LAFAYETTE, La. - The Ole Miss Rebels took the hard route, having to defeat the nation's number six…
Not that anyone here gives a tinker's damn, but hundred years ago, in high school ball, I had faced two pitchers with that type of overpowering velocity, Coldwater's Donnie Castle and Belzoni's Wayne Pinkerton, both capable of mid-90 action. Needles to say, yours truly did not fare well against either.
But the chills were not limited to my own personal baseball misery and failures. No, indeed.
I also flashed back a decade ago when, ironically, Washington came to Oxford and elimiated a pretty good Reb squad from a home regional with another great pitching performance and in another pitching duel.
This time, however, the Rebs prevailed, 2-1, behind strong starting pitching by still-undefeated Christian Trent (9-0) and clutch relief pitching by Aaron Greenwood, who bailed Trent out of a jam in the 7th and then cruised the rest of the way.
"This was a great college baseball game, a low-scoring game dominated by great pitching that's kind of indicative of the low-scoring games we are seeing in other regionals throughout the country," said Rebel Coach Mike Bianco in the understatement of the day. "Every pitch and every play mattered, and we knew going in it would be that way."
Why would it not be expected? Washington was ranked 14th in the country and had finished 2nd in the rugged Pac-12. The Rebs were ranked 12th and has finished 2nd in the tough SEC.
A great match was inevitable. Two programs searching and scratching to join the ranks of the titans in collegiate baseball.
In regionals, the media gets a postgame shot at two players and the head coach.
CF Auston Bousfield, who hit what turned out to be the game-winning home run in the fifth inning, was not requested.
"Boz has been great all year against fastball pitchers. He got one he wanted with a 3-1 count and put a good swing on it," Bianco noted.
Neither was DH J.B. Woodman, who drove in the Rebs' first run with a double in the fourth.
"J.B. has been geting clutch hits like that all year, but especially here lately. He has come up big for us a lot," Mike continued.
No, we, the media, wanted the two Rebel pitchers - Trent and Grenwood, with all due respect to the offensive heroes of the day.
"They were terific," said Bianco. "Christian's change and fastball were really good. We threw the change a lot. Washington has a formidable offense and he held that at bay and put us in a position to win the game.
"In the seventh, Washington got to him a little, but Aaron, like he has so many times in the past, put out the fire and then went the rest of the way. He has a knack - he gets his adrenaline going and he delivers. When he is put in that position, everything gets a litle sharper."
Trent had not pitched since the regular season - 16 days, due to "fatigue," but he threw nearly 100 pitches against the Huskies.
"I was anxious to get back out there. I wanted the ball," said the talented lefty. "My slider wasn't real sharp today but the change and fastball were real good."
Greenwood had two goals in mind when he was called on - pound the zone and keep the ball down. Mission acomplished.
"If I did those two things, I knew I could get ahead in the count and throw sliders away for the out pitch," said an elated Greenwood.
And while the heroes of the day - Trent, Greenwood, Woodman and Bousfield - are to be commended and celebrated, it would be an injustice not to throw some kudos toward Brigham.
"We are usually a great fastball hitting team," Mike said, "but we had trouble picking up Brigham today and geting the barrel on the ball much. He had great velocity, sure, but he was more than velocity. He's an outstanding pitcher."
Again, a rowdy, huge crowd was in the game on every pitch, building to a crescendo when Greenwood struck out the final Husky batter to end the game.
If there is such thing as a driver's seat in regional play, the Rebs are now in it.
They have only used three arms through two games and are one win away from claiming the regional title.
A loss and it would have taken two extra games to capture the title and, as the Huskies are having to do Sunday night, playing back-to-back in order to advance to Monday's finals.
As you know, the Rebs now advance to the championship round of the regional with no blemishes on their workshet.
At 2 p.m. Monday, they will face tonight's winner of Washington and Georgia Tech for the title. (The Huskies beat the Yellow Jackets 8-0 in their opening match of the regional.)
A Reb win and it's over. Super Regional time.
If the Rebs stub their toe at 2, a rematch will launch at 7 p.m. for all the regional marbles.
Meanwhile, savor the 2-1 win.
An instant classic.
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