By Parrish Alford
OMAHA, Neb. – Reminiscent of the Friday night lightning that halted play, Ole Miss played with a little extra charge early but lacked the voltage to get to Virginia right-hander Josh Sborz when it had the chance.
Sborz, tough on the Rebels in one inning before the rain, kept them from putting together a big inning in Saturday’s resumption, and Virginia eliminated Ole Miss from the College World Series with a 4-1 win before 22,924 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.
Virginia got two hits from catcher Robbie Coman, its nine-hole hitter, one of them a two-run single in the fourth that proved to be the decisive play.
It was the Cavaliers (52-14) who dropped the Rebels (48-21) into the loser’s bracket with Mike Papi’s walk-off hit in the opening round, and the Cavs who sent them home.
Ole Miss had seven hits and two runs in 18 innings over two games against Virginia.
“Man, they’re good. They can really pitch. They can really hit and defend. They run the bases. They’re just an outstanding ballclub, and obviously deserved to win,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
The added element of a suspended game forced both coaches to make pitching decisions. With so little action on Friday, returning the starters was an option for both.
Virginia’s Brian O’Connor stayed with Sborz, while Bianco went with Scott Weathersby – but only for 10 pitches.
Taking over for Jeremy Massie, Weathersby inherited runners at first and second with no outs and needed 10 pitches to set down the Cavs’ two, three and four hitters and strand the runners.
Ole Miss ace Chris Ellis, the opening round starter, replaced Weathersby in the top of the third.
Ellis allowed three walks and three hits in 32⁄3 innings and was replaced by Wyatt Short before Sborz left the game.
Sborz was done after five innings, but the Rebels could get nothing done with the Cavaliers’ bullpen.
The Rebels were close to chasing Sborz earlier. They had him teetering on the edge of destruction but didn’t have the strength for the fatal shove.
After Errol Robinson’s hit to lead off the bottom of the third he took second on a wild pitch and was bunted to third by Austin Knight.
Braxton Lee worked Sborz for a walk and took second on a pitch in that dirt that scooted away from Coman.
Ole Miss had runners at second and third with two of its best bats at the plate, but Sborz was the winner.
He got ahead in the count to Auston Bousfield and finally got him swinging at a 3-2 pitch.
After walking Austin Anderson to load the bases, Sborz got Will Allen to line to third base.
A foot either way, and the Allen would have had a two-run single.
“You can’t really control where you hit it,” Allen said. “They did a great job of staying on top of us and putting the pressure on us offensively. When you don’t get the leadoff guys on and put guys in motion, put pressure on the defense, it’s pretty tough to score runs. It was a little more frustrating offensively than we’ve had throughout the season.”
Coman didn’t have such spacing issues when the gave the the Cavs the lead just minutes later.
Ellis walked two in the top of the fourth, allowing Virginia aggression on the basepaths. There were three on base when Coman went the opposite way to right-center and drove home two. Virginia bunted home its third run of the inning to lead 3-1 and didn’t trail again.
“You look at opportunities, and we didn’t have many opportunities after that. That was the struggle,” Bianco said. “They pitched so well, and we just really didn’t have opportunities, because they’re so good on the mound and so good defensively. We just didn’t have enough chances.”