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'It Won't Fade Away'

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."

Allen, Orvis Lift Rebels Past TCU

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."

Trent Answers The Bell For Rebels

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 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

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