Delivery Man

LAFAYETTE, La. - Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher, and Christian Trent, playing in his home state, was brilliant when his team needed him the most.


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There's no guidebook for changing history, for reversing course and breaking through the glass ceiling. Ole Miss has tried pretty much everything anyway.

Monday night, the Rebels will try again, having forced a win-or-go home, do-or-die game with a berth in the College World Series on the line through their 5-2 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Ole Miss isn't running from its past: an 0-4 mark in Super Regionals under head coach Mike Bianco, its last appearance in Omaha in 1972. The years of close calls, be it 2005 or as recent as 2009.

"We all know it. But you've got to win the game," Bianco said Sunday night. "The players realize that. This has been a terrific group all year long. I think they're excited about it. They're excited about the opportunity. We're looking forward to coming out tomorrow and playing real hard.

"There's no hiding from that. That would be a big mistake to act as if they are not supposed to think about that. But one of the things this team's been great at, it's been excellent, is being able to lock into the present moment and to really understand that the game's won by playing well. It's won by winning pitches and doing the right things on the field. We've talked about finishing. You're in a position to control your own destiny, you've just got to play well to do that. This is a very mature team and a team that is certainly ready to handle that."

"Christian's a great competitor. He's been that guy for us all year long."

Baseball is a game unlike any other. The mood of Bianco and his players after a rough 9-5 series-opening loss Friday was nothing short of total defeat. Heads hung. Shoulders drooped. The past was haunting still.

But momentum is the next day's starting pitcher, and Christian Trent, playing in his home state, was brilliant when his team needed him the most, working 7.0 innings in a masterful performance. He was in complete control, allowing one unearned run on four hits with a pair of walks and seven strikeouts.

"It's a different kind of pressure, knowing that you have to do it for your team and this could be the last game," Trent, a Madisonville, La., product, said. "My routine stayed the same. I felt the same going out there. I had nerves with the first couple of pitches, but that's every game I pitch. Nothing really changed that much."

Trent, a redshirt sophomore who was drafted in the 29th round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers two days ago, acted as the stopper Ole Miss needed. He took the mound refusing to allow the enormity of the situation to overwhelm him, pitching off his fastball and keeping UL-L off balance.

"He had a good fastball, located," UL-L junior outfielder Seth Harrison said of Trent. "Elevated a little bit. He was tough to get on top off. He threw real good. I tip my hat to him."

"He pitched off his fastball real well," UL-L head coach Tony Robichaux said. "He mixed good. We never really could get on top of him. We hung in there with him."

Basically, he was himself. Trent entered the game with a 2.25 ERA, a 58:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a batting average against of .223. He held true to form.

"He's done that all year," Bianco said. "All three guys have always come out there and give you an opportunity to win. We're expecting Sam (Smith) to give that lift to us again tomorrow.

"Christian's a great competitor. He's been that guy for us all year long."

The past is unavoidable, especially when that past resurfaces each summer, as has been the case with Ole Miss baseball. The questions are unrelenting. Even in the postgame press conference, a reporter said to Bianco matter-of-factly, "You're aware of the history."

Bianco depanned: "Yes, I am."

History can only go so far - as far as home plate to the pitcher's mound. Now the burden falls to Sam Smith, Scott Weathersby, Josh Laxer, Aaron Greenwood and whoever else might get the call to pitch against a thunderous UL-L lineup.

If Ole Miss wins and advances to Omaha for the fifth time in school history, it will be because its stable of arms got it there. Huh. Maybe there's a guidebook after all.

"This is the game that gets you to Omaha," Bianco said. "I think everybody will want the ball. I would think just about everybody would be available. For game three, we're about as fresh as we can be."


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