Describing Ole Miss' season as an emotional rollercoaster would be putting it lightly. Due to Mike Bianco losing out on coin-flip situations or the players failing in their pursuit of fundamental baseball, the Rebels have found almost every conceivable way to fall short.
Will Kline's outing of 8.2 innings is a poignant reminder of how the entire season has unfolded to this point. Incredible effort only to finish one out shy. If the Rebels don't take two in a row from the Sun Devils, then the 2007 edition will be remembered much more for its 14 single-run setbacks than for 40 or 41 wins.
The nearly 20-hour wait between Saturday and Sunday's games will test Ole Miss' mental toughness more than anything all season. And that is saying a lot considering all the times that regrouping has been necessary.
Shock and agonizing disappointment might be the two most appropriate ways to describe Zack Cozart and Will Kline in postgame Saturday. They both verbally said it, but that wasn't necessary. The emotion was written all over their faces.
The Rebels seem to have solid team chemistry, and that will be a priceless asset in shaking off this recent loss. Cozart said several times that the season wasn't over. The words probably more to remind himself than comment to the media.
Bianco mentioned the past two super regionals when Ole Miss was huddled in right field following the game. That was the perfect pep talk at the time. The Rebels know all too well that one game doesn't send anyone to Omaha, as they have witnessed two textbook examples of teams picking themselves up off the mat and taking two straight games on the road.
Maybe in an ironic way, that is how Ole Miss will succeed in a crucial series. But to do so, better baseball must be played. Kline getting the loss Saturday is akin to a reliever blowing a save only to get the win a half inning later when the team rallies. Something about it just isn't right because the Tupelo native gave the Rebels more than a chance to win.
Arizona State may have won the game during the final inning, but Ole Miss put it in jeopardy much earlier than that. Stat lines are sometimes deceiving but 13 hits and only three runs are a large portion of the story. Botched bunts and tailor-made double plays won't get it done against the high-powered Sun Devils.
The Rebels, as they have been many times this season, were one hit away from busting the game wide open. Hits came relatively often except when a runner was on second base.
Ole Miss mounted three straight hits off ASU starter Mike Leake in third inning, but the Rebels slammed its own open door with poor execution. Justin Henry attempted a sacrifice with runners on first and second, but Jordan Henry was thrown out at third because the bunt was too hard on a cement-like infield. Cody Overbeck followed with a nubber that turned into a 1-6-3 double play. Opportunity missed, inning over.
A couple more similar chances were wasted, but a lights-out Kline kept Ole Miss ahead until tiring with mere outs remaining.
The decision to stick with Kline or go with Cody Satterwhite is much easier to be made with hindsight, but it was evident that the starter was losing some of his luster as he went north of 100 pitches. Allowing Kline to begin the ninth could go either way, but the closer needed to be called on as the hits mounted.
Close games put head coaches under a microscope, and Bianco has undergone many opportunities to be examined. Mistakes were obviously made at different points, but no one knows how the other options would have fared.
Either way, it is what it is. Ole Miss has a must win tonight at 6 p.m. (CST), and will have another Monday if this one is successful. The Rebels can gain inspiration from Texas and Miami circa 2005 and 2006 respectively, but motivation shouldn't be needed with what is at stake.
The season has been filled with 8.2 inning occasions, but for the next two days, anything short of that extra out will be devastating.
Commentary: One out short was only fitting
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