By Parrish Alford
OMAHA, Neb. – Virginia first baseman Mike Papi drove an Aaron Greenwood pitch to the track in right-center, a walk-off double in the ninth that lifted the Cavaliers to a 2-1 win over Ole Miss on Sunday evening in the final opening-round game of the College World Series.
A TD Ameritrade Park crowd of 23,393 watched starting pitchers from both teams hang zeroes on the scoreboard, and Greenwood, with a full count, was one strike from extending the game to extra innings.
But Papi delivered the longest hit of the night, easily scoring pinch-runner Thomas Woodruff, who was on base after Greenwood walked Nate Irving to lead off the ninth.
“I was just looking for a pitch in the middle of the plate, something I could line to the outfield somewhere,” Papi said.
The Rebels (46-20) and Texas Tech (45-20) meet in an elimination game on Tuesday at 2 p.m.
Ole Miss managed just one hit, that coming on Errol Robinson’s leadoff single to center off Cavaliers starter Nathan Kirby in the third.
Robinson was quickly caught stealing when Preston Overbey could not make contact on an outside pitch on a hit-and-run.
The Rebels didn’t advance a runner to second base until the eighth when Kirby issued back-to-back walks to Sikes Orvis and Colby Bortles.
Robinson advanced pinch-runner Cameron Dishon and Bortles with a bunt, and Dishon scored on a ground ball by pinch-hitter Holt Perdzock.
“(Kirby) dominated the zone and kept us off balance the whole game,” Robinson said.
Kirby and Ole Miss starter Chris Ellis were both trying to distance themselves from disappointing starts in super regional Game 1 losses.
Kirby went seven innings and had allowed only one walk until the eighth.
He lasted just 42⁄3 innings and gave up seven hits and five runs – all earned – as Virginia lost its super regional opener against Maryland.
He was much cleaner against the Rebels.
“Kirby was tremendous. We couldn’t catch up to the fastball, and when it seemed like we’d do it he’d mix in a breaking ball or a change-up,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Ellis overcame some early wildness and kept Virginia (50-14) off the board until the fifth when the Cavs began to get off some better swings against him.
Irving, the nine-hole hitter fought off a couple of pitches in a 1-2 count before singling to left field.
He was on the move on a hit-and-run – and so was Robinson, the Rebels’ shortstop – when Virginia’s Branden Cogswell got a ground ball through the left side.
The Rebels got two quick outs when Preston Overbey nabbed a line drive and doubled up Cogswell, but the Cavaliers got a two-out hit from Joe McCarthy to score Irving for a 1-0 lead.
It was the third hit of the inning, the fifth over two innings against Ellis.
“I thought they out-played us tonight. Not by much but by enough to make a difference in this type of game,” Bianco said. “If you’re going to win here you’ve got to play a little better than we played today.”