Ole Miss falls to Virginia in CWS opener

Published 10:05 am Monday, June 16, 2014

Ole Miss pitcher Aaron Greenwood (44) walks off the field as Virginia celebrates their 2-1, walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth inning in the College World Series Sunday. (Bruce Newman/The Oxford Eagle)

Ole Miss pitcher Aaron Greenwood (44) walks off the field as Virginia celebrates its 2-1, walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth inning in the College World Series Sunday. (Bruce Newman/The Oxford Eagle)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Ole Miss squeezed as much as it could out of minimal offense, but it wasn’t quite enough against Virginia.

In their first appearance in the College World Series since 1972, the Rebels lost 2-1 on Mike Papi’s RBI double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Virginia’s Nathan Kirby and Artie Lewicki combined for the first one-hitter at the CWS in 31 years. Other than Errol Robinson’s single in the third inning, Ole Miss’ base runners were the result of three walks.

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“I thought they outplayed us tonight,” Rebels coach Mike Bianco said. “Not by much, but enough to make a difference, especially in this tight of a ball game.”

Ole Miss (46-20) meets Texas Tech in an elimination game Tuesday afternoon. Virginia (50-14) faces TCU in a winners’ bracket game at night.

TCU beat Texas Tech 3-2 on Sunday afternoon.

Virginia was just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position when Papi went to the plate in the ninth. Bianco decided to have Aaron Greenwood (3-2) pitch to the Cavaliers’ top hitter and RBI leader even though first base was unoccupied.

Greenwood ran the count full before Papi drilled the ball into the gap, allowing Nate Irving to score from second.

“We kept getting opportunities and couldn’t get that big hit to tack on some more runs,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “I guess we saved it for the dramatic there in the ninth.”

Bianco didn’t second guess his decision to pitch to Papi, the first of three straight lefties in Virginia’s batting order. Bianco said he was short of lefties in the bullpen after having used Jeremy Massie in the seventh.

Greenwood had earned a save in regionals and a win in super regionals.

“He’s been our guy,” Bianco said.

Still, he said, “It’s not the place you want to be with the winning run at second base.”

Lewicki (2-0) earned the win in relief after Kirby gave up one hit and one run over seven innings. Ole Miss converted two walks and a groundout to tie it in the eighth.

The one-hitter was the first since Alabama’s Alan Dunn and Tim Meacham threw one against Arizona State in 1983, and came after Kirby had pitched poorly and took the loss in last week’s super-regional opener against Maryland.

“Last week I left a bunch of pitches up, and they made me pay for it,” Kirby said. “This week I just wanted to completely turn the page and get out there and attack and force them to beat me, and fortunately for me it went my way.”

Kirby threw just 84 pitches, 52 of them for strikes, and got seven outs on either the first or second pitch of an at-bat. He walked three and struck out four.

Bianco, whose team had the highest batting average of any of this year’s CWS teams, credited Kirby with forcing the Rebels to hack away early in the count.

“You can sit there and try to take, but he’s not the guy to take against because he’ll just eat you up. We chose to try to be aggressive,” Bianco said. “The problem wasn’t the pitch count. The reason the pitch count was so low is because we didn’t get any hits. We got one base hit.”

The Cavaliers had converted three singles and a walk into a run in the fifth and then hoped Kirby could take them the rest of the way.

Rebels center fielder Auston Bousfield had kept Virginia from taking a three-run lead in the seventh when, with two runners on, he made an over-the-shoulder catch of Derek Fisher’s fly to end the inning.

That big defensive play put the Rebels in position to tie it after Kirby, who had retired 14 of the previous 15 batters, walked Sikes Orvis and Colby Bortles to start the eighth. Lewicki came on, the runners moved over on a sacrifice and then pinch-hitter Holt Perdzock made it 1-1 with his RBI groundout.

Rebels starter Chris Ellis allowed six hits, walked four and struck out three in six innings. Massie entered with a runner on base and none out in the seventh and, thanks to Bousfield’s spectacular catch, got out of the seventh unscathed.

Greenwood pitched a perfect eighth but walked Irving to start the bottom of the ninth. Branden Cogswell moved him over with a sacrifice. After Daniel Pinero struck out, Papi delivered his game-winning hit to spark Virginia’s celebration.

Ole Miss, meanwhile, went toe-to-toe with perhaps the best team left in the NCAA Tournament — Virginia was the No. 3 national seed and, along with TCU, one of only two national seeds to make it to Omaha — but nothing to show for it.

The Rebels must now regroup and face a Texas Tech team that also suffered a tough late-inning loss in an elimination game between CWS newcomers.

“We gotta continue to make one more better pitch than them,” Bianco said. “We’ve got to continue to have one more better at-bat than them. Today they were just a little bit better than us, but we’ve got to come out and play better on Tuesday against a very good Texas Tech team.”

College World Series on TV

Monday, June 16

2 p.m. ESPN2 – Louisville vs. Texas

7 p.m. ESPN2 – Vanderbilt vs. UC Irvine

Tuesday, June 17

2 p.m. ESPN2 – Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech (Radio: 1490 AM)

7 p.m. ESPN2 – TCU vs. Virginia