The Distance

The Distance

Chris Ellis has been what the Rebels needed all year. Against Jacksonville State, he was simply as good as ever.

The ace of a talented pitching staff, Ellis went the distance, pitched a complete game, and led Ole Miss to a 12-2 win in game one of the Oxford Regional.

"He was really good," said Jacksonville State head coach Jim Case. "He threw the ball downhill. He changed speeds. There's certainly a difference when you're pitching with a lead (like Ellis was from the second inning on). He did a tremendous job. He threw all of his pitches for strikes, and his fastball is firm."

Ellis went nine innings, allowing two runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts and three walks. Just a typical Chris Ellis kind of day.

There are a lot of MVPs on Ole Miss' best team in five years. Ellis should be a big vote-getter. Did anybody really predict in the preseason the Spain Park High (Hoover, Ala.) product would be 10-1?

So very impressive this season. And certainly in this latest one.

After a bit of a shaky start, a double play got him out of an early jam. JSU led 1-0 after the top of the first. When Ellis came back out there, his offense had gotten him five runs.

"I was disappointed I gave up a run (in the first)," he said. "Nothing's bigger when you give up a run early for the offense to put up five runs right after that."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said his ace was on against the Gamecocks.

"He was tremendous and looked strong," Bianco said, his team now 42-18 overall and facing Washington at 3 p.m. Sunday. "I blame myself (in the first inning), because we went with a couple of changeups to their three and four guys. Usually his changeup is good. But adrenaline-wise they were a little hard and up."

So Ellis was pumped, it appears. No wonder. A record postseason crowd for Oxford. A "legacy" as both his parents attended Ole Miss. Who wouldn't be pumped up?

Chris Ellis is living out a dream.

"After that (first inning), he looked really locked in," Bianco said. "It was the best fastball, curveball combo he's had in quite some time."

Gamecock hitter Griff Gordon said Ellis was sensational in this one.

"He was definitely throwing three pitches for strikes," said the JSU right fielder. "When you're doing that, you're tough to hit. We took some swings. We hit some balls hard."

But few found holes as the Rebels outhit Jacksonville State 17-8.

"He was able to locate all of his pitches very well," said JSU designated hitter Paschal Petrongolo. "He didn't leave anything over the middle of the plate. He was doing what a pitcher is supposed to do."

Ole Miss faces Washington at 3 p.m. Sunday in the winner's bracket. The Huskies rolled past Georgia Tech 8-0 earlier Saturday.

Washington, too, had a complete game from its starting pitcher. Right-hander Tyler Davis pitched the first shutout in UW postseason history. It was also the first complete game of the year for any Huskies pitcher.

Now both Ellis and Davis will be cheerleaders for their respective teams as they move on to day two of the Oxford Regional, having done their jobs in complete fashion.

Regionals can be funny events. Sometimes (remember the Rebels' Drew Pomeranz from 2009?) pitchers might make a repeat appearance if a tournament goes on long enough.

Davis said he would likely be ready if that happened.

"Probably," Davis said. "I mean, I'm going to do everything I can possibly do to make sure I am ready to pitch as soon as possible."

As for Ellis, it was simply another outstanding game for him this season.

"I just go inning by inning," Ellis said, admitting that a complete game wasn't something he was focused on. "I just went pitch by pitch and tried to work my way out of whatever I was in. I'm just going out there to try to help my team win."

And fulfill that longtime dream of pitching in a NCAA Regional at Ole Miss.

"When you see 10,000 people out there, I was fired up," he said. "My defense helped me out. The offense has helped me out all year."

And the season Chris Ellis has had is as big a story as anything for the successful Ole Miss Rebels of 2014.

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