LAFAYETTE, La. -- The city of Lafayette may need a new nickname. “The Hub City” may not cut it after the three-game Super Regional between Louisiana-Lafayette and Mississippi.
La La Land South.
That’s more like it. At least it was on Sunday as Ole Miss scored three runs in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie and force a decisive Game 3 with a 5-2 win.
La La Land is usually reserved for Los Angeles and many of its inhabitants. But given the starting pitchers and dropped fly balls by both teams -- in both games -- one can make the case that it should stick as the nickname of Louisiana’s fourth-largest city.
In a strange twist, both teams featured starting pitchers drafted by the same Los Angeles professional teams for the second day in a row. Game 1 saw Angels’ picks with Mississippi’s Chris Ellis and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Austin Robichaux. Game 2 on Sunday featured a pair of Dodgers, with the Rebels’ Christian Trent and ULL’s Carson Baranik.
Baranik didn’t allow a hit from the second inning until Preston Overbey gave Ole Miss a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning and Trent retired every leadoff hitter except the first one he faced in his seven innings of work.
“It almost can help you when you’re going back and forth like that,” Baranik said of his duel with Trent. “I settled down after the first couple innings and it really felt like it helped me catch a rhythm.”
“I thought both of them did a really good job,” Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Tony Robichaux said. “I thought [Trent] pitched off his fastball real well. We never really could get on top of him. We hung in there and [Baranik] tried to match up – which I thought he did.”
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco needed Trent to get deep in the game. And he did.
“It comes down to pitching, and I think both guys pitched well,” Bianco said. “We needed the lift that [Trent] provided to get us deep into the ballgame. And that’s exactly what he did.”
In an even stranger twist, both starting pitchers on Sunday attended LSU at one point in their collegiate careers. Trent grew up in Madisonville, La., and made sure his team would see another day in his home state -- despite a different kind of pressure.
“Obviously it’s a different kind of pressure,” Trent said. “You have to go out there and do it for your team knowing this could be the last game. It was normal otherwise -- had some nerves on the first couple of pitches.”
While Overbey’s home run gave the Rebels a late lead, ULL came right back -- playing as the visiting team at their Moore Field home -- to tie in the top of the eighth against reliever Aaron Greenwood.
Then came an odd bottom half in our new La La Land.
A leadoff single by Auston Bousfield chased Baranik from the game and he advanced to second on a walk to Austin Anderson. Reliever Ryan Wilson got catcher Will Allen to lift a ball to center field, where Seth Harrison ranged over into the gap and simply dropped the ball. Bousfield -- Ole Miss’ sure-handed center fielder who dropped a routine fly ball on Saturday -- came all the way around from second to score, just barely sliding in ahead of the tag from Michael Strentz.
“I missed it,” Harrison said of the fly ball. “There’s no excuse.”
His head coach knew that was all Ole Miss needed.
“We gave them a crack and they crawled through,” Robichaux said. “That’s what good teams do.”
A two-run single by freshman Colby Bortles scored the final two runs of the game to give Ole Miss one more game in La La Land and try to finally get back to Omaha for the first time since 1972.
“We are all aware of that,” Bianco said. “We all know that.”
Two dropped fly balls by good defensive center fielders. Four starting pitchers drafted by teams from Los Angeles. Some are already delcaring Monday a city holiday. We’ll be at the mayor’s office in the morning to ask for a name change -- at least through Monday night.