Rebels win game one in NCAA Regional

Ole Miss beat Maine 5-0 Friday night. The Rebels play Oklahoma at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Ole Miss got rid of some old baseball demons Friday night.

The most recent one was the loss that has haunted them for a year, the NCAA-Tournament opening 1-0 setback to Western Kentucky in the first-ever Oxford Regional.

Friday night's 5-0 win over fourth-seeded Maine took care of that one.

The top-seeded Rebels also went 0-2 in their own Regional last year. No chance of that now.

Rebel baseball hadn't won an NCAA Tournament-opening game period since 1972, which was the last time they made it to the College World Series in Omaha.

As a matter of fact, in their six NCAA Tournaments since 1972, Ole Miss baseball had lost its first game in this tournament. The previous four appearances counting 1972, they had started 1-0 and advanced to Omaha each time.

On top of all that, the Rebels hadn't posted a shutout over a team in the NCAA tourney since a 9-0 win over Virginia - again in 1972.

Enough of the history lesson. This is all about now.

Top-seeded Ole Miss, the fifth-national seed, found enough offense to get past a tough Black Bear ballclub behind another strong pitching performance by junior right-hander Mark Holliman.

Holliman pitched a six-hit complete game, striking out three and walking just one in moving to 8-4 on the year.

"Certainly the story of the game for us was Mark Holliman," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "It might not have been his best stuff, and give Maine a lot of credit. They kept attacking and swinging. But like we've said all year, he's just tough."

Holliman immediately credited his teammates.

"The best thing tonight was probably the defense behind me," said Holliman, whose ERA is now 3.85. "I was able to make some pitches when I needed to, but the defense kept them from scoring."

Ole Miss didn't have its best night offensively, although 12 hits wasn't all that bad against one of Maine's best pitchers.

"Offensively it wasn't a very productive night for us," Bianco said. "We left runners at third base several times and just had some trouble getting the big hits. I thought it was important for us to score first and get ahead, which we did. We wanted to get the crowd into it, and we were able to do that at times when we scored some runs."

The Rebels got a run in the first when Brian Pettway singled up the middle to score Chris Coghlan who had reached on a base hit and moved to second on a wild pitch by Black Bear starter Greg Norton.

"Getting that first run was big," said Pettway, 1-for-3 with the lone RBI. "That got us some momentum early, and that's what we wanted."

In the second, Ole Miss had a chance to build its lead with the bases loaded and one out. But Justin Henry hit into a double play.

In the third, the Rebels again had the opportunity to add to their one-run lead but failed. With one out, Pettway on third and Stephen Head on first, Mark Wright flew out to left field. The outfielder then threw to the pitcher who gunned it to the shortstop to get Head who was trying to reach second but was called out.

Henry finally got the Rebels another run in the fourth - the first of two RBI for the redshirt freshman on the night - with a base hit scoring Barry Gunther who had reached on a fielder's choice and moved to third on a Miles Franklin single.

"My first two at-bats were not that good," said Henry, 2-for-4 with 2 RBI. "The third time up I just wanted to get the runner home somehow. I was lucky to find a hole and get a single through it. It was nice to get some momentum and score."

Ole Miss gave Holliman more insurance in the sixth with two runs for a 4-0 lead. Gunther sac bunted Cooper Osteen and Zack Cozart to second and third after both had reached on a base on balls. A fly ball to left by Franklin scored Osteen, followed by Henry's second RBI of the night, a single to left center which scored Cozart.

A ground out by Coghlan in the eighth scored Cozart again who had reached on a single, moved to second when Gunther was hit by a pitch, and to third on a sac bunt by Franklin. The scoring for the game was done as Holliman gave up a single in the top of the ninth but got the Bears to strikeout and ground into a double play to end it.

"It was good to get the opening win," Bianco said after his team moved to 45-18. "That's something we haven't been able to do in my five years here. This team continues to accomplish things we haven't done before."

The Rebels now face Oklahoma (34-24) at 5 p.m. Saturday. The Sooners were a 5-4 winner over Southern Mississippi in game one on Friday.

Junior LHP Matt Maloney (7-2, 3.02 ERA) will go for the Rebels, while junior RHP Steven Guerra (5-5, 5.36 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Sooners.

The Maine Black Bears were disappointed with the loss to Ole Miss but were pleased for the most part with their play.

"Tonight what we witnessed out there was an outstanding ballclub in Ole Miss," said Maine head coach Paul Kostacopoulos, whose team is now 34-18 and will play second-seeded Southern Mississippi (41-20) at 1 p.m. Saturday. "They really did some great things on defense. I talked early in the week about how good they are defensively. They took three or four hits away from us with their defense. We weren't going to get a lot of opportunities, and they took away the ones we did get by playing such good defense."

Kostacopoulos said Holliman was impressive.

"He pitched a great game. He didn't walk people. He made us swing the bat."

He was also pleased with his team's effort in the contest.

"I was proud of our kids. I thought we did a good job of weathering some storms out there. There were a couple of points in the game where maybe they could have blown it open. But our pitchers did a great job, and we played exceptional defense. Defense has been a bug-a-boo for us all year, but we did some smart things out there tonight."

Norton, a junior right-hander, seemed to feel pretty good with how he handled the Rebels.

"I did get a little tired at the end. It's been a while since I pitched in this kind of (hot) weather. It was tough to fall behind those hitters and expect to get them out. They are tremendous. They would wait on all the balls. I've really never seen a breed of hitters like these guys."

Kostacopoulos said his troops simply move on to Saturday and don't look back.

"It was a good college baseball game. They did what they needed to do to win the game. I don't think we did anything to lose the game. They just won the baseball game. We congratulate them and we move on to play Southern Miss tomorrow."

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