Two Down

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – It can only be described as a gutsy performance, this 6-3 Ole Miss win over Texas A&M Saturday night on day two of the NCAA Regional here.

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The Rebels, seeded third, now await the outcome of the an elimination game Sunday afternoon between the Aggies and the TCU Horned Frogs.

"It was a war out there," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco after his team improved to 37-24 and needs one more win to advance to a Super Regional. "Both teams really competed hard. Very emotional. I thought we played really well tonight. Mike Mayers was tremendous."

"I thought it was a hard-fought ball game," said Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress. "Give Ole Miss credit. They played better than we did. We certainly had opportunities to get big hits and drive in runs. We just didn't do that. Ole Miss' pitchers made pitches, and that's what you've got to do in a game of this magnitude."

"The Mask" Prevails

Mayers, the right-hander who has been in the weekend rotation all season, started and went 6.1 innings with three runs, two earned, on four hits with nine strikeouts and two walks. Now 6-3, he competed and gutted it out time and time again.

"I think it just goes back to pitching with more experience," said the sophomore, near the end of his second season of college baseball. "Early in the year I had some rough spots. But I've learned. I've sat down with Coach Bianco many times and we've talked about each outing. That's just a product of making sure I work on different things throughout the season and getting better."

He has done that, and it's been mental toughness that has also been a product of his experiences as well as getting physically better.

Aggie infielder Mikey Reynolds said Mayers was tough to hit.

Mike Mayers
Patrick Ochs

"He was pretty good," said Reynolds, who had two of A&M's five hits. "He was hitting his spots and throwing that slider down low."

And getting a lot of Aggies out and sending them back to the dugout.

Offensive Effectiveness

The Rebels scored six runs on 11 hits and left nine runners on base. But they were able to take advantage of some key situations to score at opportune times.

They fell behind 2-0 in the top of the third inning but immediately answered with two runs in the bottom of the third.

"I thought we had a great approach offensively," Bianco said. "We got some big hits. Tanner (Mathis) was tremendous. He was on base all five times. He's the guy that makes us go."

And when he goes, there are those waiting in the wings to go as well.

"He gets on base and you've got guys below him that really can hit," Bianco said. "(Matt) Snyder got a big double with bases loaded. Then he got another two-out base hit in a big inning. So offensively I thought we were terrific against a very, very good pitcher. (Ross) Stripling was as good as anybody we've faced all year."

Mathis, 3-for-3 with a RBI, two walks, and three runs scored in game two, was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a walk against TCU Friday.

"It feels really good," said Mathis, who acknowledged the Rebels' offensive shortcomings in some recent games. "We've been lacking that two weeks or so. The hitters kind of put it upon ourselves to win this thing. We had to hit and play defense. We knew we were going to get great outings from the pitchers. They've done that for the last two months. We knew we had to get the big hit, and it's paid off so far."

Closing It Out

Brett Huber came in earlier than usual, in the seventh, but couldn't finish it out. R.J. Hively dusted off the final two-thirds of the final inning to seal it and get his fourth save of the year.

Huber remains one save shy of holding the career record all alone. He and Stephen Head each have 26 right now.

Huber did well against the Aggies, pitching two innings but came out when with one out in the top of the ninth after he walked a batter and hit the next one with a pitch.

Tanner Mathis
Patrich Ochs

"Brett's been really tender and sore and wasn't available to pitch yesterday," Bianco said. "Our hope was he would be available today, and he was. We just had to get to him a little earlier than we would like. To have R.J. on the back end to finish it off is a pretty good feeling."

Hively said he was ready to go again even after closing Friday.

"I felt fine," he said. "I was really hoping Brett would finish that out. It would have been something special to see him finish that out. But he told me after the game he just ran out of gas. I got my name called and I just filled up the strike zone. Our offense did a great job."

Bianco said his bullpen is tough, especially in this one since A&M had opportunities late.

"We pitched out of some jams, but you're talking about two pretty good guys," Bianco said of Huber and Hively. "Not taking anything away from A&M; obviously they're very good. But Brett was on the verge of becoming the all-time saves leader. And R.J. has just been tremendous in the second half of this season.

"Guys just continue to make pitches," he continued. "Usually if you have a strong bullpen, it's because they're making pitches with games on the line, runners in scoring position, getting out of jams. That's the difference. Certainly we needed both of them tonight."

One More Time

Ole Miss is in the driver's seat to advance to a Super Regional. One more win is needed. Bianco said never discount going 2-0, because that is obviously the key to having the best chance to win and advance.

"Mathematically it's not even close," he said. "There's still work to be done. But the reason you go to Huber early and you go to Hively is, if you win (game two), you only have to win one more to move on. If you lose this one, you have to win three. That's a big difference. We were going to do whatever we had to do to win this game."

But being 2-0 doesn't mean anything – unless you get that third win to move on.

"We know we have to come ready to play tomorrow," Bianco said.

He can't name a starter for Sunday night at this point.

"I don't know yet. We'll see how it goes with R.J. and the rest of the guys," Bianco said. "One thing is to look at both teams again and see who we think might be a better matchup for either one. We wake up tomorrow and talk as a staff. If this team wins, this guy might be a better match. If that team wins, that guy might be a better match. I don't want to get to that point yet."

Mathis said the Rebels are ready, and having beaten the top two seeds has gone according to plan.

"That was our goal the whole time," he said. "We're trying to play our best baseball of the year. Coach has told us all season our best baseball is ahead of us. We've put together some great innings and some great at-bats by a lot of people. It's finally paying off for us."

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