OXFORD — On the verge of elimination, Virginia players were waiting for an opportunity. Just like always.
The Cavaliers took advantage of a throwing error in a two-run eighth inning and staved off elimination with a 4-3 win over Ole Miss on Saturday, reversing Friday’s nearly identical turn of events that cost them a sure win.
“They’ve done it all year,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “They have responded all year. Nothing has fazed them.”
The Cavaliers (47-13-1) tied the school record for wins in a season and moved within one game of their first College World Series after rallying with one out in the eighth in front of a school record crowd of 10,323.
Just like Friday, when Ole Miss (44-19) used a ninth-inning fielding error at second base to mount a rally in a 4-3 win in 12 innings, Virginia started its comeback on a throwing error by Rebels second baseman Evan Button. He fielded Danny Hultzen’s routine grounder cleanly, but was wide left on his throw.
That led to two runs and a third game.
“It was a hard hit ball,” a glum Button said. “I make that play 99 out of 100 times. I had all day to throw it. I wish I could have it back. I feel bad for the team.”
There’s no time to waste on being bummed out, though. The teams meet Sunday with a trip to Omaha, Neb., on the line and a lot of questions to answer about pitching.
Virginia brought Sunday starter Andrew Carraway (8-1) in after two walks by Robert Morey to start the fifth inning. And Ole Miss’ Sunday starter, Brett Bukvich, has been scratched with an injury.
The Cavaliers are seeking their first trip to the CWS. Chances are they’ll need to win another tight game to advance.
“It really appears like these are two very evenly matched clubs with very, very good pitching,” O’Connor said. “It looks like a clutch hit or a clutch play will decide it tomorrow.”
Virginia’s eighth-inning rally wiped away a nearly perfect performance by Ole Miss starter Drew Pomeranz, who was seeking his third win of regional play. He pitched seven innings, struck out 10 and threw 146 pitches, leaving the game with a 3-2 lead.
Reliever David Goforth (1-1) took over and got a quick out to start the eighth. But Hultzen reached on Button’s error, stole second and came home on Franco Valdes’ single to right field. That left runners on first and third for John Barr, who sent a grounder to short. It appeared as if the Rebels would turn a double play, but Button’s throw was a step late and Steve Proscia came home on the fielder’s choice to make it 4-3.
Ole Miss had a runner at third in the ninth inning, but couldn’t bring him across as Matt Packer, who faltered Friday in the ninth inning, redeemed himself with a save.
The Rebels took an early lead, scoring two runs on Morey’s first three pitches when Logan Power hit a two-run home run to left field.
Virginia rallied to tie it when Barr scored on a single by Tyler Cannon in the third, then drove in a Hultzen in the fourth. Ole Miss added a run in the seventh on Kyle Henson’s RBI single and the Rebels had two more chances to score in the inning, but baserunning errors ended the threat.
Ole Miss, which has lost its last two super regionals after taking a 1-0 lead, will start Nathan Baker on Sunday in place of Bukvich. O’Connor’s not sure what he’ll do.
“I don’t know where we go from here,” O’Connor said. “I just know we’ve got a number of guys that are hungry to go.”
Chris Talbott/The Associated Press