Christi’s John Gaddis gets the win in CWS clincher for the Ole Miss Rebels

Former Corpus Christi Calallen standout John Gaddis emerged as the winning pitcher in relief Sunday afternoon as the Ole Miss Rebels beat the Oklahoma Sooners 4-2 to win their first national title in baseball.

In the College World Series game played in Omaha, Neb., in front of a crowd announced at 25,972, Gaddis entered the game in the seventh and put a stop to a rally.

With the bases loaded and OU leading 2-1, Ole Miss replaced Mason Nichols with Gaddis to pitch to John Spikerman. Gaddis, a lefthander and a transfer from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, promptly struck out Spikerman to end the threat.

In the eighth, Gaddis issued a one-out walk but then got tough, retiring Tanner Tredaway on a fly ball and striking out Jimmy Crooks. In the bottom half, Ole Miss took the lead when the Rebels’ offense produced three runs.

With one out, TJ McCants singled up the middle. At that point, OU replaced starter Cade Horton with Trevin Michael.

Justin Bench greeted Michael by hitting a single to right field, moving McCants to third. From there, Jacob Gonzalez singled through the right side of the infield to score McCants, making it 2-2. Subsequently, the Rebels took the lead on a wild pitch, scoring Bench and moving Gonzalez to second.

Elko grounded out, advancing Gonzalez to third. But on yet another wild pitch, Gonzalez raced home for a 4-2 advantage.

In the ninth, Brandon Johnson closed the door on the Sooners. Johnson struck out three straight batters to start the Ole Miss celebration.

On Saturday, the Rebels got the jump on the Sooners in the CWS title round with a 10-3 victory. Their performance Sunday allowed the remarkable Rebels (42-23) to sweep the Sooners (45-24) in two straight games in the best-of-3 CWS title round.

Ole Miss entered the season ranked No. 5 nationally by D1Baseball. But by late April and early May, the Rebels were sputtering, at one point falling to 7-14 in the Southeastern Conference, which was tied for last.

Even after a surge to the end of the regular season, they barely made the 64-team NCAA tournament field. The Rebels were the last of the teams to receive an at-large bid. All that notwithstanding, Ole Miss went 10-1 in the tournament, including 6-1 in the CWS.

Records

Oklahoma 45-24
Ole Miss 42-23

Notable

In one season with Ole Miss, John Michael Gaddis finished with a 4-2 record and a save. He had a 4.20 earned run average. He struck out 49 and walked 19 in 49 and 1/3 innings. At the CWS, Gaddis pitched in two games. He gave up two home runs and took the loss in a 3-2 setback against Arkansas. Against OU in the title game, Gaddis worked 1 and 1/3 scoreless innings, walking one and striking out two.

Ole Miss routs OU, 10-3, moves to within one victory of a CWS title

The hard-hitting Ole Miss Rebels slugged four home runs Saturday night to rout the Oklahoma Sooners 10-3 in the first game of a best-of-3 for the College World Series baseball title. The Rebels also blasted out two doubles in a 16-hit attack.

In a pivotal top of the eighth inning, Oklahoma was in the field, and the Sooners had just benefited from an umpire’s decision that went to replay. Ole Miss’ Peyton Chatagnier attempted to take third base on the front end of a double steal. Initially, he was called safe. But after review, the call was reversed.

OU fans were delighted. With two out and an Ole Miss runner at second, the Sooners had a chance to escape trouble. But that’s when real trouble arrived in the form of three straight home runs by the Rebels. First, it was TJ McCants slugging a two-run blast to right. Next, it was Calvin Harris, with a solo shot. Finally, Justin Bench hit another solo homer.

All of a sudden, it was 8-2, and Ole Miss was on its way. The Rebels can wrap up the national title with a victory on Sunday. If necessary, a third and deciding game to determine the national champion in NCAA Division I baseball would be played on Monday.

Ole Miss got off to a fast start, scoring two runs in the first, one in the second and one in the third. A solo homer by Tim Elko lifted the Rebels into a 4-0 lead in the top of the third inning.

In retaliation, Oklahoma scored twice in the bottom of the sixth against Ole Miss starter Jake Dougherty.

Jackson Nicklaus led off with a single and Sebastian Orduno followed with a sharp single to right. Next man up, Kendall Pettis, dropped a bunt that was fielded by third baseman Garrett Wood, whose throw to first base was wild and late. Ole Miss had the play backed up but a throw home was late, and Nicklaus scored the first run for the Sooners.

When Dougherty walked John Spikerman, that was it for Dougherty. He was lifted for Mason Nichols, who put out the fire. The freshman struck out a pair of OU hitters and then walked one, forcing in a run to make it 4-2. From there, he got Jimmy Crooks on a come backer, and the Rebels escaped what could have been a very big inning for the Sooners.

Records

Ole Miss 41-23
Oklahoma 45-23

Notable

The CWS is being played at Omaha, Nebraska. Oklahoma won its bracket by beating Texas A&M, 13-8, before downing Notre Dame, 6-2. Advancing to the semifinals, the Sooners beat the Aggies again, 5-1, to make the finals. Ole Miss, in winning its bracket, beat Auburn, 5-1. Then it knocked off Arkansas, 13-5. In the semifinals, Arkansas edged Ole Miss, 3-2. But the Rebels rebounded to beat the Razorbacks, 2-0, to make the finals.

The coaches

Mike Bianco is the Ole Miss coach. Bianco has been at Ole Miss since 2000. This is his second trip to the CWS after making it in 2014. Skip Johnson is the coach at OU. Johnson’s first year in Norman was 2018. This is his first trip to the CWS as a head coach. Johnson was pitching coach under the late Augie Garrido at Texas for 10 seasons.

Ole Miss shuts out Arkansas, 2-0, advances to CWS title round

Tied for last place in the Southeastern Conference standings in early May, the Ole Miss Rebels hardly seemed worthy of the NCAA tournament, much less the championship round of the College World Series.

Ole Miss players and coaches weren’t listening to their critics then, and they certainly aren’t paying too much attention to them now.

The Rebels are headed for the CWS title round after a 2-0 victory Thursday against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

They’ll meet the Oklahoma Sooners in a best-of-three series for the national title starting Saturday in Omaha, Neb.

In a winner-take-all, CWS semifinal for a chance to play in title series, Dylan DeLucia pitched a nine-inning gem, blanking the Razorbacks on four hits.

DeLucia struck out seven and walked none.

Trailing by two runs, the Razorbacks had a chance to do some damage in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t score.

Robert Moore reached base with a two-out, infield single. San Antonio’s Jalen Battles kept it going when he hit a ball toward the middle that was misplayed by Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez.

At that point, Moore was at second base, and Battles was standing on first on a play that was scored as an error on Gonzalez.

Brady Slavens, who hit a long home run in Arkansas’ 3-2 victory over Ole Miss on Wednesday afternoon, stepped to the plate. But he grounded out to second base to end the inning and the threat.

Ole Miss took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Kevin Graham’s RBI double. The Rebels made it 2-0 in the seventh on Calvin Harris’ run-scoring single.

While DeLucia (8-2) earned the victory, Arkansas ace Connor Noland (8-6) took the loss.

Noland worked eight innings. He yieded two runs, both earned, on seven hits. Noland was sharp with his control, walking none while fanning seven.

Coming up

CWS championship round (Oklahoma vs. Ole Miss, best of three)
Saturday — 6 p.m.
Sunday — 2 p.m.
Monday — 6 p.m. (if necessary)

Records

Oklahoma 45-22
Ole Miss 40-23

Notable

In early May, Ole Miss was 7-14 in the SEC and was in danger of missing the conference’s postseason tournament. From there, the team started to click and won eight of 11 games. It was good enough for a spot in the NCAA tournament as the last at-large team selected.

Once they made the NCAA postseason, the Rebels got hot. They clicked off wins against Arizona and Miami and then Arizona again to win the Coral Gables regional. On the road again in the Super Regionals, they won two straight — both by shutout — at Southern Miss, the Conference USA champion, in Hattiesburg.

In all, they had strung together five straight wins leading into the CWS.

Ole Miss continued to play well in Omaha. DeLucia got the victory in a 5-1 victory over Auburn. Freshman left-handed pitcher Hunter Elliott followed by leading the Rebels in an 13-5 victory over Arkansas. In the semifinals, the Rebels met the Razorbacks again. Arkansas won the first game, 3-2, but Ole Miss responded with DeLucia going the distance in the 2-0 shutout.

Ole Miss has two Texans on its roster. One is pitcher John Gaddis, from Corpus Christi’s Calallen High School. The other is infielder Peyton Chatagnier from Cy-Fair High School in the Houston area.

Arkansas holds off Ole Miss, 3-2, to stay in the CWS title hunt

Arkansas junior Zack Morris, pitching in relief in a harrowing ninth inning, shut down an Ole Miss rally Wednesday night as the Razorbacks held on to beat the Rebels 3-2 at the College World Series.

“Everyone in the dugout had faith in him,” Arkansas starting pitcher Hagen Smith said in a post-game interview with reporters on-site in Omaha, Neb. “Nerves were high. But we knew he was going to get out of it.”

By claiming the victory, the Razorbacks forced a deciding game Thursday against the Rebels, with the winner advancing to play the Oklahoma Sooners in the championship round.

The best-of-three championship round will start on Saturday night. Earlier Wednesday, Oklahoma earned the right to play for the title by beating the Texas A&M Aggies.

In the night game, the Razorbacks took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth, only to see the Rebels open the frame by loading the bases with a single and two straight batters hit by pitch.

Morris entered the game in relief at that juncture and struck out Hayden Leatherwood.

The next batter, TJ McCants, flied out. One out away from a loss, the Rebels found life when Justin Bench’s RBI single drove in a run.

The ball was hit into the hole between third and short. Gliding toward his right, Arkansas shortstop Jalen Battles gloved it and kept it from going into the outfield, which likely prevented a second run — the tying run — from scoring.

At the same time, the San Antonio Madison High School alumnus had no other play to make after fielding the ball, and so the bases remained loaded.

Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez was up next, with the game hanging in the balance. Arkansas was one out away from winning, but it also remained a possibility that a two-run single could end its season.

Gonzalez swung and struck the ball well. Slicing into left field, it was caught by Zack Gregory for the last out.

“Zack (Morris) has been clutch for us all year,” Arkansas designated hitter Brady Slavens said. “He’s done a great job. We all had faith in him. We all had belief in him. You know, he didn’t have the best start the other day. But he came out and proved himself tonight.”

With the teams tied in the early innings, Slavens’ 436-foot solo home run to center field in the top of the fifth staked Arkansas to a 2-1 lead.

“I guess I was just looking for a fastball over the plate,” Slavens said. “Luckily I got it. It might be the farthest home run I’ve ever hit. I don’t know. Not sure.”

In the deciding game, Ole Miss is expected to start ace Dylan DeLucia, who beat Auburn on the second day of the tournament last Saturday.

“We’re going to have to really fight,” Slavens said. “It’s going to take all of us to win.”

Oklahoma wins 5-1 to oust Texas A&M from the College World Series

The Oklahoma Sooners advanced to the championship round of the College World Series Wednesday afternoon with a 5-1 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies in Omaha, Neb.

Jimmy Crooks helped the Sooners start fast by belting a three-run homer in the first inning. After that, right-handed pitcher David Sandlin dominated the Aggies, ousting them from the CWS with a powerful seven-inning performance.

Sandlin yielded only a run on five hits and struck out 12. The only run for A&M came in the sixth on a solo homer by former UTSA standout Dylan Rock.

It wasn’t nearly enough for the Aggies, as the Sooners moved on to the title round. Oklahoma will play either Ole Miss or Arkansas on Sunday to open a best-of-three set for the national title.

A&M will transition into the offseason coming off perhaps the best season in school history. In coach Jim Schlossnagle’s first year as coach, A&M finished 44-20.

The Aggies picked up momentum during Southeastern Conference play, claiming consecutive series victories over Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Entering the NCAA tournament as the No. 5 overall seed, the Aggies won the College Station regional when they swept to three straight victories, knocking off Oral Roberts, Louisiana and TCU.

In the Super Regionals, also played in College Station, A&M claimed a pair of one-run victories over the Louisville Cardinals to take a five-game winning streak into the CWS.

The streak ended last Friday on opening day in Omaha, as the Sooners knocked out Aggies’ starter Nathan Dettmer early in a 13-8 victory.

Undeterred, A&M moved into the losers bracket and domintated Texas 10-2 before beating Notre Dame 5-1.

Against the Irish, Dettmer, from San Antonio’s Johnson High School, pitched seven shutout innings in the historic win, as it was the first time in school history that the Aggies had won two games in one CWS.

The win sent them to the semifinals, where they needed two straight victories over the Sooners to advance. Sandlin and the OU bullpen just didn’t let it happen. The Sooners limited the Aggies to only six hits.

A&M outfielder Jordan Thompson, a junior from Boerne Champion, enjoyed a standout CWS. In four games, he finished four for 10 at the plate with five RBIs. He also walked four times and stole two bases.

The Sooners didn’t let Thompson get going on Wednesday, though, as they held him hitless in three at bats.