LAFAYETTE, La. -- A brief shower and a few gusts of wind. Maybe that’s all Ole Miss has been missing during its 42-year College World Series drought.
Raindrops fell for the first time all weekend at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field in the fourth inning of the winner-goes-to-the-CWS Game 3. The wind whipped into a frenzy, turning the flag in straightaway center field right around and facing out.
Luckily for Ole Miss -- for a change in a Super Regional -- it was the Rebels at the plate during the brief storm that blew in, building a 3-1 lead with two home runs in a three-batter span from Austin Anderson and Sikes Orvis en route to a 10-4 win against Louisiana-Lafayette.
“They can hammer pitches that you leave out and up,” Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Tony Robichaux said. “They put some good swings on them. That’s what good hitting teams do. We knew we’d have to score some runs to battle them.”
“It was a pretty big moment,” Ole Miss’ Austin Anderson said of his home run. “We didn’t do much offensively the first two innings. I was just trying to move Bosworth over. I got a pitch that was elevated and watching it go over, was big obviously. That was a big moment, the momentum shifted -- we went from losing to winning.”
And as quickly as the wind and the rain came, it disappeared. The flag stood still and for the first time since Jake Gibbs guided them in his first season at the helm in 1972, Ole Miss is heading back to the College World Series in Omaha.
The proverbial monkey on the backs of the Rebels has grown exponentially in size with each of the four Super Regional failures since 2005. Now, that’s gone even after losing Game 1.
“When I left LSU as an assistant, we went to Omaha four out of five times and won three national titles,” Bianco said. “Skip Bertman made it look so easy. As a young coach at McNeese State, I felt like I’d coach them up and get to Omaha. I didn’t think it’d take 17 years from the last time to do it.”
As if the universe was trying to tell Ole Miss something -- maybe overcorrect for the 0-4 record in Super Regional series -- ULL’s Jace Conrad came to bat in the sixth inning with two on and two out and trailing 5-3. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ leading hitter, Conrad belted one to almost the same spot the Rebels hit theirs out back in the fourth.
For an instant, it looked like it would give them the lead. The fans rose to their feet and roared. But there was one problem: the flag stood still. The ball settled in J.B. Woodman’s glove, and the Rebels were out of the inning.
In a game that featured 11 total pitchers and five errors, the outcome was in doubt until the top of the ninth inning when pinch hitter Holt Perdzock laced a double with the bases loaded which cleared the bases. Six hundred Ole Miss fans in attendance went ballistic, even throwing beverages in the air as if they were home in Oxford at Swayze Field.
That monkey was finally off their backs. Hotty toddy.
“For us to win two games here is a huge feat,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “The road to Omaha is long, bumpy and windy. When you go, you need to have a special group. And this group is certainly that. I never thought it’d take that long.”
The Rebels were able to do something no other team could all year long -- hand Louisiana-Lafayette back-to-back losses. And even more impressively -- the Ragin’ Cajuns’ first series loss of the season. That’s a lot of games – 68 of them – and really bad timing in the best modern season for the school in which they only lost 10 games.
“That’s only our 10th loss,” Robichaux said. “To reel off 58 wins like we did, to win a conference championship, a conference tournament championship, a regional championship, to host a super regional -- that has never been done here. For what they accomplished is really phenomenal. These guys have played their hearts out.”
Odds were with Ole Miss to finally get over the Super Regional hump. Who knew it was only a passing Louisiana shower that would push them to Omaha.