Rebels headed to Virginia

Published 12:10 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2010

OXFORD — Ole Miss will get another shot at Virginia if it successfully handles its shot at a Big East opponent first.

On the road to begin the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in seven years, the Rebels saw their school’s name called early in Monday’s tournament selection show. They’re headed to Charlottesville, Va., as a No. 2 seed and will face No. 3 seed St. John’s.

Virginia, the No. 1 seed in the regional and No. 5 national seed, opens play against No. 4 seed Virginia Commonwealth Friday at 3 p.m. Ole Miss and St. John’s follow at 7 p.m.

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Virginia went through Ole Miss to advance to the College World Series last season, defeating the Rebels 2-1 in the Oxford Super Regional. The Cavaliers (47-11) went 23-7 in the ACC regular season and won twice in their pool in the conference tournament.

As one of eight national seeds, Virginia is guaranteed home field advantage until the CWS.

“Sweet revenge is the first thing that comes to mind,” Ole Miss third baseman Zach Miller said. “If we compete and leave everything on the field, we have a chance to win. Last year we had them on the ropes, but couldn’t knock them out. There will be a little fire to get us going.”

Ole Miss pitcher Drew Pomeranz: “Obviously, Virginia put us out last year. It will be interesting to see how the games go this year.”

The Charlottesville Regional winner matches up with the Norman, Okla., Regional winner in the super regional round.

The Rebels are 38-22 following a 2-2 performance in the SEC Tournament. They were five outs from Omaha last year with a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning in Game 2 when a throwing error gave Virginia new life. The Cavaliers rallied to win 4-3 and won 5-2 in the decisive game.

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco is glad for any additional motivation, “but we’re not playing Virginia,” he said. “We’re playing St. John’s, and they just beat a national seed.”

Indeed, the Red Storm (40-18, 16-11 Big East regular season) defeated Louisville, the No. 7 national seed, twice en route to the Big East tournament championship.

St. John’s was 12-15 in true road games but 7-0 at neutral sites. The Red Storm is hitting .327 as a team and the pitching staff has a 5.05 earned run average.

There was no loud cheer among Ole Miss players when the Charlottesville bracket was placed on the screen, just a murmur with memories of the end of 2009 still fresh.

“We thought we might go to Georgia Tech or Oklahoma, maybe California,” Pomeranz said. “You never know how these things are going to work out.”