Play Ball. Again.

OMAHA, Neb. – It's Friday at the College World Series. Flagship Friday. Ole Miss is still in it.

A team with nine draft picks, a load of talent, and even more guts and heart, just keeps hanging around.

They're actually doing more than that. They've made the Final Four of college baseball. If Texas loses to Vanderbilt this afternoon and is eliminated, there will only be three teams left here.

What all four are trying to do at this point is get it down to two. Texas has to beat Vandy twice. The Commdores have to beat the Longhorns once. Ole Miss must beat Virginia twice, and the Cavaliers only need one more win to advance.

What if the Rebels are one of the last two standing Monday? Let's focus on tonight first.

The Cavaliers haven't played since that 15-inning win over the Horned Frogs late Tuesday/early Wednesday. No doubt Virginia is rested.

Maybe rest isn't what a team like Ole Miss, on a roll obviously, needs or even wants at this point. As head coach Mike Bianco and the players point out, they aren't used to having days off between games anyway. Playing three games in three days is the norm for a college baseball team.

They would certainly love to have Sunday off. And not because the season is over but because they'd be playing in that national championship series starting Monday against somebody.

The Rebels, in the program's fifth trip to the College World Series, have now matched the best finish ever for Ole Miss. That was the 1956 team which finished tied for third, which is where the Rebels are now, even if they lose today.

All eras are different, so comparing now to 50 years ago isn't entirely fair. But time changes everything anyway, and so the Rebels should probably be more compared to the past 20 years than the past 50. And with all the changes in bats and soon to be balls, maybe that isn't even a fair comparison.

Omaha was always the goal. Ole Miss had a head coach who brought three teams here – Tom Swayze. Then it had a head coach after that – Jake Gibbs – who brought his first team here. Don Kessinger's team got to within one day – two wins needed at FSU – in 1995. A Pat Harrison team got to one Regional in 1999. And Mike Bianco had four Super Regional losses before making it.

It's been tough to get here, and it's taken a special team to make it to the Elite Eight and now the Final Four.

Tough is the key word for this team, too. About six weeks ago, a friend and Spirit subscriber evaluated this team this way after looking at all the close wins and very few blowout losses. There've only been like three or four of those among the 20 losses.

"Tells me this about this team. We may kick your butt, but you're not kicking ours."

Maybe that's as good an assessment of this year's Rebels as any.

They'll face another huge obstacle tonight. But you can bet they believe they'll win again.

Senior left-hander Jeremy Massie, one of those who believes and has been an effective part of this year's team, will start. He's started eight games, appeared in 20, has an ERA of 2.73, a 4-3 record in 62.2 innings pitched.

Virginia is countering with its third game starter Josh Sborz, a sophomore righty with a 5-4 record and a 3.04 ERA in 71 innings pitched, with 15 appearances and 13 starts.

Here's what you've got. If the Rebels can find a way tonight, then they have another ULL Monday game on their hands. How so?

The pressure, maybe even starting tonight but for sure if it's the Rebels and the Cavaliers Saturday night, is all Virginia's.

Play ball. Again.


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