Bats bust out for Ole Miss against TCU
Rebels pull away to oust Horned Frogs at CWS; face Virginia next
OMAHA, Neb. -- Entering the College World Series, Mississippi ranked first among the eight participants in home runs (42) and second in scoring (6.1 runs per game). It took three games for the Rebels' bats to finally show up, which they did just in time Thursday night.
After combining for three runs and six hits in its first two CWS contests, Mississippi matched those totals in the first four innings against Texas Christian. The Horned Frogs kept pace, erasing a pair of deficits to tie the game in the fifth before the Rebels pulled away with single runs in the seventh and ninth for a 6-4 victory.
Senior DH Will Allen was in the midst of most of the scoring for the Rebels, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs. He smoked a two-run double into the right-center-field gap in the third inning, knocked in the winning run in the seventh with a single to center, and singled and scored an insurance run in the ninth.
Usually the starting catcher for Mississippi (48-20), Allen shifted to DH against TCU (48-18) because he injured his right shoulder in the Super Regionals against Louisiana-Lafayette. He said the shoulder only bothers him when throwing and didn't blame it for his struggles at the plate in his first two CWS games, in which he went 0-for-7.
"Obviously, when you don't hit well, it's frustrating," said Allen, a 13th-round pick by the Tigers who leads the Rebels with 64 RBIs. "This is a big ballpark and the wind has been blowing in before tonight. But we knew as an offense we've been really good all year and we just had to stick to our approach. We needed to get on top of more balls, hit more ground balls and line drives, get on base and put pressure on the other team."
Junior first baseman Sikes Orvis also got untracked after going 0-for-6 in his first two games in Omaha. He didn't add to his team-leading total of 14 homers, but he did go 3-for-4 with a walk. He snapped a 3-3 tie with an RBI single in the fifth and provided an insurance run with an RBI double in the ninth.
"The first two games were tough offensively, but the first thing I noticed today was that the wind wasn't howling in," Orvis said. "The ball was carrying a lot better in batting practice and that gave us confidence going into the game. We swung the bats well."
Mississippi junior right-hander Sam Smith couldn't hold 3-0 and 4-3 leads, earning a no-decision for the sixth straight start. But the Rebels' outstanding bullpen picked up the slack, with junior righty Josh Laxer (Detroit's ninth-round pick), freshman lefty Wyatt Short and senior righty Aaron Greenwood (Houston's 28th-rounder) combining to allow one hit and one run while striking out six in 5 2/3 innings. Mississippi relievers have yet to allow an inherited runner to score and have combined for a 2.37 ERA in nine NCAA Tournament games.
"I really think the bullpen is maybe the difference in our season the last six weeks of the year," Rebels coach Mike Bianco said. "We went from just relying on one guy at the end to kind of the guy of the day. You saw a bunch of them today from Laxer to Short and Greenwood at the end. ... It seems every game one of our guys steps up and does a great job. Today we needed all of them."
The lone run Mississippi's bullpen surrendered came on a TD Ameritrade Park rarity -- a home run. Horned Frogs junior first baseman Kevin Cron, a 14th-round selection by the Diamondbacks, cleared the left-center-field fence in the fourth inning against Laxer for just the second homer in 10 CWS games this year.
The game qualified as a TD Ameritrade slugfest, as the 10 runs scored more than doubled the average of 4.9 in the first nine contests. While Cron's blast and the scoring output were unusual, the Rebels coming through in an elimination game was not.
Mississippi lost its Super Regional opener at Louisiana-Lafayette before beating the No.1-ranked Ragin' Cajuns in the next two games. Since dropping their CWS opener 2-1 to Virginia in the bottom of the ninth, the Rebels have had a walk-off 2-1 victory against Texas Tech and beat TCU for their fourth elimination-game win in their last five contests.
"We're a really tough team," Allen said. "We play well when our backs are to the wall. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and now we get to play another day."
Mississippi's win sets up a Friday night rematch against Virginia, the lone national seed remaining in Omaha now that TCU has departed. If the Rebels win, the two teams will play one more time Saturday to determine who advances to next week's championship-game series. Likewise, Texas must prevail against Vanderbilt on Friday afternoon to stay alive.
Mississippi 6, Texas Christian 4 (Texas Christian eliminated)
Texas vs. Vanderbilt, 3 p.m. ET (Texas eliminated with loss)
Mississippi vs. Virginia, 8 p.m. ET (Mississippi eliminated with loss)