OXFORD – Logan Power has been here before, and he’s doing his best to produce a different result.
The last time, as a redshirt freshman in 2006, he made the final out in Miami’s series-clinching win over Ole Miss in the Oxford Super Regional.
On Friday, Power, now a senior, sparked a Rebel rally in the bottom of the ninth that sent the game into extra innings. That set the stage for Matt Smith’s walk-off home run in the 12th inning of a 4-3 win over No. 5 Virginia at Swayze Field.
With the win, No. 11 Ole Miss is again one game away from advancing to its first College World Series since 1972. The Rebels won Super Regional openers in Oxford in 2005 and ’06, too, only to drop the next two games.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Power said of the 2006 loss. “It was real disappointing, and it’s something I want to put behind me.”
It was all joy when Smith swung at the first pitch he saw from Virginia closer Kevin Arico (2-3) and launched it over the left-field wall. Smith’s eighth homer of the year came on a fastball up and over the plate.
“I don’t remember much after that except coming home, and my teammates were there, and then I was on the ground,” Smith said.
Most of the 9,213 in attendance – the biggest crowd ever at Swayze Field for an NCAA tourney game – went nuts. They’ll be even more elated today if the Rebels (44-18), who fell to Texas in 2005, can clinch.
“Certainly this was an exciting day, and we’re going to enjoy this, but we realize just like any Friday win in conference play, you’ve got to come out and play tomorrow,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Drew Pomeranz (8-4, 3.46 ERA), who’s coming off a masterful two-hitter against Western Kentucky in the regional, will start for Ole Miss in today’s 11 a.m. game. He’ll be opposed by Robert Morey (3-0, 2.91).
The Rebels’ Friday starter, Phillip Irwin, ground his way through seven innings. He gave up three runs on nine hits, striking out five and walking two on 115 pitches. He gave way to David Goforth in the eighth.
Closer Jake Morgan (4-1), who broke his nose when he was struck by a ball during pregame warmups, worked three scoreless innings for the win.
Prior to Power’s big hit in the ninth, Ole Miss was 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and had stranded the tying run in scoring position in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
But the Rebels got a couple of breaks to open the ninth, as Evan Button reached on an error and Brett Basham was hit by a pitch.
After Jordan Henry’s bunt attempt was popped up for out No. 1, Power laced a one-out single off Arico, who’d just entered, to left field to score Button and tie the game.
“I’m not going to let my nerves get the best of me,” Power said. “I was nervous, but I was really glad to come up in that situation and help the team out.”
Virginia starter Danny Hultzen, a freshman left-hander, didn’t allow a hit until one out in the fourth inning. A Zach Miller pop-up turned into a double when Virginia’s second baseman and right fielder lost the ball in the sun.
Two batters later, Kevin Mort drove a single to center to score Miller and tie the game at 1-1.
Virginia immediately answered in the fifth with two runs. Irwin gave up three consecutive hits, including RBI knocks by Jarrett Parker (double) and Phil Gosselin (single).
Virginia then loaded the bases, but Irwin escaped with a pop-up and lineout.
“He did a good job of attacking the zone and forcing us to beat him. He didn’t beat himself,” Hultzen said.
An RBI double by Jeremy Travis, which cut Virginia’s lead to 3-2, ended Hulzten’s day on the mound after 5.1 innings. It was just the second time in his last seven starts that Hultzen had given up more than one earned run.
The Cavaliers (46-13-1) have never made a CWS appearance, but they said they feel no pressure. Friday’s loss was their eighth one-run setback of the season and only their second outside the ACC.
“Our players have responded all year long to difficult defeats,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “This one will be no different.”
Ole Miss 4, Virginia 3, 12 inn.
Virginia 010 020 000 000 – 3 11 2
Ole Miss 000 101 001 001 – 4 10 2
WP: Jake Morgan (4-1). LP: Kevin Arico (2-3).
Multiple hits: (V) Jarrett Parker 2, Phil Gosselin 2, Steven Proscia 2; (OM) Zach Miller 2, Kevin Mort 2. 2B: (V) Parker, Proscia, Franco Valdes; (OM) Miller, Jeremy Travis. HR: (OM) Matt Smith. DP: None. LOB: Virginia 11, Ole Miss 11. T: 4:17. A: 9,213.
Records: Virginia 46-13-1, Ole Miss 44-18.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal