Do or die|[6/13/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 13, 2005

OXFORD – The Ole Miss Rebels are at a baseball crossroads.

In one direction is Omaha, Neb., the mecca of college baseball. In the other is a successfull season that came up short of its ultimate goal.

It will all be decided tonight at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

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Texas high school legend Adrian Alaniz pitched a gem and the Rebels (48-18) left 14 men on base in a 3-1 loss in the second game of the Oxford Super Regional.

The Rebels won the first game, 6-4, in front of 8,947. The two will meet in a winner-take-all game tonight with a trip to the College World Series hanging in the balance.

“We definitely wanted to come out and win this game and get it over with,” Ole Miss third baseman Chris Coghlan said. “But you have to give them credit.”

Ole Miss hasn’t been to the College World Series since 1972, while the Longhorns have reached the penultimate college baseball tournament for the 32nd time in its history.

“Tomorrow’s going to be another day at the park,” Texas crelief pitcher J. Brent Cox said. “They have a great team and we have a great team. It should be a great matchup.”

Ole Miss will send Eric Fowler to the mound. The lefty has an xx-xx record and an x.xx ERA. The Longhorns will counter with either 6-foot, 10-inch freshman Kenn Kasparek or Kyle McCulloch, who pitched the first three innings in Saturday’s rain-shortened first game.

The Longhorns can only hope to get a performance tonight as they got from freshman Adrian Alinaz. He pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on six hits to improve to 6-3 on the season.

“I wanted to go out there and make aggressive pitches,” Alaniz said. “I wanted to keep the ball down. I knew they were really aggressive at the plate.”

The Rebels touched three Texas pitchers for nine hits, but left eight runners in scoring position, including having the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

But Cox coaxed a double play grounder from Cooper Osteen to end the game.

“Every inning it seemed like we left a village of people on base,” said Ole Miss first baseman Stephen Head. “He got things done with two outs.”

Nick Peoples gave Texas an early 1-0 lead with his first career Texas home run. It was the first of two Longhorn homers as the small-ball oriented team beat Ole Miss at one of their strengths – power.

“So many times what the statistics say isn’t exactly the case, ” Garrido said. “That was the case in both games today.”

In the opener, it was the Rebels who beat Texas with the small ball.

A pair of key sacrifice bunts opened the floodgates as Ole Miss scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to win 6-4.

Trailing 4-2 in the seventh, Barry Gunther led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a Miles Franklin sacrifice bunt. Former Vicksburg High standout Justin Henry, who was ejected in the second game for throwing his helmet, then followed with a bunt that Cox fielded and threw into right field to score two runs and tie the game at 4.

Coghlan walked and the Rebels had a double-steal to put runners on second and third. Texas walked Head and Mark Wright sinmgled to score two more runs.

“Coach Bianco said I would have to work opposite field and he’d throw a lot of sliders,” Wright said. “He threw a fastball down the middle and I was able to keep my hands in and push it opposite field.”

Pettway homered and singled, Head had three hits and Henry has a pair of hits in the win. Head added three hits in the nightcap.