"Live for the Moment" was selected for 2008, and Sunday's climactic victory appeased both segments of the shirt's significance.
The seemingly inconspicuous piece of clothing is handed out to the player of the game after the postgame huddle in left field. Everybody in attendance knew Matt Smith was the definitive winner of the tangible award, but his teammates implemented a little hazing first. Mike Bianco handed the shirt to Fuller, the other Smith, who played along before finally passing it over to Matt.
The amusing act brought out a smile and a knowing nod from the younger Smith, but it didn't take much to entertain him on a monumental career day. In only his third career start, Smith lived the moment. And then three innings later, he lived it again.
The redshirt freshman sent a two-run single through the right side with the No. 2 Rebels (8-0) down to their final strike in the ninth inning to tie the game, but his dream-like scenario didn't play out for another hour.
With one out in the 11th and the contest knotted at five, Matt drilled Brendon Smith's first pitch into the leftfield terrace to walk-off the Sycamores and complete a three-game sweep of Indiana State (1-5) with a come-from-behind 6-5 triumph. The Swayze Field crowd of 4,980 exploded as the ball left the bat, and the bench cleared to greet him at home plate.
"You live for that and kind of dream for it as a kid," Matt said. "I finally got it and came through. Not going to say the home run didn't cross my mind."
And, oh yeah, it was his second home run of the day. The first went out the opposite field to break a scoreless tie in the second inning. In all, Matt was 5-6 with four RBI and two runs scored.
"It is nice to have Matt Smith still available," Bianco said. "He is without a doubt going to be a star. Swinging it so well."
While Matt will garner most of the headlines, the Ole Miss bullpen deserves equal credit for the nail-biting win.
Starter Nathan Baker was roughed up by Indiana State with four runs in the third inning and left with two men on in the sixth frame. However, there was no need to worry. The combination of Drew Pomeranz, Scott Bittle and Justin Cryer iced the Sycamores over the final six innings.
"The key tonight was the bullpen performance," Bianco said. "Pomeranz was unhittable. Bittle was unhittable, and Cryer was effective. They kept us in it until we made a run late."
Pomeranz and Bittle spearheaded the effort with eight combined strikeouts in 4.1 scoreless innings, while Cryer (1-0) worked out of a bases loaded jam in the 10th inning and picked up the win by recording the final five outs.
"Pomeranz followed Baker and hit 94 with his first pitch and his final three, it was pretty amazing."
Even with the stellar pen action, Ole Miss had to dig deep and battle back for the first time all season. Trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Rebels began their steady rally.
Brett Basham tripled down the line and scored on a Jordan Henry groundball in the seventh, and then Fuller Smith drilled a double into the leftfield corner an inning later with two outs to plate another run.
That left the margin still at two, setting up Matt Smith's first batch of heroics. Logan Power singled with two outs to start the threat, before Michael Guerrero walked and Zach Miller was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Matt Smith followed with his sharp single to force extra innings.
Ole Miss squandered a chance to win in the tenth inning when Tim Ferguson hit a missile directly at the leftfielder. Michael Hubbard attempted to tag from third but was thrown out by a considerable margin at the plate.
ISU starter Micah Spencer received a no-decision after baffling Ole Miss for 6.2 innings, allowing two runs.
Cody Overbeck, Miller and Power also produced multiple hits.
"We knew the bats would come around," Matt Smith said. "We stayed positive and hung in there. It has been a surreal day."
Ole Miss returns to action Tuesday against Southern Mississippi at 5 p.m. in Oxford. The Rebels have yet to name a starting pitcher.
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