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Special Group And Special Moments

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."

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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."

Ellis: 'We Have A Special Team'

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





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