June 2014 Archives
Former Ole Miss soccer player Rafaelle Souza, who now plays for the Houston Dash of the National Women's Soccer League, talks about the 2014 World Cup in her native Brazil and teaches two of her teammates some Brazilian samba dance moves.
Souza has appeared in 10 games, making the start in four games and logging 351 minutes through 13 games played. The World Cup continues Saturday with the start of knockout play, as Brazil plays Chile in the Round of 16 at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday. The United States plays Belgium in the Round of 16 at 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday.
ESPN.com's SEC bloggers wrapped up their annual position rankings, where they rank the position units and rank the top players at the various positions. Below are the highlights for Ole Miss and links to all of the unit rankings.
Bo Wallace enters his senior season ranked second in school history in total offense (7,085 yards) and passing yards (6,340). It's always nice to have that kind of experience, and Wallace should also be healthier after playing through shoulder pain each of the last two seasons. It's a three-man race for the backup job. DeVante Kincade is an exceptional athlete, Ryan Buchanan is more of a pocket passer. Both are redshirt freshmen. Don't forget about 6-foot-3, 296-pound sophomore Jeremy Liggins, who originally signed with LSU before going to junior college. Liggins could be a beast in short-yardage situations.
Bo Wallace: 3rd
The dean of SEC quarterbacks, Wallace seems to finally be healthy after battling shoulder issues each of the past two seasons. If he stays healthy, he could easily shoot up to the top of these rankings. He needs to cut down on his 27 interceptions over the past two seasons, but he's also accounted for 54 touchdowns during that span.
Running backs: 10th
Wide receivers and tight ends: 5th
Offensive coordinators love it when they can stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. Laquon Treadwell, who as a true freshman trailed only Jordan Matthews for the most receptions in the SEC last season, is the type of home-run threat to keep safeties on their heels. Evan Engram, who made a positive impression as a rookie himself before succumbing to injury, gives Ole Miss a one-two punch by demanding coverage in the middle of the field because he's simply too athletic a tight end to be covered by most linebackers in the league.
Laquon Treadwell: 2nd
Everyone had the feeling he'd be special in his first year at Ole Miss, but it came as a surprise just how ready he was to compete in the SEC. Playing slot, he was one of the best receivers in the league, finishing second only to Jordan Matthews in receptions (72). As a result, coaches voted him SEC Freshman of the Year. At 6-foot-2 and 224 pounds, he has the frame to challenge smaller defensive backs. But it's his hands and ability to create space that make him special. With Donte Moncrief now gone, he'll transition to the outside and continue to be a favorite of quarterback Bo Wallace.
Evan Engram: 3rd
Injuries clouded an otherwise eye-opening rookie campaign. He started last season on a tear with 20 catches and four touchdowns through seven games and then missed the final five games of the regular season. If he has a clean bill of health, he's the type of hybrid receiver-tight end who can flourish in Hugh Freeze's offense and complement Laquon Treadwell on the outside.
Offensive line: 9th
Laremy Tunsil: 3rd
The Rebels' 2013 recruiting class was full of five-star prospects, but none played better than Tunsil last season. He appeared in 12 games, making nine starts at left tackle. He allowed just one sack all year. He was a second team All-SEC selection, a member of the SEC All-Freshman team, and the coaches expect him to only get better as a sophomore.
Defensive line: 4th
As Hugh Freeze moves into his third season on the job, the hope in Oxford is that the Rebels can make some noise in the West race. They have the depth, talent and experience in the defensive line to make a move. Sophomore tackle Robert Nkemdiche is the most talented of the bunch and primed for a huge season, but there's also depth inside. If C.J. Johnson stays healthy at end, defensive line should be the Rebels' strongest position in 2014.
Robert Nkemdiche: 3rd
The consensus No. 1 high school prospect in the country last year, Nkemdiche started the season at end and then moved inside to tackle. He finished third on the team with eight tackles for loss despite missing two games with a strained hamstring. At 6-4 and 277 pounds, Nkemdiche is big enough and explosive enough to be a dynamic playmaker no matter where he lines up.
Issac Gross: 8th
Size isn't everything at tackle. The 250-pound Gross proved that last season. He consistently went up against bigger guards and centers on the offensive line and used his quickness to lead the Rebels with 3.5 sacks and was second on the team with nice tackles for loss. Gross started four games at nose tackle last season.
C.J. Johnson: 8th
The 6-2, 237-pound Johnson was on his way to an All-SEC season a year ago until an ankle injury sidelined him for the season. He had four tackles for loss in his first four games and, as a sophomore in 2012, led the team with 6.5 sacks. The biggest hurdle for Johnson has been avoiding injuries. But if he stays healthy, he'll make a ton of big plays for the Rebels this season.
Serderius Bryant: 6th
He might not have the prototypical size for an SEC linebacker, but the 5-9, 218-pound Bryant emerged last season as one of the league's top big-play performers on defense. He led Ole Miss with 12.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. His speed is what sets him apart.
Talent and experience. Both are worth their weight in gold, and Ole Miss has loads of each. We're probably not giving anything away when we say that both Cody Prewitt and Tony Conner will make the list of the league's top 10 safeties later today. Prewitt led the league in interceptions last season, and Conner, a former four-star recruit, has barely scratched the surface on what he can do. Trae Elston and Senquez Golson, meanwhile, are potential impact players, along with Mike Hilton and Derrick Jones. If C.J. Hampton lives up to the hype, he could be a true freshman to keep an eye on.
Cody Prewitt: 1st
On a defense loaded with former blue-chip recruits, it was Prewitt, a three-star safety from the tiny town of Bay Springs, Mississippi, who stood out the most last season. The 6-foot-2 junior showed the complete package as he led the SEC with six interceptions and became a near unanimous first team All-America selection. Now a senior, he's the clear face of a secondary that could be the best in the conference.
Tony Conner: 3rd
Talk about fulfilling on promise. Conner, a four-star safety prospect coming out of high school, was an immediate impact player for Ole Miss, playing in all 12 games and earning Freshman All-America honors for his 66 tackles, one interception and seven passes defended.
Special teams: 13th
Jaylen Walton: 8th
Another guy competing for a 2014 starting running back job, the diminutive Walton was impressive as a return man last season. In addition to his 523 rushing yards as a backfield mate for Jeff Scott and I'Tavius Mathers, he contributed 25 kickoff returns for 515 yards, good for a team-best average of 20.6 ypr.
OMAHA, Neb. -- The long and winding road reached its end Saturday, as Ole Miss was eliminated from the College World Series with a 4-1 loss to Virginia, two wins shy of reaching the National Championship Series.
"It was the best team I have ever played on," senior co-captain Will Allen said. "All the teams in the country except one are going to finish up with a loss. Unfortunately, we did that. If you're going to end on a loss, you might as well do it in Omaha. We ran into a really good team and fought until the end."
But what a run.
Picked to finish sixth in the SEC West, the 2014 Rebels exceeded all expectations, except perhaps their own, as they matched the 2005 team with a school-record 48 wins and became just the second team in school history to win two games at the College World Series, joining the 1956 team.
"You don't want to ever to come up short, especially when you're this close to winning the national championship, but this is a special group of guys, a special group of older guys," head coach Mike Bianco said. "They provided great leadership and were such great mentors to the younger group that is so talented.
"It's sad that it ends but more importantly sad because these 35 guys that wore the uniform this year for Ole Miss were such great representatives of the university and will go down as the best team that ever played Ole Miss and we won't ever be together again. That's what makes it sad."
After near misses in recent Super Regionals, this was the team that broke through and advanced to Omaha and the College World Series for the fifth time in school history and the first time since 1972.
"It was a great run," Allen said. "We played really well throughout the season just to get to Omaha. Not many people do that. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm glad that I got to play here and had the opportunity to play with this team. We had a great team this year. I'm proud of the way we finished."
Allen and senior co-captain Austin Anderson leave behind a lasting legacy, as do their fellow senior and the other members of the 2014 team who may have played their last games in an Ole Miss uniform.
"They had been through a lot the last few years," Bianco said. "They stuck together and trusted myself and the coaches and the system and what we do. They were great mentors to a very talented younger group and they deserve all of this. I know it won't fade away. They are more deserving than any group I can remember."
OMAHA, Neb. -- Will Allen and Sikes Orvis, previously hitless in Omaha, led the hit parade with three hits each, as Ole Miss avoided elimination and advanced to play Virginia in a rematch on Friday at 7 p.m.
After going 6-for-57 and scoring just three runs through its first two games at the College World Series, the Ole Miss exploded, relatively speaking for TD Ameritrade Park, for six runs on 11 hits.
The six runs matched Vanderbilt's six runs from it's 6-4 win over UC Irvine on Monday and the 11 hits matched Vanderbilt's 11 hits, also from it's win over UC Irvine, and Virginia's 11 hits from it's 3-2 win over TCU on Tuesday
"We had some better at-bats today, and it shows you when the wind is not blowing in 20 miles an hour," head coach Mike Bianco said. "It's a little different here. But we were able to barrel some balls up and get some hits."
"We knew coming into this game that we couldn't win a ball game scoring one or two runs," Orvis said. "We knew we had to come out as an offense and swing the bat early and get some pressure off our pitching staff and put some runs on the board. Once we get this offense going, we can be pretty good and pretty scary."
After a couple of one-spots against Virginia and Texas, Ole Miss put together the big inning with three runs in the third, which started with a double from J.B. Woodman and also included an RBI single from Braxton Lee and Allen's two-RBI double.
"To come out and put a crooked spot up, it's crucial no matter what, especially with the offense being kind of stagnant the past couple of games," Orvis said. "It was awesome to get the monkey off the back early and get going."
Allen gave the Rebels the lead for good, 5-4, with an RBI single to center in the seventh, his third RBI of the game after knocking in a pair of runs with a double to right-center in the third.
TCU with the game-tying and game-winning runs in scoring position with two outs in the eighth, but Aaron Greenwood got a chopper to shortstop, which Errol Robinson charged and threw to first for the last out of the inning.
"He really attacked and was super aggressive going after it," Bianco said. "As soon as the ball was hit, I looked up at him and he was flying across the infield. It was a great play, and he was dripping with a lot of confidence as he ran off the field."
"I knew he was a burner at the plate, so it was about going and getting it and cutting down the hops," Robinson said. "It was fairly routine. You're a shortstop and you're supposed to make those plays. It was a crucial play late in the game that you need, so it was a big play in the game."
Allen and Orvis combined to add an insurance run in the ninth with a two-out single from Allen, followed by a two-out, RBI double from Orvis to stretch the lead to 6-4. Allen finished the game 3-for-5 with a double and three RBI, while Orvis was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI.
"We had some good barrels tonight," Allen said. "We found some gaps, found some holes, and then just getting people on base. You saw (Auston) Bous(field) running and just putting pressure on the opposing team. It definitely helps. Once we got going, one through nine, there is not an easy out. It's a really tough lineup to face. And luckily we scored some runs tonight."
With the win, Ole Miss improved to 4-0 in elimination games in the NCAA Tournament and will face at least one more elimination game, needing to defeat top-ranked Virginia twice to advance to the national championship series.
"We play our best baseball with our backs against the wall," Orvis said. "This is a very tough team. It's a very mature team. We know what's on the line. We have nothing to lose; just play. Win or go home."
OMAHA, Neb. -- Through two games at the College World Series, Ole Miss has just six hits in 57 at-bats and scored three runs.
Part of the offensive outage has been expansive TD Ameritrade Park, part of it has been the howling wind that has been blowing in from center field and part of it has been two terrific pitching performances from Virginia's Nathan Kirby and Texas Tech's Ryan Moseley.
Besides Vanderbilt, which has scored a combined 11 runs in wins over Louisville and UC Irvine, no team has scored more than five runs in Omaha, as all eight teams have combined to average just 2.7 runs through eight games.
"We knew it was big, but we have been having a hurricane coming in straight from center field, so it's been tough," said junior first baseman Sikes Orvis, who is second in the Southeastern Conference and seventh nationally with 14 home runs on the season.
"Personally, it's knocking me off my game a little bit. When I get in hitter's counts, I usually try to pull something or drive something, but if I do that, it's just going to get knocked down, so I have been trying to go the other way and hit line drives. We'll adjust. Everybody has to deal with this; it's not just us. It's made for a lot of low-scoring games, so I'm sure the fans are ready for some offense."
The park and the wind has been good for pitchers, particularly for those who have filled up the strike zone, as junior right-hander Sam Smith looks to do in his start Thursday against TCU. As a pitching staff, Ole Miss has allowed just three runs on 15 hits with six walks and 11 strikeouts over 17.2 innings in Omaha.
"Use the ballpark to your advantage and fill up the zone," Smith said. "Guys are going to hit balls hard, but somehow they get caught in the wind. We have a really fast outfield, so they get caught a lot of times."
Same Spot, Different Week for Smith
Like sophomore left-hander Christian Trent, who has helped extend the Rebels' season in each of his last two starts, junior right-hander Sam Smith looks to do the same for the second straight week in Thursday's elimination game against TCU.
Smith has not pitched past the fifth inning in each of his last two starts, but he has given his team an opportunity, limiting Washington to two runs (both unearned) on six hits through 4.2 innings, and limiting Louisiana-Lafayette to three runs (two unearned) on six hits through 3.2 innings.
It has been a nice bounce-back for Smith after a tough stretch of outings against Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Arkansas again at the SEC Tournament.
"He's a guy who always gives us an opportunity to win," head coach Mike Bianco said. "It seems like he always goes out there and does a great job for us. Sometimes it's in the middle innings but that's because the game that he pitches is so important.
"When he pitches on Sunday, that's usually to win the weekend. And depending on how much we have in the bullpen, sometimes we make the move in the fourth, fifth or sixth inning. He's been great for us in this role."
Earlier this season, Smith had another stretch of eight quality starts, but if he's not able to pitch deep, he will have a fresh bullpen behind him, thanks to a light workload through two games and the day off Wednesday.
"We had a healthy bullpen my last few starts, so coach had no hesitation to take me out and get someone else in," Smith said. "We have a lot of guys in the bullpen who are capable. My mindset is to go as far and as hard as I can to give us a shot to win."
More Familiarity than Rivalry
For Ole Miss and TCU, it's their ninth meeting in three years and their fourth meeting in the NCAA Tournament.
The schools played twice in the regular season in 2012, splitting the games in Fort Worth, Texas.
They met again in the 2012 NCAA College Station Regional, with Ole Miss winning the opening game, and then TCU winning two elimination games to advance to the Super Regional.
They met once again to open the 2013 season with Ole Miss sweeping the three-game weekend series in Oxford.
"We played them in the regional my freshman year, and then we opened up with them last year, and now we're playing them again, so we can't seem to get away from these guys," junior first baseman Sikes Orvis said. "It's exciting. You see guys who were freshmen when you were a freshman, and you see them grow and get older. It's cool. We have built a little rivalry, so it will be cool to play them on this stage."
There's also familiarity between Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco and TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle from when Bianco was an assistant coach at LSU (1993-97) and Schlossnagle was associate head coach at Tulane (1994-2001).
Their relationship has continued over the years, including the 2013 summer with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, where Bianco was the pitching coach and Schlossnagle was the head coach.
"We have played them through the years," head coach Mike Bianco said. "You play them a lot in postseason because they're very good. It's certainly a team that we have a tremendous amount of respect for. It's a team that can really pitch. The difference this year for them is they're more offensive than they have been in the last couple of years."
More on TD Ameritrade Park Debate: Why is it so difficult to score runs at the CWS?, writes Jon Nyatawa from the Omaha World-Herald
OMAHA, Neb. -- Ole Miss has scored three runs over its first two games at the College World Series. All three came in pinch-hitting opportunities.
The first was an RBI groundout from sophomore Holt Perdzock in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Virginia. The second and third came from Perdzock and senior John Gatlin, the latter of which lifted the Rebels to a 2-1 win over Texas Tech in walk-off fashion.
"Yeah, we've done that throughout the entire season," Gatlin said. "One through 27 contributes each week in some form or fashion. And Coach Bianco does a great job making sure late in the game when it's getting tight like that, be swinging, get your legs loose and be ready to go. Like I said, we're expected to get it done, and we've been pretty successful at it."
Perdzock delivered the big hit in a 10-4 win over Louisiana-Lafayette to send Ole Miss to the College World Series, as he cleared the bases with a double to right to score two run while a fielding error allowed a third run to score. Against Texas Tech, his two-out, RBI single in the seventh looked to be game-winning run before the Red Raiders tied the game in the ninth.
He has perfected his role as a pinch-hitter this season with 12 hits in 35 at-bats with six RBI, including three hits in five at-bats with four RBI in the NCAA Tournament.
"I have been doing it all year, so I'm used to it," Perdzock said. "I try to stay clam and do what I do. When I was up there, I tried to hit one the other way because the ball was tailing a little bit. He ended up throwing it, but it sneaked through, so I'm happy about it."
For Gatlin, it was his second walk-off hit of the season. He lifted Ole Miss to a 4-3 win over UCF in 13 innings back on Feb. 28, but Tuesday's walk-off takes on a special meaning, not only because of the stage in the College World Series but also the recent passing of his grandmother.
"You saw he was tearing up afterwards," fellow senior Will Allen said. "That's every kid's dream, to hit a walk-off in Omaha. He did it. He's been a huge part of this on the bench and in the locker room. I was proud for him."
"I wouldn't think of anything else that she could be more proud of," said Gatlin of his deceased grandmother. "And Coach (Cliff) Godwin asked me if I needed to go home. And I said, 'Are you kidding me? She'd kill me if I came home right now.' But, yeah, game's on the line like that, so much going through your head, she was definitely part of it."
OMAHA, Neb. -- With runs at a premium at cavernous TD Ameritrade Park, every pitch takes on added importance, and you could feel it with sophomore left-hander Christian Trent, as he kept making pitches to get out of innings.
Looking to match Bobby Wahl's perfect 10-0 mark from last season, he took an unlucky no-decision, but he went eight strong innings to help set up a dramatic 2-1 walk-off win over Texas Tech.
"He's done that all year long," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He's undefeated. He hasn't had a bad outing all year long even in the games he hasn't won. He's gotten no-decisions. He's been terrific. Our guys have that confidence. Even though we lose the first game, I don't know if there's another better guy in the country to run out there in game two than Christian."
"It's another awesome performance by him," senior catcher Will Allen said. "He did a great job, especially with the offense taking a while to get going and scoring him some runs. Staying out there for as long as he did and really keeping them off-balance. Even when they got on base, he shut it down. We got a couple of clutch double plays that helped out. He's done that all year. He's like a second ace out there. He's very composed and very competitive and just goes about his business."
Trent credited his fastball command and making good use of his slider and changeup, as he scattered six hits with one walk and six strikeouts over eight innings. He was especially dominant with runners on base, stranding six runners on the base paths and holding Texas Tech hitless with runners on base (0-for-12) and runners in scoring position (0-for-6).
"It's more of a mindset that you have to lock things down when they get runners on, especially in scoring position," Trent said. "It's time to make the pitches and focus a lot harder on what you're doing. It's a little bit of a tighter window when you're throwing into the glove, and I just felt like I was able to use all three pitches, like I said, when I needed to. I think it worked out well for me."
With eight shutout innings against Texas Tech, he has allowed just two runs -- one earned -- on 15 hits with four walks and 19 strikeouts over 21.1 innings in NCAA Tournament play.
OMAHA, Neb. -- Head football coach Hugh Freeze and head men's basketball coach Andy Kennedy, two former baseball players in their own right, were among the Ole Miss fans in attendance for Tuesday's College World Series game against Texas Tech.
"Watching it on TV the other night, it seemed like our Rebels showed up," Freeze said. "Getting to see it live, my assumptions were correct. Our fans have traveled well again, as they always do. They're so supportive of everything we do. The atmosphere is great."
In his 14th season at Ole Miss, head baseball coach Mike Bianco is the dean of coaches among the big-three sports, with Freeze entering his third season and Kennedy entering his ninth season.
"Mike's the dean of us, most especially, having been here a number of years," Kennedy said. "For him to take that next step and get to Omaha, to me, when I was watching the game against (Louisiana)-Lafayette, it felt like I was playing. I'm thinking to myself, 'This is too stressful. I'm supposed to be just watching the game.' I was really pulling for Mike and I was really proud for him and for his team."
"When you see somebody who has gotten so close and then does that, you certainly want to rejoice, particularly when he's part of our family," Freeze said.
Like they share in the success of Bianco and the baseball team, they also share in the benefits of Ole Miss playing on one of the biggest stages in college athletics: The College World Series.
"Any time you can get our university, our brand on the national stage, it is helpful to all of us," Freeze said. "The job that Mike, his staff and his team have done, we're indebted to them because it certainly helps the whole university and every program we have in athletics."
OMAHA, Neb. --Ole Miss faced the same situation just eight days ago: Win or go home.
And like game two of the super regional against UL Lafayette, sophomore left-hander Christian Trent will get the ball looking to give his team an opportunity extend their season.
"He's been the guy all year in that No. 2 spot," head coach Mike Bianco said. "You feel good with him obviously. He's undefeated and he's a guy who's always answered the bell in that Saturday game, where either you needed to win the series, or after a tough Friday night loss the guy who's been able to give us a great opportunity to get back into it. He's the right man for the job for sure."
Trent is 9-0 with a 2.21 ERA in 102.0 innings entering Tuesday's elimination game against Texas Tech. In that game against UL Lafayette, Trent allowed only an unearned run on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts through 7.0 innings of work, as the Rebels won 5-2.
"It's like another ace," senior catcher Will Allen said. "He's unbelievable. He's done a great job the whole year. You see in those big games he steps up and brings it. He was lights out at ULL and that's one of the best offenses in the country. That gives us a tremendous chance to win because we know that he's going to hold them pretty good for the majority of the game."
He is expected to start opposite left-hander Dylan Dusek, a Freshman All-American selection for the Red Raiders. Dusek is 8-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 74.1 innings pitched.
Dusek also carries a 23.2 scoreless innings streak dating back to April 27 against Oklahoma, which included 8.0 scoreless against Miami (Fla.) and 5.0 scoreless against College of Charleston in the NCAA Tournament.
Virginia pitching held Ole Miss to one run on one hit, its lowest hit total of the season. The Rebels had just four base runners, manufacturing its only run on back-to-back walks, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI groundout.
"We try to concentrate on doing what we do," Bianco said. "That doesn't mean that we won't tweak a few things. We're going to be aggressive and try to make things happen. We tried to do that last night, but we just didn't have any base runners. We tried to hit and run and got a terrible pitch for Preston (Overbey). We didn't have a lot of opportunities. Hopefully, we'll have a lot more opportunities on Tuesday."
"We need to be aggressive and keep doing what we have been doing the whole year," Allen said. "We're a really good team and we're a really good offense, but we ran into a good pitcher, who kept us off balance last night... We hit some balls hard right at people. That's baseball. We have to keep doing what we have been doing the whole year. We're a tough team. We have bounced back before."
Allen said they remain a loose, relaxed group and are ready to get back after it on Tuesday against Texas Tech. Bianco shares a similar confidence in the Rebels.
"I would be very surprised if they haven't been like they have been all year," Bianco said. "They have always answered the bell."
More on Texas Tech probable starting pitcher Dylan Dusek: Dusek already survived to advance, writes Mitch Sherman from ESPN.com
OMAHA, Neb. -- Ole Miss entered the game with a .303 team batting average, tops in the College World Series field, but it was limited to just one run on one hit in a 2-1, walk-off loss to Virginia. It was the lowest hit total of the season for the Rebels.
Virginia left-hander Nathan Kirby allowed one run in seven innings, and Virginia right-hander Artie Lewicki worked a perfect eighth and ninth to set up the dramatics in the bottom of the ninth.
"Kirby was tremendous," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "We could not solve him. We could not catch up to the fastball. It seemed like we would get to it and then he would mix in a breaking ball or change-up, but we really couldn't get to his fastball."
"He's a great pitcher," said shortstop Errol Robinson, who had the only hit for the Rebels. "He stayed away. He dominated the zone. He kept us off balance for most of the game. He did all the things you expect a great pitcher to do."
Kirby, the Atlantic Coast Conference Co-Pitcher of the Year and a first team All-American, did not allow a runner to advance into scoring position until the eighth, when Ole Miss manufactured its only run with two walks, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI ground out.
"My plan was to just make them beat me," Kirby said. "I did a good job at that. In the eighth, I missed a couple of pitches, and you can't do that."
He took the no-decision, as did Ole Miss right-hander Chris Ellis, who bounced back from his second-shortest outing of the season in the super regional against UL Lafayette. Ellis allowed six hits with four walks and three strikeouts but limited the damage to one run.
"Their pitcher (Kirby) did a tremendous job," Ellis said. "It was one of the best games thrown I have seen in a long time. They deserved to win that game. They played a little bit better than we did."
After a leadoff walk and a successful sacrifice bunt, Virginia had a runner at second with one out in the ninth. Ole Miss right-hander Aaron Greenwood struck out the next batter for the second out.
Greenwood got two strikes on Virginia first baseman Mike Papi, before ball three, and then the walk-off hit, a double to deep right-center over the head of Ole Miss center fielder Auston Bousfield.
"Aaron was close," Bianco said. "He was a pitch away from getting out of it. Mike (Papi) did a good job of staying on that ball."
"We kept getting opportunities and just couldn't get that big hit to tack on some more runs," said Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor, whose Cavaliers left 11 runners on base. "We saved it for the dramatics there in the ninth."
Virginia advances to a winner's bracket game against TCU at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday, while Ole Miss moves into an elimination game against Texas Tech at 2 p.m. CT, also on Tuesday.
"It's not as big an uphill battle because you have the rest," Bianco said. "The bullpen guys that threw tonight will be able to throw for sure back on Tuesday. But you have to play well. That's what we have preached all week. You have to make pitches, you have to have good at-bats and you have to play good defense."
Picked to finish sixth in the SEC Western Division, junior right-hander Chris Ellis knew it was possible to advance to the College World Series and be in position to play for a national championship during intersaquad scrimmages early in the year.
Ellis said they didn't know if they were struggling to pitch, or they could hit really well, and it turned out they could hit really well, so they figured out pretty early in the season they were going to be a special team.
It turned out they could pitch it pretty well too.
The pitching staff holds a 2.72 ERA, which is fourth-best among College World Series teams and 16th best nationally, led by the one-two punch of junior right-hander Chris Ellis (10-2, 2.45) and sophomore left-hander Christian Trent (9-0, 2.21).
"It's definitely surprising," senior third baseman Austin Anderson said. "We knew they were good. Up until this season, Ellis was a great pitcher and he had a great stuff, but he never defined himself, and this spring, he was a third-round draft pick and he's been dominant all year.
"We knew Trent was good and at LSU previously, but he was new, and we didn't know how good he would really be. They have made key contributions and they are one of the main reasons we're here."
Ellis and Trent are the latest in a long line of ace starting pitchers, having stepped into weekend rotation spots vacated by Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers, who were selected in last year's MLB First-Year Player Draft.
"At first, it was intimidating. I didn't know what to expect," said Ellis, a third-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels. "After I got the first SEC win out of the way at South Carolina and figured out that my offense could help me and I didn't have to do it by myself. It was exciting from then out because I knew I could trust people behind me to make plays and score runs."
"It was exciting," said Trent, a 20th-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers. "You know coming you have spots to fill. When I got recruited, Coach (Carl) Lafferty said we needed weekend guys, and we want you to be a weekend guy. It's fun coming in and stepping in and be given such a role. It's an honor."
Pitching and command, more than velocity, head coach Mike Bianco said, separates this year's pitching staff from previous teams. Ellis has a power arm, Bianco continued, but he has success because he pitches with command and throws three different pitches in the strike zone, while Trent has had success with his fastball, change-up and slider, depending on the start.
More than anything, confidence has gotten them to this point.
"The confidence in my defense, our hitting and coach's pitch-calling," said Trent, who admitted he has never shaken Bianco off. "He told me before I went out there in the Supers that we were going to throw straight fast balls. I didn't disagree with it. That's what I did, and it worked. I have complete trust in Coach B calling pitches and Will (Allen) behind the plate. It's great to have that kind of confidence in your team."
More on Bianco's pitch-calling system: Trust, track record important in pitch selection, writes Chase Parham from Rebel Grove/Rivals.com
After breaking through to Omaha and the College World Series, Ole Miss will lean on its structure and routine to battle the complacency of just being happy to be there and remain focused on its last team goal: Winning a national championship.
"We're going to practice today and meet right after practice and talk more about the College World Series and what will happen the next few days," head coach Mike Bianco said. "You want to stay to the same routine and what we do year in and year out. Yes, it hasn't been in Omaha, Nebraska, but we have a lot of structure to our program and a lot of structure when we go on the road. There are times for players to lock in for meetings or pregame meals. There are also times where it's time for them to escape, to go to dinner with their parents or go to a game."
"This team is very mature," junior first baseman Sikes Orvis said. "This team has been able to handle its business on and off the field. We know we still have games to play. We still have a job to finish. Omaha is one of our goals, but our ultimate goal is winning a national championship. We're going to treat this like any other business trip and do what we do."
For Bianco, it's his fifth trip to the College World Series, having gone as a player at LSU in 1988 and as an assistant coach at LSU in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997, winning a national championship in 1993, 1996 and 1997. Now, he has returned with his own program after 17 years away from LSU, including the last 14 at Ole Miss.
"Coach (Skip) Bertman made it look so easy and those teams made it look so easy, and we went so often that you did at times take it for granted," Bianco said. "I didn't know it would take this long. I always saw ourselves going there and competing for national championship. When you get a taste of the reality and how difficult it is to get there, you have more of an appreciation for it."
Bianco draws on that experience for the structure and routine that is a key for playing well and having success at the College World Series, referencing "the blueprint" for success from when he was an assistant coach at LSU.
"I told (director of baseball operation) Andrew Case driving out, 'It's a shame it's taken this long because 14 years ago when I got here, I had the blueprint,'" Bianco said. "We went to Omaha four times when I was an assistant at LSU. I stayed in the exact same room. We used the exact same rooming list. It's amazing how much we had the routine down of the College World Series and what to expect.
"But it's not even the same stadium anymore, so things have changed. I have made some calls to (Louisville head coach) Dan McDonnell and (TCU head coach) Jim Schlossnagle and tried to update that blueprint a little bit."
More on Bianco: Ole Miss' Bianco silences doubters, writes Kendall Rogers from Perfect Game
It was 42 years in the making.
After four previous trips to the Super Regional and knocking on the door of the College World Series, only to come up short, the 2014 Rebels kicked the door down.
They punched their ticket to Omaha rallying to win games two and three of the Super Regional against top-ranked and national No. 6 seed Louisiana-Lafayette. It will be their fifth trip to the College World Series in school history and the first since 1972.
"The road to Omaha is bumpy and windy, and to be honest with you, I didn't think it would take this long," head coach Mike Bianco said. "When you go, you have to have a special group, and this is group is certainly all of that. When we got them together in August, you could start to see the great mix of older guys and younger guys. They have played so terrific from week one to this point. I'm super proud of all of them."
"It's an unbelievable feeling," senior co-captain Will Allen said. "Coming in here with Austin Anderson and being here for four year and knowing our history, having the ups and down as teammates and on different teams. We wanted this year to be special and leave a legacy. It's a tremendous group of guys. All year, we have have fought through adversity. You can see that in our regional and this Super Regional, starting off with a loss and coming back and winning two straight games against a really good ULL team. They were a national seed for a reason."
When asked what makes this team special, Bianco referenced their toughness, as he has all season, but also specific instances of this toughness.
After squandering a 5-2 lead at Mississippi State, Ole Miss came back and won 12-2 the next day.
After being swept at Alabama, Ole Miss returned home and swept Auburn.
After losing two of three at home against LSU, including 2-0 in the rubber game, Ole Miss swept nationally ranked Kentucky on the road two weeks later.
"The mantra from the beginning is to have that toughness and be resilient and be tough enough to handle what this game deals you day in and day out," Bianco said. "This team is really tough, and they have a lot of belief in one another. The amazing thing is it's been from so many different guy. There's a different star every night."
As was the case Monday.
Despite being out-hit, 10-9, and committing four errors, the Rebels took the third and decisive game in decisive fashion, 10-4, scoring four runs in the top of the ninth before Josh Laxer closed out his 10-out save.
"This is one of those where you look at the box score, they out-hit us 10-9, and we had four errors," Bianco said. "You don't usually win those games, especially with a six-run spread. We made the most of the opportunities and got some big clutch hits and made some great pitches to get out of some jams."
In addition to special players, it also took special moments, and no play was more special than the perfectly executed relay play from Braxton Lee to Errol Robinson to Will Allen to keep the game-tying run off the board in the seventh.
"We saw the ball go down the line, similar play to last night," said Allen of the play. "Braxton (Lee), being as quick as he is, did a tremendous job to get to the ball and got it into the relay guy. And then Errol Robinson had a good throw to give me an opportunity to put a tag on the guy. It was a huge momentum swing for us to preserve the lead. We were really pumped up about that, and Josh Laxer shut it down from there."
Ole Miss had scored the would-be game-winning run on an RBI double from Auston Bousfield the previous inning, but Holt Perdzock dealt a decisive blow in the ninth. With the bases loaded and nobody out, he cleared the bases with a double to right to stretch the lead to 9-4 in favor of the Rebels.
And the countdown was on in the ninth.
Two outs away after a strikeout.
One out away after a fly out to center.
The 27th and final out on a ground out to short.
And then the celebratory dog pile on the mound.
"Getting that last out is every college baseball player's dream," Laxer said. "It's very hard to put into words right now. It's all sinking in. It's a great feeling."
"It was an awesome feeling," Allen said. "And then it was a little stressful toward the end when you can't breathe and bodies are getting bent up in different way. I feel bad for Josh Laxer who started off with me on top off of him, and then the rest of the guys coming in and tackling him and stuff like that. It's an unbelievable feeling and a reward for the season we have had so far."
Now Omaha and the College World Series awaits Bianco, his team and Rebel Nation.
"It's been a great run," Bianco said. "We have had several great teams. We have had teams that should have been in Omaha. I'm very thankful but I'm very happy for this group, this university and this fan base. They are are unbelievable and second to none. The support has been constant from fans and administration. This is really for everyone. As a university, we deserve this. They deserve to go to Omaha."
The Rebels got a terrific outing from Christian Trent, followed by some timely hitting in the seventh and eighth innings to lift the Rebels to 5-2 win over UL Lafayette and force a third and decisive game Monday at 6 p.m.
With his team's back against the wall, Trent stayed in the moment and gave his team a much-needed lift on the mound, as he allowed only an unearned run on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts over seven innings.
"It was pretty normal," said Trent of his approach with Ole Miss facing elimination. "It's a different kind of pressure, knowing that you have to do it for your team and this could be the last game. My routine stayed the same. I felt the same going out there. I had nerves with the first couple of pitches but that's every game I pitch. Nothing really changed that much."
"He was terrific. The whole game he went head to head with him," said Bianco of Trent matching UL Lafayette starting pitcher Carson Baranik. "Both guys pitched terrific. He had great fast ball command. He was able to locate the fast ball in and out. I'm proud of him. After last night, we needed that. It was one of those nights where we needed lifts from different people, and certainly for seven innings, Christian was terrific. Not a ton of offense tonight because their guy was just as good. The few chances that we had, we were able to put some runs across."
He left with the game tied 1-1, before Preston Overbey gave him a 2-1 lead with a two-out, solo home in the bottom of the seventh. UL Lafayette tied the game with a two-out RBI single in the eighth, but the Rebels had another answer, a decisive one, in the bottom of the inning.
Auston Bousfield led off the inning with a single. After a pitching change for ULL, Austin Anderson worked a full count and drew a walk. Ole Miss went ahead for good on a fielding error in center field, which allowed Bousfield to come around and score. And then pinch-hitter Colby Bortles delivered the big hit of the inning, a 2-RBI single, to push the lead to 5-2.
"We have been in that situation many times," Overbey said. "We knew it was a matter of time before we exploded. We came back in the dugout and told everyone to stay up and stay positive. Get a guy on and see what happens."
The win sets up a date with history, as Ole Miss looks to get back to the College World Series for the fifth time in school history and the first time since 1972. Sam Smith will get the start on the mound, and Bianco said the bullpen is about as fresh as it can be for a third game.
"We were a little tight yesterday for whatever reason," Bianco said. "I don't know if it was nerves. We didn't take a good pregame in and out. We didn't take a good pregame batting practice. Today, we seemed more like ourselves, a little more relaxed. Hopefully, we'll be like that tomorrow."
UL Lafayette took full advantage of its opportunities.
The Ragin' Cajuns, which led the nation in runs scored (515) and ranked second in batting average (.319), did so by way of small ball and the long ball in a 9-5 win over Ole Miss in Saturday's Super Regional opener.
"They got 11 hits, but I felt like we gave them too many opportunities, and that's what we talked about all week," head coach Mike Bianco said. "If you limit their opportunities, you have a much better shot."
Ole Miss had the momentum. The Rebels had scored three runs in the second to take a 3-0 lead. Chris Ellis had retired five of the first six batters he faced. The game then appeared to turn on a two-out fielding error, which UL Lafayette turned into its first run of the game.
"I went up," said Auston Bousfield of the play. "I was under it. It hit my glove and bounced out. I just didn't catch. I have do a better job."
"It didn't really affect me at all," Ellis said. "Some things happen. That will probably never happen again in his career. They scored one run there, and it was a two-run lead at that point. I struck the next guy out. It seemed like it was fine. It didn't affect me in any way."
UL Lafayette starting pitcher Austin Robichaux carried that momentum into the next half-inning, retiring the Ole Miss side in order, as he appeared to settle in from that point forward.
In the bottom of the inning, the Ragin' Cajuns exploded for four runs on just one hit, the one hit being a three-run home run from Tyler Giroaurd to take a 6-3 lead.
"We drop a fly ball, they score a run," Bianco said. "We walk a guy, we hit a guy, we walk a guy to start the next inning, those guys scored. Then we walked a guy in; that was the next run. Then we don't field a bunt and give them an extra base runner; so not only does that give them a base runner, but it's one less out when that home run was hit.
"You can't do that against most teams, but certainly not against that offense."
That home run also ended the game for Ellis, who allowed five runs -- four earned -- on one hit with three walks, one hit by pitch and two strikeouts in 2.1 innings, his second-shortest outing of the season.
"He lost command there," Bianco said. "He lost a little bit of his composure. It happens, but it hasn't happened to him all year. You see it a lot from guys that sometimes all of a sudden lose their rhythm, but fortunately one of the reason we're at where we're at is our three guys don't do that.
"The last time that happened to him was at Alabama, and that seemed forever ago. He lost his rhythm and he couldn't get the ball back into the strike zone."
UL Lafayette stretched the lead to 9-4 with three runs in the fifth, including its second home run of the game. Ole Miss threatened again in the seventh, cutting the lead to 9-5 on an RBI single from Will Allen, but Sikes Orvis was later robbed of extra bases with a leaping catch at the left-field wall.
Looking to stay alive and even the series with a win, sophomore left-hander Christian Trent gets the ball in game two for Ole Miss.
"I would be surprised if we weren't ready tomorrow," Bianco said. "We have done that all year. It's baseball, and sometimes you get kicked in the mouth, and you have to get back and ready to play. We have to do that tomorrow."
"We've bounced back all year, and I don't expect anything less from us," Bousfield said. "We'll be ready to go tomorrow."
The sixth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels practiced at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field Friday afternoon as they prepare to open Super Regional play Saturday night against top-ranked and national No. 6 seed Louisiana-Lafayette.
It marks the fifth time Ole Miss has played in a Super Regional since 2005, with previous appearances in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.
The goal of advancing to Omaha and the College World Series remains the same as with those previous teams, but like during the preparation for the start of regional play, the coaches and players notice a different mindset with this year's team.
"We have been pretty consistent," head coach Mike Bianco said. "That's why we're at where we're at. There haven't been a lot of peaks and valleys, hot streaks and slumps. This team has been able to handle the bad stuff that this game and the conference deals you week in and week out. You hope that by doing that the entire season it pays off when you get to this point."
"All I hear about is some kind of curse that we can't get to Omaha, or whatever," junior right-hander Chris Ellis said. "We have a special team. We have a great offense and we have a great pitching staff and we have great coaching. We'll get it done this year."
Rebels Prep For Synthetic Turf
The most obvious difference at "The Tigue" is the synthetic turf that was installed in January 2010. The only dirt is on the pitcher's mound. With the different surface, the Rebels took extra infield and also had sliding practice Friday.
"The ground balls are a little slower, and they certainly bounce true," Bianco said. "One of the things that you saw at the end of practice is you slide a little further. You certainly don't want to hit a double and slide past the base, or steal a base and slide past it. I wanted to make sure that the guys who have never played on it were conscious of it."
"We don't usually do sliding practice, but because this is the first time we have been on a turf field all year, it seems like whenever you slide on turf you go further and it's easier to slide past the bag," senior third baseman Austin Anderson said. "You have to start your slide earlier, but it shouldn't be that big of a factor this weekend."
"The Tigue" has similar dimensions to Swayze Field, with 330 feet down the lines, 375 feet to the power alleys and 400 feet to center field, but Anderson said the ball carried pretty well there in battle practice, a little better than at home.
The sixth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels hit the road to take on top-ranked and national No. 6 seed Louisiana-Lafayette in an NCAA Super Regional starting Saturday night. UL Lafayette is scheduled to practice from 1-2:30 p.m. Friday, followed by Ole Miss from 2:45-4:15 Friday. Both are open to the public. Here are a few Super Regional related links to videos and stories:
2014 Super Regional Breakdown: Mississippi-Louisiana-Lafayette, writes Aaron Fitt of Baseball America
Cajuns take regional, bragging rights, writes David Ching of ESPN.com
Ex-LSU pitchers Christian Trent, Carson Baranik ready to square off, writes Chase Parham of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com for The Advocate
Ole Miss' Sam Smith relishes chance to be near Lake Charles again, writes Chase Parham of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com for The Advocate
Out of the shadow: Colby Bortles breaks out in Oxford Regional, writes Parrish Alford of The Daily Journal
What makes UL baseball team so special?, writes Tim Buckley of The Daily Advertiser
Lead-off hitter Lee playing to expectations, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger
Will Allen keeps Ole Miss strong at catcher, writes Chase Parham of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com for The Advocate
Final push: Rebels look to get over Super Regional hump, writes Parrish Alford of The Daily Journal
For Ole Miss Fans Traveling To Lafayette:
Join the Ole Miss Alumni Association & Ole Miss Athletics at the Rebels' Super Regional Meet & Greet, from The Ole Miss Alumni Association
Viewing Party For Tailgaters And Fans Without Tickets, from UL Lafayette Athletics
A Look Back At The NCAA Oxford Regional:
VIDEO: Ole Miss Baseball....The greatest atmosphere in all of college baseball, from Scott Burton
Unleashed: Proud, "Absolute Class" Huskies Wow The South, writes Gregg Bell, UW Athletics Director of Writing
Coaches and players alike had high praise for the atmosphere at the NCAA Oxford Regional this past weekend. Fans flocked to the regional, creating an electric atmosphere and an average attendance of 8,219 fans per game. The total for the weekend pushed Ole Miss into third nationally in attendance with 271,920 fans packing Swayze Field this season. The three Ole Miss games averaged 9,796 fans, including 10,394 for the regional opener, which was the largest NCAA crowd in stadium history and fifth largest all-time.
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco:
"They have been unbelievable. I told the players in our meeting that I haven't seen them like this since 2009, in that Monday winner-take-all game when (Drew) Pomeranz struck out the 16 guys against Western Kentucky, where you could feel the fans on the field, you could feel the fans in the dugout, you could feel the energy every time a pitch was made, not just a play or a hit. Every time, especially the last few innings, you watch Scott (Weathersby), and the fans knew it.
"We're fortunate that we have such a great fan base that cares so much about baseball. We're fortunate we have an administration here at Ole Miss that cares so much about baseball. It's a special place. It's a special place, especially in June."
Jacksonville State outfielder Griff Gordon:
"Playing right field with the student section out there, they're definitely in your ear the whole game. I try to not really let that affect me that much, but it's pretty tough not to."
Jacksonville State first baseman Paschal Petrongolo:
"This is definitely the largest crowd I've ever played in front of. It was definitely an experience. One I'm never going to forget. It was enjoyable, even with what happened. It was something that I'll carry with me for a while."
Washington head coach Lindsay Meggs:
"I want to congratulate Ole Miss and its staff and all its players; what a great team. They are great competitors that understand how to play the game. They can win a one-run game or pile it on you. Best of luck to them. It was fun to play those guys.
Washington first baseman Branden Berry:
"It was the best atmosphere I've ever played in. It was a blessing to be able to go out there and take the field; it was unreal. The fans here have been great to us. The town has been great. We're thankful we got to come out here and play."
Washington pitcher Alex Nesbitt:
"It was an amazing experience being down here. We couldn't have asked for a better regional to come to. It was a great atmosphere to play in and everyone competed. I had never played in front of that many people before. Even as the opposing team, you could feel the energy coming from the stands."
Colby Bortles and Sikes Orvis delivered some big hits, including the go-ahead RBI triple in the 10th, but it was hard to top the heroics of Scott Weathersby.
"He's a good kid, and good things happen to good people," said head coach Mike Bianco of Weathersby. "He's a great teammate. When he goes in the game, there's not one guy on the bench who's not hoping that he's going to have success, and that helps you a lot when you're out there, when people are pulling for you, when teammates are pulling for you, when the fans are pulling for you. He's one of those kids that you hope that your kid grows up to be like."
Weathersby began his day by taking the ball from starter Sam Smith in the fifth and got an inning-ending groundout, stranding runners at first and second. Bortles tied the game in the bottom of the inning, and then the rain and nearly two-hour delay followed in the seventh.
Washington shut down its closer, Troy Rallings, after the delay, but Bianco stayed with Weathersby through the delay.
"If anybody could do it, certainly Scott could do it," Bianco said. "He had only thrown 10 pitches, and he wasn't in the bullpen very long before he came into the game. We asked him how he felt as the delay went on. He was with Josh (Porter), and he put heat on his arm and played catch. It also helped that he was rested."
"It wasn't that bad," Weathersby said. "Josh Porter, our trainer, did an awesome job. He had a heat pad on me. He was with me the whole time, stretching me and talking me through it. It really wasn't that bad."
In his first inning after the delay, Weathersby retired the Washington side in order, including a pair of strikeouts. Washington threatened in the eighth, but he stranded two more runners with a foul out to Will Allen. The Huskies got the game-winning run to second in the ninth, and Weathersby once again got out of it, with a flyout to right, to send the game to extras.
It set up Orvis to be the the regional MVP in the 10th.
Allen drew a two-out walk, which ended the day for Washington reliever Alex Nesbitt, who worked a season-long 3.1 innings, giving up just one run on one hit with two walks and two strikeouts.
Orvis then delivered an RBI triple down the right-field line, aided by a friendly bounce off the wall in the corner, to allow Allen to score from first and give the Rebels a 3-2 lead headed to the bottom of the 10th.
"Coach (Cliff) Godwin told they had a big right-handed guy that was going to come out with fast balls," Orvis said. "I was trying to drive something, try to get the game going. He threw something over the plate, and I kind of rolled over it, but it swept down the line. It couldn't have been a better time for my first triple of the year. I had one last year. Something has to happen for me to get a triple."
With Josh Laxer standing at the ready in the Ole Miss bullpen, it was Weathersby's game. He got a ground out for the first out, then a walk, a fly out for the second out, and then worked a full count before striking out his sixth batter of the game, which tied a career.
It was a career game for the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native, as he allowed just two hits with two walks in 5.1 scoreless innings. He also extended his scoreless streak to 16 innings, dating back to a scoreless inning of relief on April 30.
"I don't know if I thought I would, but I had always dreamed of it, when you're a little kid coming to these game," said Weathersby of getting the last out of the regional. "I came to the 2009 regional and I saw these guys play, and it was always a dream of mine to play here. To get the last out to win a regional, it's more than I can ask for."
With Louisiana-Lafayette defeating Mississippi State 5-3 to win the Lafayette Regional, Ole Miss will be on the road this weekend against the national No. 6 seed and top-ranked Ragin' Cajuns.
So ends baseball at Swayze Field this season, which provided so many special moments, none more special than Monday's regional championship game.
"I told the players in our meeting that I haven't seen them like this since 2009, in that Monday winner-take-all game when (Drew) Pomeranz struck out the 16 guys against Western Kentucky, where you could feel the fans on the field, you could feel the fans in the dugout, you could feel the energy every time a pitch was made, not just a play or a hit," Bianco said. "Every time, especially the last few innings, you watch Scott (Weathersby), and the fans knew it.
"We're fortunate that we have such a great fan base that cares so much about baseball. We're fortunate we have an administration here at Ole Miss that cares so much about baseball. It's a special place. It's a special place, especially in June."
With a 4-2 win over Georgia Tech, Washington advances to Monday's Oxford Regional Championship game against Ole Miss (2 p.m.). It was the Huskies' second game of the day Sunday, having lost to the Rebels 2-1 earlier in the day, and they will need to beat Ole Miss twice Monday.
"It's been a long day obviously," head coach Lindsay Meggs said. "It's not the way we hoped it would go. But as I told our guys after the game, the Georgia Tech win was not the prettiest thing in the world. But at this point in time, it's about finding a way to win and getting a chance to play the next day.
"We're tired. We're a little disappointed that we weren't able to win the first game, but we do get to play tomorrow. A little bit of sleep, a little bit of rest, a little bit of energy, when we wake up in the morning, be ready to get back here and find a way to put some runs on the board early and try to put some pressure on them."
In the first meeting, Ole Miss got big-time pitching performances from Christian Trent and Aaron Greenwood. The duo combined to strand seven Washington runners on base, including two each in the 7th and 8th.
"We were an at-bat or two away from being locked up in a 2-2 tie," Meggs said. "This is not an easy environment to come in and execute in... We didn't get that hit. Minus a good at-bat or two with runners in scoring position, we were right there."
"We were right there," said Andrew Ely, who hit a two-run home run to tie the game with Georgia Tech at 2-2 in the third inning. "If we can play defense like we have all year and pitch like we have all year and get that one knock that we didn't get earlier today, we can beat these guys."
Sam Smith will get the start for Ole Miss in Monday's rematch, and the Rebels have used just Greenwood (2.2 IP, 47 pitches) out of the bullpen. Meggs did not announce a starter for Washington, and the Huskies have used each of its three regular starters and Will Ballowe (1.0 IP, 9 pitches), Brandon Choate (0.2 IP, 8 pitches) and Trevor Dunlap (4.0 IP, 50 pitches) out of the bullpen.
"We're going to talk about that back at the hotel and piece it together by the morning," Meggs said. "The key is to try to get a few innings out of whoever starts and try to get us to the fourth, and if we can score some run, we can mix and match a little bit. If we can get to that second game, which is going to be tough for us, anything can happen. You will see everybody at some point in time. We will run them all out there."
As evidenced by the first meeting Sunday, with nearly 10,000 in attendance, the Huskies won't be fazed by the stage or the environment Monday.
"Last year, we traveled down to LSU," Ely said. "That experience has given us experience for something like this. This is not the first time that a lot of our guys have played in front of over 10,000 guys screaming at you. That helps a bit. It's an awesome atmosphere."
As he has so often this season, senior right-hander Aaron Greenwood rose to the occasion and made big pitches in big spots, working the final 2.2 innings to close out a 2-1 win over Washington in the winners' bracket at the NCAA Oxford Regional.
Sophomore left-hander Christian Trent tossed a gem in his own right, having not pitched in 16 days after he was scratched from his start in the SEC Tournament last week. He left with a 2-1 lead in the seventh before turning things over to Greenwood. With the win, Trent improved to 9-0, giving up just one run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
"It was definitely nice having the rest," Trent said. "I was definitely ready to get out there after being off for a start and plus my last start was seven days before that. It felt really good to get back out there and help my team win."
Greenwood inherited runners at second and third with one out after Washington cut the lead to 2-1 on an RBI single from junior outfielder Robert Pehl.
"When we got to the point with the guy at third, Aaron's done that so much in his career," head coach Mike Bianco said. "Not just this year, but so much, coming in with a guy at third base and getting the big strikeout. Although statistically he may look like a strikeout guy, he's a command guy. And he can raise his game. He gets that adrenaline and the fastball gets harder and the slider gets harder and sharper, and that's what we needed."
He struck out the first batter and got a lineout to second base for the third out, stranding the runners at second and third to preserve a 2-1 lead.
"On the mound visit, Coach B told us we really needed a strikeout to hold the guy at third base and not let them put the ball in play to give them a chance to score," Greenwood said. "I was thinking, 'Nothing good to hit. Low in the zone. Get ahead early.' I threw a slider away to strike him out. The next guy, when you get two, you're thinking the same thing: keep pounding the zone. Finally I got the line out to Preston (Overbey), and Preston made a great play."
Washington mounted a two-out rally in the eighth with a walk, followed by a bloop single to shallow center field before Greenwood shut the door again on the Huskies with an inning-ending strikeout.
Greenwood closed things out with a perfect ninth, including a pair of strikeouts, for his fourth save of the season. The Byhalia, Mississippi, native allowed just one hit and one walk in 2.2 scoreless innings.
"The crowd was terrific today, even in a pitchers' duel," Bianco said. "They really sense that and sense every play and pulled Aaron through."
"I had to calm myself down at times, especially playing in front of these great fans, 10,000 people," Greenwood said. "They're awesome. They were unbelievable today. It's amazing, especially being a hometown guy to go out there and play for the team I always grew up loving. It was awesome."
Through two games in regional play, Ole Miss has used just three pitchers, ahead of the regional championship game against the Washington-Georgia Tech winner at 2 p.m. on Monday and a potential if necessary game at 7 p.m. on Monday. Junior right-hander Sam Smith is expected to get the start for the Rebels.
"We have the pitching depth, but the disappointing thing is, if you don't win this game, you are looking at 27 more innings to get through without extra innings just to win it," Bianco said. "It's nice that you can stay in line with a normal weekend. It's all about winning the next game, and the players know that."
Behind a three-run, two-out rally in the ninth, Georgia Tech defeated Jacksonville State by a score of 4-2 in an elimination game at the NCAA Oxford Regional. Georgia Tech will play in another elimination game later Sunday at 7 p.m. against the loser of Ole Miss-Washington.
With runners at the corners and two outs in the eighth, Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall turned to senior right-hander Dusty Isaacs out of the bullpen. He struck out Ryan Sebra to send the game to the ninth with the game tied 1-1.
In the ninth, Georgia Tech had runners at the corners with two outs after back-to-back singles from junior outfielder Daniel Spingola and senior second baseman Mott Hyde. Sophomore outfielder Matt Gonzalez delivered with a two-RBI double to right-center, and junior first baseman Thomas Smith added an insurance run with an RBI single.
Jacksonville State threatened in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with nobody out. Isaacs got a fielder's choice groundout, followed by a foul out and fly out to limit the damage to one run and close out the 4-2 win.
Junior right-hander Matthew Grimes is expected to get the start in the late game for the Yellow Jackets. In the win over Jacksonville State, Georgia Tech used two of its top relievers, Isaacs (1.1 IP, 24 pitches) and sophomore left-hander Sam Clay (2.2 IP, 43 pitches).
"We were seeing how the game went," Hall said. "In an ideal world, we didn't want to pitch either one, but that didn't work out. I'm kind of glad we didn't totally extend Sam. Dusty, I would have liked to see him have about a three-pitch or four-pitch ninth inning. Dusty will be fine in the second game, but I'm not sure about Sam. Sam should be fine for tomorrow if we get there. We will have to beat a very good team to get there."
Georgia Tech is now 4-1 in its last five NCAA Regional elimination games and has advanced to the regional championship game in six straight years.
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