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."
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