CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – In what could be the final appearance of his Ole Miss career, All-American left-hander Drew Pomeranz threw seven straight scoreless innings and had the uncommon support of his offense to lead the Rebels past St. John’s 10-5 in the opening round of the Charlottesville Regional in the NCAA baseball tournament Friday night.
Most of the Virginia fans in a sparse crowd at Davenport Field took off after watching Ole Miss take command in the middle innings.
The No. 2 seed Rebels and top-seeded Virginia square off in the winner’s bracket today at 5 p.m.
The Rebels (39-22) had scored at least seven runs in a game just once since May 2. The offensive outburst included only nine hits, and they were shots with authority, three of them home runs in the cavernous park, one an RBI triple by surprise starter Tanner Mathis.
Pomeranz made two starts, winning both, in last year’s regional.
“We would only use him if we got to Monday, and then we’d check to see how he was feeling,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “That’s a long way away.”
Mathis, hitting .322 but making only his 19th start of the year, burned the center fielder, scoring Taylor Hashman and making it 2-0 in the second.
The Rebels put up six runs against St. John’s right-hander Kyle Hansen, who earned Big East tournament MVP honors after allowing only one run in 141⁄3 innings last week.
Hansen, making his third start in 10 days, had not allowed more than five runs in a game all season.
Ole Miss scored in four straight innings really distancing itself with three runs in the fourth.
Freshman Alex Yarbrough homered to right, and leadoff hitter Tim Ferguson had a two-run shot just left of a 30-foot batter’s eye in center field.
Catcher Miles Hamblin had a third-inning home run, his third in four games.
Ole Miss was up 7-0 after five innings.
“It’s always good to have run support,” Pomeranz said. “You feel more comfortable out there knowing you have room to breathe.”
The night was short for Hansen, who lasted just four innings.
Pomeranz, meanwhile, didn’t dominate the Red Storm (40-19) but kept it from putting together the big inning.
St. John’s reached third base just once against Pomeranz, and Jimmy Parquet was left standing in the fourth after a leadoff single.
Pomeranz gave up seven hits and struck out five. He was charged with two runs in the eighth. He was over the 100-pitch mark when he began the inning and gave up a walk and single to start things off.
He was lifted immediately for Eric Callender, whose first pitch was smashed deep over the left field wall by Jeremy Baltz, his 21st home run of the year.
That made it 7-3, but Callender recovered and got the next three batters in order.
“We had opportunities to jump this guy (Pomeranz) but didn’t take advantage and let him off the hook,” St. John’s coach Ed Blankmeyer said. “He was good, but tonight I thought he was susceptible, and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
Baltz’ home run ended a string of 14 consecutive scoreless innings for Pomeranz. He threw seven scoreless innings against South Carolina in the SEC tournament and had not given up a run since two scored on a relief pitcher, Brett Huber’s home run in the eighth inning against Auburn in Oxford on May 20.
A weary St. John’s pitching staff walked three batters in the eighth. Ole Miss pushed across three more runs, two of them on an RBI single by Hashman. St. John’s used seven pitchers. They combined for nine walks, none by Hansen.
“The home run ball hurt us early and the walks late,” Blankmeyer said. “You give Pomeranz a 6-0 lead … c’mon. I thought we might be able to get into their bullpen and get something done.”
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal