Ending It

OMAHA, Neb. - It all came down to a big hit by big Papi. Virginia's leading hitter, Mike Papi, did what he does best.

The College World Series stats crew credited his walkoff hit as a double, scoring a run off Aaron Greenwood in the bottom of the ninth to send Ole Miss to the loser's bracket and a Tuesday afternoon game against Texas Tech, which lost to TCU earlier on Sunday. Virginia now plays the Horned Frogs Tuesday night.

Greenwood had walked the initial batter in the inning, Nate Irving, who was sac bunted to second.

The count was 3-2 when Papi launched the winner. There were two outs and Ole Miss was almost out of it. Had they walked Papi, however, they'd have faced the Cavies' second best hitter, Joe McCarthy.

So Papi went on and ended it.

"I'd had a couple of other opportunities in the game to drive some guys in and wasn't able to," he said. "In the bottom of the ninth, I was just looking for pitch in the middle of the plate, something that I could cut in half and line to the outfield somewhere."

Ole Miss had its chances, but not as many as Virginia did. The Cavaliers had eight hits and Ole Miss pitchers walked five along with a hit batter.

Ole Miss had one hit. And there were three walks. That's it.

That Ole Miss was in it in the ninth is a testament to Rebels' toughness and grit to keep things close and give themselves a chance to win. The Cavaliers said Rebel starter Chris Ellis was a key factor.

"Chris did a phenomenal job today," said Papi, who had one hit off the Rebel ace. "(Ellis, Jeremy Massie, and Aaron Greenwood) were very good with runners in scoring position. They mixed it up and pitched backwards a little bit. They hit their spots and it worked out. When you do that you're going to get people to get under the ball or not get quality contact, and that's what they did."

Nathan Kirby, the left-handed Virginia starter, was lights out through seven innings, ran into some trouble in the seventh, and before then the Rebels couldn't do a thing with him.

"My plan was to make them beat me," said Kirby, who had a 1.73 ERA and with nine wins actually has two losses on the season, although he looked unbeatable against the Rebels. "I thought I did a good job with that."

One of his losses this season was last week in the Super Regional opener against Maryland.

"Last week I left a bunch of pitches up and they made me pay for it," Kirby said. "This week I just wanted to completely turn the page and force them to beat me. Fortunately it went my way."

Reliever Artie Lewicki was equally as effective when he entered to finish things out.

"Wow. What a college baseball game," Cavalier head coach Brian O'Connor said. "Ole Miss has a terrific ballclub. I was really proud of our club in all areas. Happy we're 1-0 and moving on. I thought we played really great baseball in all phases."

Especially the area of the "W" column which allows the Cavaliers to move on in better shape than the alternative.

In the end, it all came down to the big hit by big Papi.

"I knew I got it probably as well as it could have," Papi said. "I was just hoping and praying it was going to fall somewhere out there. Every walkoff is awesome. To do it in the College World Series makes it that much better."

O'Connor said there's obviously nothing better than moving on into the winner's bracket after game one.

"Only using two pitchers also is a plus," he said, his program making its third CWS appearance in six seasons but first since 2011. "This tournament is so different than anything we play in because of the days off and what you can do with your relief pitching. Certainly winning is better than losing. If we can win the next game, we're in great position."


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