Another super regional, another self-induced Ole Miss collapse. The Diamond Rebels blew an early three-run lead, thanks largely to a third-inning Chris Ellis meltdown of epic proportions, to fall, 9-5, to Louisiana-Lafayette in Game 1 of the Lafayette super regional.
It started off rosy for the Rebs. Ole Miss staggered Ragin' Cajun starter Austin Robichaux in the top of the second, knocking him around for three runs on three hits and forcing him to throw 32 pitches in the frame. He was on the ropes, the Rebs poised for a knockout punch.
Then in the bottom of the inning, Auston Bousfield, a man with just two errors in his entire Ole Miss career, dropped a two-out, can-of-corn pop-up to make it 3-1. And you could feel it turn.
In the bottom of the third, Ellis suffered one of the most catastrophic implosions I've ever seen out of an Ole Miss ace. He walked the first three batters he faced, allowing one run to score on a sac groundout. Then, on a 3-1 count, he left a fastball up over the inner third to Tyler Girouard, who hammered it over the right field wall for a three-run bomb. And just like that, Ellis, who averaged nearly seven innings per start this season, was chased after 2⅓.
Jeremy Massie entered and gave up one more run on a balk that wasn't a balk before finally escaping the nightmare inning. Lafayette had scored five runs off one hit, and you could have gone ahead and called the game then and there.
Lafayette added three more in the fifth, fostered by a bunt single, a passed ball and a solo home run.
Meanwhile, the Rebel bats quieted down and allowed Robichaux, who had been on the verge of an early exit in the second, to push through seven innings and conserve the bullpen moving forward. Outside of the second inning, Ole Miss had two runs off eight hits.
The night was summed up in the seventh when Lafayette's Caleb Adams made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Sikes Orvis of what would have been a two-run homer to cut the deficit to two.
The Rebels will try to avoid elimination Sunday night at 8 p.m. CT, and with Christian Trent on the mound, you have to feel good about their chances to survive. But bouncing back from an ugly loss like Saturday night's will be a tall order. And they'll have to do it without key reliever Wyatt Short, who made an odd appearance in the seventh inning with his team down four runs.
It's hard to figure out where to place the blame for this game. Despite what will certainly be a vocal minority on Twitter, it doesn't go to Mike Bianco. Ellis is the obvious choice, but on some level it just seems like the universe settling into its natural order. After playing a near-flawless regional, Ole Miss played one of its ugliest games of the season in its most important game to date. It's uncontrollably frustrating, but it just seems fitting.