Well that's not how we figured Ole Miss would start the Oxford regional. Thanks to inopportune bats and a mid-innings collapse from reliever Brady Feigl, the Rebs suddenly find themselves in the losers bracket after dropping a 10-inning game to four seed Utah, 6-5.
The Rebs now have to play Tulane, which lost to Boston College earlier in the afternoon, in an elimination game at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday. Over the last four seasons, only one team has lost the first game of its regional and advanced to the supers—the 2014 Louisiana-Lafayette club that Ole Miss beat on its way to Omaha. It doesn't help that the Rebs had to burn both of their top bullpen arms: Will Stokes and Wyatt Short.
This is the point at which I remind you that the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, stuck Ole Miss—a team that was almost (and should have been) a national seed—with the toughest four seed in the entire tournament. Sure, the Utes came in 25-27 overall, but they won the damn Pac-12 with a 19-11 conference record.
But while the Rebs most certainly got screwed on the draw, there's still no excuse for losing to Utah. If you fancy yourself a team worthy of a national seed, you can't get beat at home by a sub-.500 club who's traveled halfway across the country.
But credit the Utes, who shook off what looked to be a death blow in the fifth inning. That's when the Rebs finally broke through against starter Jayson Rose, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead on the back of three walks and a pair of singles. At that point, you were ready to give an ole Mike Bianco tip of the cap to Utah for playing a good five innings and write them off.
Then Feigl took the mound.
Up over 100 pitches after five inefficient but solid innings, Brady Bramlett stayed in the dugout at the top of the sixth, yielding to the usually reliable Feigl. But Feigl was a disaster, allowing two free passes and a two hits as Utah rallied back to tie it, 5-5. He couldn't even get through the inning before Stokes had to come in to get the final out.
Stokes and Wyatt Short then teamed up to blank the Utes over the next four innings, before Short, fresh off a collapse against A&M in the SEC Tourney, allowed the go-ahead run on a two-out double in the top of the 10th. The offense had a chance in the bottom of the inning, putting two men on with one out and the best two hitters on the team coming to the plate. But J.B. Woodman lined out directly to the right fielder and Henri Lartigue grounded out to end the game.