No. 2 seed Tulane eliminates top seed Ole Miss in NCAA Oxford Regional
Oxford, Miss. – At the post game press conference Saturday, Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco and his players in attendance were visibly disappointed following their final game in the Oxford Regional. All were painfully aware that the same thing had happened in the Rebels’ final three games.
From last weekend in Hoover, Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Baseball tournament against Texas A&M, to this weekend’s NCAA Oxford Regional against Utah and Tulane, Bianco’s team held a lead after the first six innings and seemed in prime position for the wins, only to see their hopes dashed late in the game.
Against the Green Wave, it was deja vu all over again as Ole Miss gave up a two-run homer to Jake Rogers that scored shortstop Stephen Alemais and gave Tulane (40-20) a 6-5 win at Swayze Field that ended the Rebels’ (43-19) season.
The Green Wave used two pitchers in the game: Alex Massey and Corey Merrill. Massey pitched for six innings and threw 75 pitches with five strikeouts. Merril (4-1) pitched the final three innings, recording four strikeouts on 57 pitches.
Merrill was in a tough spot in the seventh inning with his team holding the lead, giving up two runs on three hits, but Merrill remained poised and allowed no comeback for Ole Miss, which had eight hits.
“At the beginning of the game, we asked our starting pitcher to give us a chance to win the game and Alex Massey did,” Tulane’s coach David Pierce said.
The Green Wave will play on Sunday in two games (game 1 against the loser of Boston College-Utah) at 1:00 p.m. CST. The second game will be at 5:00 p.m. CST.
Just like against Utah on Friday night, the Rebels were in a battle for most of the afternoon against Tulane. Both programs were playing for keeps as the loser’s season would come to an end and the winner live to play another day.
The Green Wave’s Hunter Williams smacked in two solo home runs in the bottom of the second and fourth innings to keep Tulane out front, 2-1. J.B. Woodman got Ole Miss on the scoreboard in the first with a double to center field to score Tate Blackman.
“Our guys played their hearts out,” Bianco said afterwards. “I feel bad for them.”
Williams was 3-for-4 at bat and seemed comfortable at home plate, just waiting patiently for the right pitch.
“I just go up there and try not to do too much,” Williams said. “Go up there and find a good pitch to hit and take a good swing at it. I found the barrel on both swings and the ball kind of jumped out a little bit.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Bortles’ homer to left field tied the game at two runs apiece.
Kyle Watson then homered to center field to put the Rebels up one run. It was Watson’s second homer in two days. He had one in the early innings Friday night against the Utes.
Bortles was 2-for-4 at bat; Watson was 1-for-2. Each had one RBI.
Watson’s homer, however, didn’t seem to deter the Green Wave as they scored two runs in the top of the seventh to go up 4-3. And with both teams’ season on the line, neither could afford to throw in the towel.
Ole Miss quickly responded in the bottom of the inning with two runs, thanks to Errol Robinson’s single through the left side that scored Bortles and Henri Lartigue.
The Green Wave totaled nine hits, four more than what they had on Friday against the Eagles.
“The other teams just played better than us,” Bianco said.