The 2014 Ole Miss baseball team doesn't lose often, but when they do, they prefer to do so in excruciatingly frustrating fashion. That trend continued on Thursday night as the Rebels fell, 4-3, in a 13-inning affair against LSU. Two of those four Tiger runs were the direct result of Bill Buckner-esque ground balls through the legs.
The most damning of those errors came in the top of the 13th inning. With the game tied at 3 and men on first and second with one out, Josh Laxer coaxed an easy roller to short that looked like a sure double play to get out of the inning. Instead,
Errol Error Robinson let the ball keep on easy rollin' under his glove and into left field, allowing the winning run to score.
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That play was a mirror image of Preston Overbey's error in the sixth. The Rebs had just grabbed a huge second out after allowing the Tigers to reach third with one away. Chris Ellis got a ground ball to second, Overbey let it go through his legs and the Tigers took a 2-1 lead.
The lesson we've learned, kids, is KEEP YOUR DAMN GLOVE ON THE GROUND.
The Rebs jumped to an early lead when Sikes Orvis slapped a dinger out to right field in the second inning. It was actually a big league fly that carried forever and bounced off the glove of LSU's Mark Laird and over the fence as he tried to make the jump at the wall. LSU tied it with a sac fly in the third and took the lead off the Overbey error in the sixth. Will Allen then hit an RBI groundout in the bottom of the eighth to tie things up and send it to extras.
Wyatt Short worked the ninth and 10th before being pulled for Laxer after getting in trouble in the 11th. Laxer inherited a man on third and allowed him to score on a single, making it 3-2. I pretty much figured it was over at that point, but Allen led off the bottom of the frame with a double, and J.B. Woodman eventually brought him in from third on a game-tying sac fly.
Then Robinson botched the easy grounder in the top of 13th and the Rebs went quietly in the bottom.
Both Ellis and LSU ace Aaron Nola pitched dominant games, but Ellis actually edged out the highly-touted Tiger starter on the stat sheet. Nola worked 7.2 innings, gave up two earned runs on eight hits and tallied seven strikeouts. Ellis went 8.0 with eight hits, one earned run and six strikeouts.
Can the Rebs come back?
Given Nola's dominance this season, I expected LSU to win Game 1, and that Game 2 would decide the series. So I'd like to say Thursday night's loss doesn't really change anything for the Rebels. However, the fact that we had to burn Short and Laxer in a loss is concerning. I haven't heard an update on Aaron Greenwood (who missed last week's series with an abdominal injury), but even if he is available, that leaves us only one strong option out of the bullpen with two games to win. Of course, LSU had to burn through their pen as well, but they only need to grab one of the next two games. Short and Laxer may be able to turn around and play in Game 3, but it would have been nice to have one of them for Friday.
Sam Smith still gives the Rebs an overwhelming advantage on Saturday. LSU hasn't been able to find a reliable third starter all season and is 1-3-1 in Game 3s in SEC play. That means the series will likely be determined on Friday. If Ole Miss can win Game 2, they're sitting pretty. But that's a big if.