Ole Miss opened the NCAA Regional in Los Angeles with an inauspicious beginning Friday night, losing 3-1 to Maryland. The game was marked in large part by the Rebels’ inability to get anything going offensively, particularly against Maryland ace Martin Shawaryn to start the game. The Rebels failed to record a hit through the last eight innings of the game, and that stat essentially told the tale.
“Like a lot of things in our game, it wasn’t hard to figure out this one,” coach Mike Bianco said. “I thought Mike Shawaryn pitched terrific. I mean, not much to say. We didn’t get a hit after the first inning.”
Maryland jumped out to an early lead with an impressive offensive explosion in the top of the first. After Rebel starter Christian Trent retired Terrapins’ leadoff hitter Lamont Wade on a grounder to second, Trent surrendered three straight doubles, all of which were well-hit balls, which gave Mississippi a two-run deficit the Rebels would never be able to surmount.
If you were judging solely by that first inning, you might have suspected that the game would end as a barn-burner. Maryland had four hits in their half of the inning, and the Rebels had two of their own in the bottom half. The faucet shut off though, thanks to some very good pitching from the Terrapins.
Interestingly, despite recording zero hits through the final eight innings, the Rebels actually had a real opportunity to cut into the lead in the sixth inning. Shawaryn, who had been stellar through the first five innings, finally looked mortal, walking three straight Rebel batters after retiring Colby Bortles to start the inning. With one out, Shawaryn was pulled (having thrown well over 100 pitches), and his relief, Robert Galligan, immediately walked Nic Perkins to give the Rebels their first run of the game. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, Galligan then struck out Josh Watkins looking on the next at-bat, and escaped the inning after Cameron Dishon’s liner was snared by Maryland second baseman Brandon Lowe.
Ole Miss had one other opportunity late, though it was more of the one-off variety. In the bottom of the 8th inning, first baseman Sikes Orvis rocketed a ball to center field and it looked like it had a real opportunity to clear the fence, but Wade, Maryland’s center fielder, was able to reel it back in on a very nice leaping play against the wall. It was just that kind of day for Mississippi, where even well-hit balls found their way right to Terrapin players.
“(Shawaryn) gave us some opportunities, but we couldn’t really capitalize on them, “ catcher Austin Knight said. “He did a great job of pitching today, and that’s what he’s known for. You tip your cap to the guy, but offensively, we need to do better.”
But really, aside from the sixth inning and Orvis’ close call in the 8th, Ole Miss struggled to put together any real threats against Maryland. Shawaryn’s slider and two-seam fastball both looked very good, and he was able to mix in enough offspeed pitches to keep the Rebel batters guessing, to the tune of 9 strikeouts through just five and a third innings. Maryland’s battery of receivers then did a credible enough job to keep Mississippi from scoring through the last three innings.
On the flip side, to Trent’s credit , after a rough first inning, he clearly battled without his best stuff and put together a very solid performance. It seemed like every other time Maryland made contact through the first three innings or so, the Terrapins hit it hard, yet Trent was able to trudge his way through the early going to turn out a solid final line, going six and a third with three earned runs.
“Christian...I’m proud of,” Bianco said. “It might have been his worst outing of the season, or even his career, but he hung in there and gave us everything that he could. He really didn’t have his best fastball command today, and pitching a lot off of his breaking ball, but he hung in there and certainly gave us an opportunity.”
Trent said that his improved performance after the first inning was due primarily to improved focus on his command and getting ahead in counts.
“Mainly getting ahead,” Trent said, of why he was able to settle down after the first inning. “You’ve got to be more fine than that. Obviously, they got those four hits, and that was big, but I really had to battle back and bear down and make pitches, which I wasn’t doing earlier.”
Now Ole Miss will move on into the elimination stage of the bracket. Mississippi will face the loser of No. 1 overall seed UCLA and No. 4 regional seed Cal State Bakersfield tomorrow for the opportunity to keep playing. Ole Miss is still in control of its destiny, with the ability to win three straight, and the team is eager for the challenge..
“I think we’ve been pretty resilient this year,” Knight said. “I don’t think this game is going to be on our mind at all. It’s win or go home now.”
The Rebels will play again tomorrow at 4:00 PST for the opportunity to advance to Sunday.
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