Winner takes all tonight at ‘The Tigue'

by Leslie Turk

Ole Miss used a three-run rally in the eighth to defeat the top-ranked Ragin' Cajuns baseball team 5-2 in Game 2 of the Lafayette Super Regional (see photo galleries).

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Sixth-ranked Ole Miss used a three-run rally in the eighth inning to defeat the top-ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball team 5-2 in the Lafayette Super Regional Sunday night at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field, forcing a winner-take-all championship game tomorrow at 6 p.m.
The game can be seen live on ESPN2 with Tom Hart and Ben McDonald making the call. The winner of the contest will be one of the final teams in the tournament to punch its ticket to Omaha and the College World Series.
"I thought both pitchers threw a really good ballgame," head coach Tony Robichaux said of Game 2. "It was back and forth throughout the whole game. Their guys had a good tempo. Carson Baranik also set a great tempo. Nobody could really get the big hit at the right time, and all of a sudden we gave them a little crack, and they crawled through it, and you have to give them credit. Now what we have to do is flush this and get back out and get ready to go tomorrow."
The loss drops the Cajuns to 58-9 on the season, while the Rebels move to 45-19. Louisiana is 6-2 this season against SEC opponents.
Junior Carson Baranik (11-2) was tabbed with the loss despite his 10th quality start of the season holding the potent Ole Miss offense to three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and four walks in seven innings.
"We thought if we could get six out of Carson, that would be really good," Robichaux added. "He gave us more than we thought. Carson did everything he could, and did a great job. We just couldn't finish it when we came out of the bullpen."
Reliever Aaron Greenwood (3-1) earned the victory for Mississippi, throwing two innings to close out the game allowing one run on two hits with two strikeouts.
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Starter Christian Trent had a quality start for the Rebels limiting the Cajuns to one unearned run in seven innings and fanned seven.
Offensively, Louisiana was outhit 8-6 in the contest by Mississippi. Sophomore shortstop Blake Trahan had a game-high three hits and drove in a run for the Ragin' Cajuns, while Preston Overbey and Errol Robinson each had two hits for the Rebels.
Ole Miss grabbed an early lead for the second consecutive game on a two-out RBI double to right field by catcher Will Allen to go in front 1-0.
The Cajuns got the equalizing run in the top of the fifth. Seth Harrison reached on an error by second baseman Preston Overbey with two outs in the inning. In the next at bat, Dylan Butler drilled a double down the left field line. Harrison was waved home on the play attempting to score from first and was called safe on a play at the plate as Allen dropped the ball on a tag play.
Overbey broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the seventh as he lifted a solo home run over the fence in left to make the score 2-1 Rebels.
Blake Trahan tied the game for the second time in the top of the eighth on a two-out single through the right side of the infield scoring Michael Strentz from second. Strentz walked to lead off the inning and then moved to second on a Ryan Leonards sac bunt.
Ole Miss broke the game open in the bottom of the eighth scoring three runs on three hits and a Louisiana error to take a 5-2 advantage. Auston Bousfield came around to score on an error by Harrison in center to give the Rebels a 3-2 edge. Following a single by Sikes Orvis to load the bases, Colby Bortles drove a pitch from reliever Ryan Wilson up the middle to plate two and give Mississippi a three-run lead.
Senior Cody Boutte (9-0, 3.09 ERA) will make the start for the Cajuns in the final game of the Lafayette Super Regional. Sam Smith (5-4, 3.39 ERA) has been tabbed as the game three starter for Ole Miss.
Louisiana Head Coach Tony Robichaux Quotes:
On Ole Miss pitchers Christian Trent and Aaron Greenwood: "I thought they did a really good job. I thought the starter pitched off his fastball really well. He elevated his fastball really well, he mixed good and we never really could get on top of him; we had a couple hitters get on top of him throughout the ballgame. We hung in there with him; Carson tried to match him, and I thought he did a great job of matching him. We kind of gave them a little crack and they crawled through it at the end of the game, but that's what good ballclubs do. You have to try to keep things sealed up, and try to not give someone a crack.
"And the reliever was good too. He pitched off his fastball; good slider. We knew we'd see good arms, we knew that. Sometimes you have to play in a close ballgame, when you do see good arms like today. So really we wanted to match him, which we did, but we just faltered at the end. We walked the leadoff hitter. And the missed fly ball put us in a tough position. We had the outs against our back, and they got a couple critical hits, and that was enough to do us in in a close ballgame. But their kids all threw well."
On UL SP Carson Baranik's performance: "His stuff was starting to come up [in the 8th inning]; he had hung back-to-back sliders. He was getting to the 100-pitch mark. He gave us more than we thought he would give us in the sense that he was going to face a team with five really good left-handers in it. He did a really good job for us. Once the ball fell in, we went with the lefty there, but we walked the lefty, and that's what really hurt us. You have to get the first guy out that you face, and we preach that all the time as a relief pitcher. We just didn't get it done, and from there things spun a little out of control. By the time we got off the field, they had gotten three runs. That's what we wanted to pitch against is a three-run inning, and we didn't do that."

On the team's response to adversity: "If you look back at their history, they lost the opening night of the season and ran off 14 [wins]. We lost to Jackson State and came back. I think they're good at it; you have to win one game anyway. It's amazing how this goes; if you lose Game 1 and you win Game 2, you think you have momentum. But if you win Game 1 and lose Game 2 then you don't think you have momentum. It just depends on how you look at stuff. People are going to say they have the momentum now, but either way you know we have to win one ballgame. One fortunate thing, we've put ourselves in a position to have two cracks at it instead of one crack at it. We'll get after it tomorrow; [Cody] Boutte's been good for us all year. What we always want to do is pitch and play defense and get timely hitting, and tonight we pitched and played rock-solid defense, we just didn't get timely hitting."
UL SP Carson Baranik Quotes:
On the pitching duel: "It almost sometimes can help you when you're going back-and-forth like that. Not a lot of times in between innings; you stay warm and you stay ready. It actually helped me to find a rhythm and settle down. In the first couple of innings I didn't really feel great, and I feel like it helped me to catch my rhythm."
UL CF Seth Harrison Quotes:
On Ole Miss SP Christian Trent's performance: "He had a good fastball. He mixes pitches well and located. [He] kept it elevated a little bit, it was tough to get on top of. He did real good, so I'll tip my hat to him. We just have to come out tomorrow and do better."
On having the team's backs against the wall: "We've been doing this the whole year. In practice and in full games, the whole thing is to respond. We did it last week in the regionals, and I don't think there's any better way than to do it and to get to Omaha that way. All year we've responded and that's what we're going to do. We're going to come out tomorrow and we're going to win."