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Rebel Yell: Smith’s Blast in
12th Wins it for Ole Miss
By Jimmy Jones
Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com
Jimmy Jones is the world’s greatest baseball
fan cleverly disguised as a proud father of five beautiful
children. He loves to write about the sport, but it is his
action photography that has earned him numerous awards. He has
contributed to CollegeBaseballIinsider.com for the past few
Matt Smith (right) hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the
12th inning to lead the Ole Miss Rebels to a dramatic
come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Virginia on a gorgeous sunny
Friday afternoon at Oxford University Stadium.
The four runs scored by Rebels (44-18) in the game doubled the
number of runs that the Virginia pitching staff gave up in 27
innings in the Irvine Regional last week.
Cavaliers left-hander Danny Hultzen started the game a little
shaky with walks to Jordan Henry, who promptly stole second to
extend his school record to 36 stolen bases on the season, and
to Kyle Henson but settled down nicely to throw a high fastball
past Zach Miller, hitting out of the 5-hole to end the inning
with no damage done and runners on the corners.
Valdes got Virginia (46-13) on the board in the top of the
second with a liner into the right-field gap off Ole Miss
starter Phillip Irwin (left) that was good for two bases to
score a hustling Steven Proscia from first.
Zach Miller broke up Hultzen’s no-hitter in the fourth with a
ball skied into the bright afternoon sun that neither second
baseman Keith Werman nor right fielder Dan Grovatt could pick
up, resulting in Miller wheeling into second base standing up.
Kevin Mort ripped a solid single to center to score Miller with
two outs to tie the game at 1. Rebels second baseman Tim
Ferguson’s line drive into the alley in right-center field died
in the glove of center fielder Jarrett Parker, who made a nice
catch going away.
The Cavaliers kept the
pressure on the Rebels in the fifth, utilizing a leadoff walk to
Valdes and three consecutive hits by Parker, Phil Gosselin and
Hultzen, who entered the game hitting .335 to go with his 2.01
ERA, to take a 3-1 advantage to quiet an overflow crowd of 9,213
clad largely in Ole Miss Red.
Ole Miss pulled to within a run in the sixth on a base hit by
Miller and a RBI double by Jeremy Travis. Travis was stranded in
scoring position when Virginia reliever Tyler Wilson got Kevin
Mort to ground out to short for the second out with no advance
by Travis. Rebels coach Mike Bianco called on Evan Button to
pinch hit for Tim Ferguson, but Button looked at two strikes
before popping out to the second baseman to end the inning.
Right-handed reliever David Goforth kept the Rebels within
striking distance with a strong eighth. He struck out the first
two hitters he faced and recorded the third out on a weak
grounder to third baseman Proscia.
Henson led off the Ole Miss eighth with a line-drive single and
Miller was asked to sacrifice for only the fourth time this
season. The strategy backfired when Miller’s bunt was directly
to the charging pitcher, who forced Henson at second. Matt
Packer (right) pitched his way out of the inning with
back-to-back grounders off the bats of Matt Snyder and Mort.
The left-hander had his work cut out for him again in the ninth
when Button hit a ground ball to the normally sure-handed Werman,
who booted the ball to give the Rebels a lead-off runner. Packer
then added to his own woes when he hit Basham, who was squaring
to bunt. Henry followed with a sacrifice attempt that went
airborne and into the glove of sliding third baseman Proscia for
the first out. Cavaliers closer Kevin Arico was summoned from
the bullpen to face Power with runners at first and second.
Power brought the crowd to its feet with a clutch RBI single to
tie the game before Arico put out the fire with strikeouts of
Smith and Henson, ending regulation and ensuring free baseball
After two scoreless
innings with both teams squandering potential winning rallies,
Smith, a 6-3, 231-pound sophomore from Milan, Ga., ended the
drama with a no-doubt-about-it homer over the left-field fence
on the first pitch he saw from Arico in the bottom of the 12th
to set off a wild celebration throughout Swayze field.
“I wanted to see if he
would challenge me inside and he did,” Smith said. “I don’t
remember too much after that.”
It was Smith’s first hit of the game after previously stranding
three base runners, the eighth homer of the season, and the
first walk-off hit of his career. He helped the Rebels reach the
Super Regional with a two-run triple in their Regional-clinching
win over Western Kentucky.
The two teams hook up again on Saturday for the second game of
the best-of-three series. The first pitch is scheduled for 11:00
(photos by Jimmy Jones)