Ole Miss wins the Oxford Regional! A season with so much potential, followed by an equal amount of doubt, will continue with a fair degree of optimism. Arizona is getting set to host the Mighty Rebs this weekend after Ole Miss split 2 games with Southern Miss but delivered the final punch in the Oxford Regional Game 7.
Game 1 of 2 against Southern Miss (technically Regional Game 6) was played Sunday evening after the Southern Miss comeback victory over Florida State. This was bad news for the Rebs because Southern Miss, despite being from a mid-major conference, has a deeper pitching staff than Florida State. That pitching staff, however, got off to a rocky start against the Rebs. Ole Miss struck for 4 runs in the 1st inning. A walk, HBP, walk, HBP sequence left the bases loaded with nobody out and 1 run already in. A sac fly from TJ McCants scored the hobbling Tim Elko before Hayden Dunhurst doubled home the other 2 runners and put Ole Miss up 4-0.
The bottom of the 1st was miserable to watch. Drew McDaniel just clearly didn’t have his stuff, but Bianco didn’t go to the pen until Southern Miss had already taken a 5-4 lead. Tyler Myers let 2 inherited runners score in the frame and Ole Miss went down 7-4. The final line on McDaniel: 0.2 innings pitched, 6 hits, 7 runs (all earned).
Myers ate up innings for Ole Miss and kept the dream alive for either a Game 6 or a Game 7 victory. He went 5 innings and earned 2 runs of his own while striking out 6. Brandon Johnson eventually took over and went 0.2 innings while earning himself a run as well. Finally, it was time for Bianco to call on Jackson Kimbrell who recorded 5 outs with just 4 batters faced. Solid, solid outing for Kimbrell.
Southern Miss stole the show as far as leaving guys on base goes, but the Rebs did manage to leave guys on in 7 of their 9 innings anyway. The Rebels only amassed 7 hits in total while Hayden Dunhurst was the only Reb with a multi-hit game. Southern Miss was gifted a miraculous performance from one of their bullpen guys who went 5 innings with just 1 hit.
After exhausting their pitching on Sunday, Southern Miss turned back to their usual Sunday starter (who pitched in Game 1 in relief against Florida State) for the winner-take-all Game 7. Etheridge gave up 2 homers and a double in his only inning of work. The Rebs tacked on to his record 4 runs, 4 hits, and 1 fat L.
The man who was redshirted for half the season, Jack Dougherty, got the start despite throwing a few innings earlier in the weekend. The freshman has just been too hot to let ride pine. He set a career high with 4 IP and earned 2 runs in the 1st inning before settling back in. A rain delay in the 2nd inning put him in jeopardy of not being trotted back out to the mound, but Bianco rolled the dice and it paid off.
Cody Adcock came out to relieve Dougherty in the 5th inning and faced hard luck. A misplayed ball at 1st base took away what would have been the second out in the inning, and instead set up a 2-run blast. Adcock, in all, earned 3 runs while only recording 1 out before being relieved by Jackson Kimbrell. Kimbrell also struggled in the 5th inning. He allowed 2 runs, but he did finish the frame. A lead that was once 9-0 Ole Miss was reduced to 12-7.
Derek Diamond was trotted out for the 6th inning. He recorded 2 out before running into some trouble. Bianco went to get him, and apparently wanted all the starters to get involved. Doug Nikhazy was called on to clean up the mess and close out Diamond’s day with 0 runs in 0.2 innings. Doug then ran into trouble in the 7th.
Doug could have finished his Swayze career with the Saturday gem that yielded 16 Ks, but Bianco decided he needed his ace on 2 days’ rest. Nikhazy allowed 2 solo shots in the 7th inning, but he did finish off the bridge job and allow for Broadway to come close it out. Doug is credited the win and improves to 11-2 on the year.
Finally, it was time for Broadway to attempt another lengthy save. After 3 Ks, 6 outs, and 7 batters faced, Broadway picked up save number 16 (further extending the single season Ole Miss record), and Ole Miss was sent to the Super Regionals. The fact that he threw so few pitches in his prior outings this weekend was key to getting him back out there today. He continued that trend by throwing 2 complete innings with just 26 pitches.
The Ole Miss bats finally came alive. They were due. 11 hits in this game yielded a whopping 12 runs. Ole Miss only left 5 runners on all game. Peyton Chatagnier and Justin Bench both dropped 2-run bombs in the 1st inning, but it was the 2nd inning Grand Slam smacked by the 1 ACL that Tim Elko has left that sent Oxford into a fury.
Elko would later add another homer to his outing because that’s just what legends do. Calvin Harris capped off the scoring with a 2-run blast/apology to Adcock that made up for the 2-run blast he helped facilitate in the top half of the inning.
A couple of Rebels put up 0-fors, but the top of the order was red hot. 10 hits, 2, doubles, and 4 bombs from the top 5 guys in the lineup was plenty of offense to eclipse the Golden Eagles’ upset bid. Tim Elko racked up his second Grand Slam of the weekend and added 5 RBI to his regional tournament total. That man is unstoppable.
With this win, the Rebels advance to the Super Regionals. The Supers will be played in Tucson, Arizona against the #5 national seed. The Wildcats feature a high-flying offense, but if certain arms stay hot (and other rekindle their Hoover magic), the Rebels could very well find themselves in the College World Series. Ole Miss is just 2 wins away from a trip back to Omaha and confidence is high. Ole Miss drew a hard Regional matchup with Southern Miss and Florida State, but Arizona is certainly a more beatable Top 8 National Seed than most.