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Duane Cross | | June 18, 2014

Cross: Ole Miss makes most of its opportunities vs. Texas Tech

  Ole Miss is 6-for-57 through two games in the College World Series.
  2-1 L vs. Virginia 2-1 W vs. Texas Tech
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OLEMAHA, Neb. – Note to the remaining College World Series teams: Do not allow Ole Miss to have multiple base runners in an inning. Despite their overall offensive ineptitude, when the Rebels rally they tend to make the opponent pay.

Case in point, Ole Miss eked out a 2-1 victory against Texas Tech on Tuesday. The Rebels scored once in the seventh and then plated the walk-off game winner with one out in the ninth. Including Sunday’s loss to Virginia, Ole Miss has scored in three of the four innings in which it’s had multiple base runners.

The Rebels are 6-for-57 (.105) through two CWS games but most importantly live to play another day. Ole Miss will face TCU at 8 p.m. ET Thursday in another win-or-go-home game.

Ole Miss' six hits are tied for the third-fewest in CWS history (Seton Hall, 1974; BYU, 1968; Tufts, 1950).

“I think we faced two very, very good pitchers that pitched well,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco surmised, answering to the Rebels’ offensive struggles. “On the other side, we've only given up three runs. It’s just baseball in this ballpark. That’s what it is. I think every game is like that. I think we're better than what we've performed [offensively].

“What will get lost in this game is, I think, their first three hits were doubles,” Bianco added. “It seemed like there were a few innings early on with a guy at second base, and [Christian Trent] had to make pitches to get out of innings. Once he got through a couple of those, it seemed like he was able to roll.

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“The offense has gotten a lot of credit here, which it deserves, but our starting pitching has been really solid. Our bullpen, our defense has been solid. That is one of the reasons we're still playing – we do everything pretty well.”

On Tuesday, it was sparsely used John Gatlin who sent the Ole Miss faithful into a full-throat Hotty Toddy frenzy. In the ninth inning with one out and runners on the corners, Bianco decided to lift Dalton Dulin in favor of pinch hitter Gatlin, who was 3-for-29 entering the CWS. Gatlin promptly slapped a 1-2 pitch into shallow right field – over the heads of a five-man infield – for the game winner.

Ole Miss' first run also came off the bat of a pinch hitter; Holt Perdzock had stroked an RBI single in the seventh inning.

“That's kind of why this team is so special – we contribute in so many different ways, and when the game is on the line like that, we’re each called upon in different situations,” Gatlin said. “Every one of us feels like we’re prepared for it and expected to get the job done. Then it just goes back to the toughness that we've been preaching all year.”

Adding to the emotion of the moment was that Gatlin’s grandmother recently passed away. “I wouldn’t think of anything else that she could be more proud of,” Gatlin said. “Coach [Cliff] Godwin asked me if I needed to go home and I said, ‘Are you kidding me? She’d kill me if I came home right now.’

“Game’s on the line like that, so much going through your head … and she was definitely part of it.”

Finding its offensive stroke will be paramount if Ole Miss is to contend for the CWS championship; the pitching will only get better. Bianco isn’t worried; he reminded everyone the same scenario played out in the Super Regional.

“Fortunately we’re still playing, and we haven't swung it great,” he said. “But baseball's like that. Our guys haven’t panicked, but [they] wait until we can put an inning together. It happened in Lafayette. We didn't score a lot, and scored a few runs in that second game then finally exploded.

“In this ballpark, where everything just seems amplified, every single pitch, every error, every walk, every base hit you can feel it in this stadium because runs are such a premium here.

“To pull one out to get in the win column here, to win in Omaha for the first time, I think somebody told me since 1969, is huge. But we’ll enjoy it, go practice [Wednesday], and get ready for another baseball game on Thursday.”

For the record, the last time Ole Miss celebrated a victory in Omaha, Archie Manning – yep, that Archie Manning – was the Rebels' shortstop.

After managing multiple base runners in only one of their first 14 innings at the College World Series, the Rebels now look to be hitting their stride with at least two runners in three of their past four frames.

Ole Miss may not have the highly touted pitching staffs that Vanderbilt and Virginia have, but the Rebels have a 1.53 ERA in the CWS and are poised to make a run – especially if the offense continues to step up.

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