By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
RALEIGH, N.C. – In horseshoes it would have been a heck of an outing, but only being close to William & Mary’s best hitters wasn’t enough to boost a struggling offense.
Ole Miss right-hander Sam Smith had two strikes in the count three times when the Tribe got its biggest hits, and William & Mary, the No. 2 team from the Colonial Athletic Association, defeated the Rebels for the second time in three days, eliminating them from the Raleigh Regional with a 4-1 win before 2,175 fans at Doak Field on Sunday afternoon.
Ole Miss, the No. 2 seed, concludes its season with a 38-24 record after a 1-2 NCAA tournament experience.
A two-run fourth was enough to propel the No. 3 seed Tribe into the championship game against No. 1 seed North Carolina State later Sunday.
It was a blow of lethal proportion as Ole Miss struggled mightily against Brett Koehler, a right-hander who was much less effective in last week’s CAA tournament.
The Rebels managed just seven hits, all singles. Half of them came in a third inning that still did not produce a run. They loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth, scoring their only run when Preston Overbey hit into a double play.
As Ole Miss let opportunity slip away in the fourth, the Tribe pounced with two runs in the bottom of the frame.
Ole Miss was 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position Sunday, 2-for-22 for the regional.
Koehler had given up nine runs over his last two starts, but on Sunday he pitched his third complete game of the season.
“They just played better than us. They got all the big hits, especially in the top of the lineup,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Where they weren’t
Ole Miss went down quickly in the top of the first, and Smith had the Tribe (39-23) headed in the same direction with a 1-2 count on three-hole hitter Michael Katz. That’s when Katz got some lift on a fastball and placed it perfectly in the right-center gap where neither Auston Bousfield nor Will Jamison could run it down.
Smith, who has pitched through a blister the last couple of weeks, was then 0-2 on Ryan Lindemuth, who battled back to a 2-2 count and doubled down the left field line to score the run.
“I did a good job of getting ahead of a lot of people, but I couldn’t put them away,” Smith said. “They battled, put balls in play, fought off hard pitches.”
An ineffective slider was part of the problem for Smith.
“His slider didn’t have a lot of depth. He says the blister didn’t affect him. It may have affected him. He just couldn’t get enough depth on his slider today. Those were two great at-bats, and we couldn’t put them away,” Bianco said.