One more win for UM or UT and it's Omaha

Ole Miss and Texas meet in the biggest game of the season. The winner plays on at the College World Series. The loser is finished for 2005.

Augie Garrido said in his postgame comments after game one of the Rebels-Longhorns series that it was ironic Ole Miss beat Texas at its own game - with sac bunts that led to errors and runs. It's usually his team that does that to others.

A reporter pointed out after game two that Texas returned the favor and beat Ole Miss at its own game. Two Texas home runs proved to ultimately be enough in the Longhorns' 3-1 victory.

Garrido agreed.

"That's why I said earlier that in baseball you can expect the unexpected," said the veteran coach who should know, having been around the college game for the better part of four decades.

So it all comes down to Monday night. Either Ole Miss or Texas is going to Omaha. The other is putting away the uniforms for the season, or sending kids to play summer baseball before returning to Oxford or Austin in the fall, or saying farewell to some players who won't be back.

Monday night is Cooper Osteen's last game at Swayze. The "Coooooooop" cheer should be its loudest yet.

It's the last time Miles Franklin will chase one down in the outfield or bunt one over into scoring position.

It's the last time Barry Gunther will squat behind home plate to direct the Rebel defense, the last time the team's co-captain will catch for his pitchers on their home field, the last time he will rally the troops as a good captain should.

But it's most likely the last time we'll see Eric Fowler pitch in red and blue at home, the last time Brian Pettway will take a giant swing to try to hit it out of the park at home, the last time Stephen Head, if the case arises, will be called on to close the door at home.

Sunday may have been the last we'll see of Anthony Cupps pitching at home. And unless he makes an appearance Monday night, most likely we won't see Mark Holliman throw another pitch at Oxford-University Stadium.

But for one more three-hour or so span on national TV, those guys and their teammates have a shot to send themselves out of Swayze on the highest of highs. One more win over Texas and the Rebels will make their travel plans for Nebraska in June.

The Rebels could already have booked their trip to the Midwest had they gotten a couple of timely hits in game two. But it didn't happen. Now it is down to game three.

I am certain the Texas players went to bed Sunday night not feeling like Monday is life or death. They've been there before. They know what it's like to get there.

I am just as certain the Ole Miss players went to bed Sunday night full of confidence and knowing they are just as good as Texas, that if they play well and get some timely hits, then it's on to Omaha this week.

Keys? For Ole Miss, Eric Fowler. So effective all year, the junior LHP has what it takes to win Monday night. Will he respond on the biggest stage yet? If his previous outings and approach are any indication, then the answer is yes.

"Will you get any sleep tonight?" I asked Fowler the day before he started the Mayor's Trophy Game in Jackson earlier in the season.

"I'll sleep tonight," he said. "I might not have slept two years ago in this same situation, but I will tonight."

That's maturity talking. The ball being in Fowler's hands is a good thing for Ole Miss.

More keys? Taking an early lead. Timely hitting. Making plays. Coach's decisions working out. And all that goes for both teams.

Will Ole Miss' will to win and to push through and to finally break down some barriers be enough to extend the season?

Will the crowd, so large and so vocal for Ole Miss the past two days, be back and be loud and give this team yet another lift?

I remember jokingly telling Mike Bianco when he was hired in the summer of 2000 that his arrival in Oxford was probably going to mess with mine and Chuck's summer golf.

"Lot of good golf courses in Omaha," Bianco responded quickly.

Come Tuesday, maybe I'll get to start checking on a few tee times and green fees so I'll be able to find out first-hand.

It doesn't get much bigger than Monday night. Unless the Rebels get to play Saturday at Rosenblatt Stadium. Then that will be even bigger still.

Oh, as "they" say, the possibilities.......

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