What a walk-off|Rebs win on Smith’s bomb in 12th inning
Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 6, 2009
OXFORD — Can you say walk-off?
Matt Smith’s solo home run in the bottom of the 12th inning handed Ole Miss an exhilarating 4-3 win over Virginia in Game 1 of the Oxford Super Regional on Friday afternoon.
Oxford Super Regional
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Virginia vs. Ole Miss
Radio: 1490 AM
Game 1: Ole Miss 4,
Game 2: Today, 11 a.m.
Game 3: Sunday, 2 p.m. (if necessary)
Smith’s shot sent the crowd of 9,213 into a frenzy. Ole Miss (44-18) needs one more win to clinch its first trip to the College World Series since 1972. Game 2 is set for 11 a.m. today.
“I had struck out the last at-bat on three straight cutters, so this time, I moved up to the front of the box, hoping to get a fastball in. I got the barrel on it, and then the place goes nuts,” said Smith, who was hitless with two strikeouts before the homer.
“It was a tremendous game. It would be tough for anyone to lose that game,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “Phillip Irwin pitched well, so did (David) Goforth and of course, Jake (Morgan). We kicked the ball around there in the 12th but still won it because Matt Smith just crushes one.”
For Virginia. the loss stopped a run of six straight impressive wins, including three to claim the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship and three more to win last week’s Irvine Regional.
“We’ve had difficult losses,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “But that’s what is so impressive about this club. They will respond.”
Ole Miss needed some ninth-inning magic just to get the game to extra innings. It trailed 3-2 when Evan Button reached on an error and Brett Basham was hit by a pitch. Former Vicksburg High star Jordan Henry then popped up a bunt to leave the runners in place at first and second.
O’Conner brought in his closer, Kevin Arico, but Logan Power singled to left on the first pitch to score Button with the tying run.
Morgan came on in relief in the 10th and, other than a two-out double in the 10th, did not have any problems until two errors put two on in the 12th. He then fell behind in the count 3-0 against Steven Proscia, who had hit the double in the 10th, before coaxing a deep fly ball to Henry in center.
“I looked at Jordan, and he was slowing down his motion, so I thought it would stay in,” Bianco said.
Virginia grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second when Franco Valdes doubled to right center to score Proscia. Proscia had reached on a leadoff hit to center but stayed on first after Irwin struck out the next two Cavaliers to bring up Valdes.
Ole Miss tied it in the bottom of the fourth when Zach Miller had a shallow fly ball in right get lost in the sun and fall between three Virginia defenders. Miller hustled all the way to second for the double. With two outs, Kevin Mort ripped an RBI single to center for the 1-all tie.
Virginia retook the lead in the fifth as the top of the order came through with three straight hits. Jarrett Parker’s double knocked in Valdes to make it 2-1. Phil Gosselin then singled to right-center to plate Parker for a 3-1 lead. Hultzen also singled and Dan Grovatt walked to load the bases, but Irwin came back to get two straight pop-ups to end the inning.
Ole Miss narrowed the gap to 3-2 in the sixth when Miller singled and then scored on Jeremy Travis’ double to left center.
Contact Jeff Byrd at email@example.com