There are only so many tickets to be had as Ole Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette meet in today’s winner-take-all-match for Omaha.
So no matter how close Sam Smith’s home town is, he won’t have friends and family hanging over fences and standing in aisles at Moore Field.
No doubt they will be with him in spirit, and maybe the positive energy from Lake Charles, La., about an hour west of here on I-10, will be enough to get Smith over the hump.
If so, it may be enough to help Ole Miss find that elusive College World Series berth.
Smith is a worker, a former walk-on who continued to develop and became a dependable third starter in the Southeastern Conference – for most of this year.
The back end has not been as kind.
Smith put together a string of eight starts with at least six innings pitched from March 2 to April 19.
Since then he’s gone more than 42⁄3 innings just once, that on May 11 against Georgia.
Teams are hitting .282 against him, so he’s going to rely on his defense, but Smith is also going to locate his pitches. He’s going to make the Cajuns make plays.
As Ole Miss takes another swing at Omaha – the Rebels’ first road Game 3 in a super regional – there’s a certain comfort in giving the ball to Smith because you think you know what you’re getting.
He’s not a guy you expect to go seven or eight innings, but he is a guy who can go 42⁄3 like he did in the second game against Washington and hold down opponent runs.
It takes a certain bullpen availability to back him up, and the Rebels have used some of their better arms over the first two days.
But the season is on the line today, and sometimes that brings about unusual pitching decisions.
Perhaps Chris Ellis even throws an inning or two.
Whatever the case, Smith’s workmanlike mentality should help the Rebels get off to a good start on the mound.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal.