There've been several times during the 2014 Ole Miss season that you got that "here we go again" feeling of impending collapse. There was the midseason sweep at the hands of Bama. There were the two losses to Arkansas to get knocked out of the SEC Tournament and the national seed race. Even when Washington took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning of Monday's regional championship game, you felt it lurking in the back of your mind.
But then this Ole Miss team did something they haven't been able to do in years: they stepped up when they had to. The Rebs rallied to send the game to extra innings, then used a Sikes Orvis triple in the top of the tenth to clinch a 3-2 win and a trip to the super regionals.
Unfortunately, that super won't be in Oxford, thanks to Mississippi State's loss to Louisiana-Lafayette on Monday night. Instead, the Rebs will be heading to Lafayette, where they'll play a best of three series this weekend for a chance to end their long absence from Omaha.
The hit that won it
The Rebs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after Colby Bortles sent a solo homer over the left field fence, but saw that erased when the Huskies struck in the third and fifth innings against Sam Smith (4⅔ IP, 6 H, 2 R) to go up 2-1. Bortles came up big again with a one-out double in the sixth that brought Will Allen around from second to tie the game.
The Rebs had chances to take the lead over the next three innings but couldn't capitalize, eventually sending the game into extras. After two quick outs in the top of the tenth, it looked as though Ole Miss was on the verge of going quietly into the bottom of the frame. That's when Orvis delivered the big hit.
After Allen drew a two-out walk, Orvis, who was later named the regional MVP, laced a ball just inside first base that shot out into the right field corner. It looked like a double that would move Allen to third until the ball careened off the wall at an awkward angle. The Washington right fielder, who had just entered as a pinch runner the previous inning, misplayed it, allowing Allen to use his catcher speed to go first to home for the go-ahead run.
This play though... https://t.co/VVvusUM8VN— NotOleMissProblems (@OleMissNoProb) June 3, 2014
Weathersby shuts it down
Smith was pulled in the fifth inning and Mike Bianco, choosing from a full bullpen that included Jeremy Massie, Wyatt Short and Josh Laxer, inserted Scott Weathersby.
Weathersby cruised through his first two frames, but then the weather struck. The rain began, sending students scattering under the Right Field tents (or down a homemade slip'n'slide) and Weathersby into an extended holding pattern. When play finally resumed nearly two hours later, Washington shut down their closer. Bianco stuck with Weathersby.
The junior righty rewarded his coach by blanking Washington over the final three-plus innings, finishing with 5⅓ innings pitched and zero runs allowed off just two hits. Because the Rebs were technically the away team, Weathersby had to close things out in the bottom of the tenth after Orvis's go-ahead triple.
I've seen a lot of good Ole Miss baseball games, and I've seen a lot of good celebrations -- dog piles, beer showers, rowdy Hotty Toddy chants, etc. I've never seen anything like what happened after Monday's game.
After the customary dog pile, the team made a quick lap around the outfield to soak it up with the fans. Once they'd made it all the way around, they started up the first base line again and it looked as though they were making a second lap. Instead, they sprinted through the right field gate, en masse, and out into the student section. The students went ape shit, sprinting down to meet them in a euphoric mosh pitt behind the away bullpen that looked like a scene from World War Z but with more beer. Orvis was scaling the outfield wall. Aaron Greenwood was throwing cans of beer in the air. Dalton Dulin was trying not to get trampled. At some point, the group -- players and students alike -- broke into a booming chant of "Tits out for the Rebs!"
It was fucking beautiful.
Hats off to Washington
I said coming in that Ole Miss got a raw deal by getting the Huskies sent to Oxford as one of the toughest two-seeds in the tournament. After a pair of grueling one-run games that showed off their fabulous pitching depth and gritty determination, I'm even more adamant in that belief. In a wild first round that saw nine of the 16 host teams fall, I have no doubt that Washington would have advanced out of just about any other regional.
For their part, it seems the Huskies and their fans truly enjoyed their time in Oxford. It's really an awesome thing when two opposing fan bases can hit it off and really enjoy each other, and that's exactly what happened this weekend.
Come back any time Washington, we'd love to have you again.
The Washington outfielders, who were dogged relentlessly all weekend, showed some love.
Swayze is a tough place to win. Great team, well coached and loud. Thank you fans the experience was unreal! Good luck the rest of the way!— Braden Bishop (@bradenbishop7) June 3, 2014
Even The Hater showed a soft spot for Washington's poise.
Y'all show @BWolfe5 some love. He took heat all weekend. He never flinched. Not many people have been able to do that.— Right Field Heckler (@RFhater) June 3, 2014
We'll have plenty of coverage for the super regional coming up this week. For now, let's just enjoy it.