Ole Miss still looking for first Omaha trip in Bianco era
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 9, 2009
OXFORD — The third time was not the charm for Ole Miss on Sunday.
Once again, in a deciding third game at the Oxford Super Regional, the Rebels came up empty, falling to Virginia 5-1.
For the Cavaliers (48-13-1), it is their first trip to Omaha and the College World Series. They will face LSU in their CWS opener.
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For Ole Miss, it’s still been 1972 since the last time they made it to Omaha. In 2005, they lost in three games to eventual national champion Texas in Oxford, and again in 2006 to Miami.
For former Vicksburg High player Jordan Henry, the loss is bad, but the team will get over it.
“It’s upsetting, but I’m happy that we made it this far. We just didn’t get a lot of runs. We had balls that were hit hard right at them and they made the plays. They scored a few more runs than we did,” said Henry, who finished with three hits in three Super Regional games. He had a double and scored the team’s only run on Sunday.
“For sure it’s disappointing. You want to win and move on,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “You go through the ups and downs of a season and then get here and you don’t get it done. It hurts a lot. But you want to be on this stage.”
Bianco may take some heat from this latest loss from some disheartened Rebel fans.
On two occasions during Sunday’s Game 3 and another time in Game 2 in the ninth inning, Bianco took the bat out of the hands of some of his best hitters in order to move a runner over by the bunt.
“I thought, because of the pitching of both clubs, that runs were going to be at a premium,” Bianco said. “The one time we did it in the first, it worked. But it didn’t work in the fourth.”
In the first inning, Henry led off, turning a single into a leadoff double. Logan Power, who opened Game 2 with a two-run homer for a quick 2-0 lead, bunted on this chance. Henry later scored Ole Miss’ only run on a two-out hit by Game 1 star Matt Smith. Smith’s walk-off homer in the 12th inning won Game 1 for the Rebels, 4-3.
In the fourth, Kyle Henson singled and then went to second on an error. Zach Miller, one of the Rebels’ best gap hitters, then bunted right back to the pitcher’s mound and Henson was out by several feet at third base.
In all, the Rebels scored just eight runs in the three-game series and batted just .274.
“Over 27 innings there was a lot of great plays, we just didn’t do enough,” Bianco said.
Many Rebels fans, however, have pointed to Saturday’s 4-3 loss as the defining moment. Ole Miss (44-20) lost a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning after Evan Button made a poor throw to first base, opening the door for a Cavalier rally. The error was followed by a David Goforth walk and Virginia cashed in on both Rebel mistakes with two runs to take the lead.
Before the fateful eighth, the Rebels ran themselves out of a potentially big inning in the sixth. After Henson had singled in one run, Smith was caught on a relay throw back from home plate for a tagout at third base. Had Smith pulled up at second, he would’ve scored on Miller’s hit to right and the Rebels would’ve been working with a 4-2 lead in the eighth.
Virginia now gets that chance in Omaha.
Contact Jeff Byrd at email@example.com