Rebs win Oxford Regional; now host Super Regional

Ole Miss rolled to a 20-5 win over Oklahoma in the title game of the 2005 Oxford Regional Sunday night. Texas and Arkansas meet at 1 p.m. Monday in Austin to determine the Rebels' opponent in the Oxford Super Regional this weekend.

Top-seeded Ole Miss waited all afternoon for third-seeded Oklahoma and fourth-seeded Maine to finish slugging it out. At 5:45 p.m. Sunday, the day's second marathon game began.

Oklahoma had defeated Maine 11-10 in game one Sunday. The Sooners were worn down and basically out of pitching. It all showed up in game two as the Rebels rolled to a 20-5 victory and won the championship of the Oxford Regional.

Take nothing away from the Rebels, however. They jumped on the Sooners early to set the tone. It was 7-0 after an inning and a half (Ole Miss was the home team).

The Rebels seemed to get into a bit of a lull for a few innings, perhaps due to some complacency with the large early lead. But with a 7-2 lead heading into the sixth, Ole Miss blew the game open with two runs in that inning followed by six more in the seventh for a 15-2 lead.

Oklahoma was having to come out of the loser's bracket since they fell to the Rebels Saturday 7-3. Winning game one Sunday over Maine and then having to beat the Rebels not only Sunday night but also again Monday night was way too much for the Sooners to overcome.

"That game was pretty easy to evaluate," said OU head coach Sunny Golloway after his team was eliminated. "They had pitching left and they swung the bats bigtime. We could not get them out, and I'm not going to say it was because we were out of pitching. They swung the bats. They deserve to move on."

Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco, with his first NCAA Regional title as a head coach, said his team indeed performed well in the championship game.

"I thought scoring early in the first couple of innings deflated them after they had to compete so hard in the first game just to get to the second game," said Bianco, whose team is now 47-18 and will host either Texas or Arkansas in a Super Regional this weekend. "I'm really proud of our guys. It's a special day for Ole Miss baseball. It's a day many of us having been dreaming about for a while. I thought we played well today and all weekend. Our guys deserve a ton of credit."

In the rout, tourney MVP Chris Coghlan went 4-for-6 with 3 RBI and 5 runs scored. Stephen Head was 3-for-4 with 3 RBI and a run scored.

All totaled, 11 Rebels got at least one of the 25 hits the team posted. Rebel pitching held OU to just nine hits.

Brian Pettway and Barry Gunther both homered in the contest for Ole Miss.

Eric Fowler went seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and no walks before being relieved by Tommy Baumgardner, who went an inning and gave up two runs on one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Anthony Cupps pitched the ninth to close things out and got the Sooners three up, three down in the frame.

"The big key for me," said starter Fowler, "was that the offense produced so many runs early. It just takes so much pressure off a pitcher when you have a big lead to work with like that. I just went out there and threw strikes. They got themselves out, and it worked out great."

Fowler improved to 7-2 on the season.

The contest lasted almost four hours before the largest crowd of the Regional – 7,725 fans.

In essence, the victory sent the Rebels to the Sweet Sixteen of college baseball, which is the Super Regional format up next. It's the deepest Ole Miss has been in the NCAA Tournament since playing on the final day in a Regional in 1995 at Florida State.

The last time Ole Miss advanced to the College World Series was in 1972, the program's fourth visit to Omaha.

After the final out was recorded Sunday, the Rebels did the traditional victory dogpile on the infield, something the program hadn't been able to do in years.

"We had to ask guys who had won Regionals like (assistant) Coach (Stuart) Lake and Coach Bianco," Head said. "We asked them if they dogpiled after Regionals, and they said they did. We orchestrated it there in the ninth inning, so then we just went out there and did it. It was just something kinda fun. We knew we were going to win there in the ninth. It was a great weekend by us, and we wanted to celebrate it a little bit."

"We congratulate the University of Mississippi and Ole Miss baseball," said Golloway, whose Sooners ended their season at 35-26. "They played great baseball all weekend and they are very deserving champions."

"I don't think this is a time for reflection," Bianco summed up in the postgame. "We still have games left. We have to play again next weekend. As the summer goes along, we will continue to realize what a special group these guys are."

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