Late Night Rip

HOOVER, Ala. - One night later, there was no doubt.

There would be no argument from the opponent or no umpire conference in the middle of the field. There would also not be another pitch thrown, as this home run ended the proceedings and set off a monumental celebration from the Ole Miss contingent situated along the first base side of Regions Park.

A game after lifting a solo shot just over the left field pole, just foul or just fair, Michael Guerrero provided an encore blast that stayed relatively straight and sent Kentucky to the loser's bracket.

The two-run bomb in the bottom of the ninth capped a final comeback and gave the eight-seeded Rebels Friday off with an 8-7, final inning win over the fourth-seeded Wildcats (42-16). The shot brought home Logan Power, and Guerrero trotted in moments later as a red and blue mob developed around home plate.

Hotty Toddys rained down for many minutes after, and the public address announcer asked numerous times for the Rebel fans to continue dancing somewhere other than on top of the dugout.

"In the ninth I wasn't even worried about it because I knew we would come through," Guerrero said. "It is just the way we are playing right now, really confident. I knew it off the bat. I looked fastball and got it."

A 94 MPH fastball to be exact. Kentucky closer Scott Green allowed a single to Power, retired Cody Overbeck on four pitches and attempted to pump a fastball by Guerrero on the first pitch.

Bad idea.

As soon as the ball met the bat, Guerrero raised his arm in triumph, and Kentucky simultaneously dropped its shoulders in defeat.

"It was just a great job of getting his hands through the zone," Mike Bianco said. "I haven't felt this good in a long time."

The Wildcats broke a six-all tie with a run in the top half of the final inning, but Ole Miss' two runs moves the Rebels (36-22) to the 10 a.m. game Saturday against the Vanderbilt/South Carolina winner. Kentucky faces Alabama in an elimination game at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Ole Miss lost an early 3-0 lead, and the two teams battled back-and-forth during the late innings. Matt Smith supplied a mammoth longball of his own in the seventh inning that ricocheted off the batting eye in centerfield. The shot sent the Rebels ahead 6-5 at the time.

Smith compared the two home runs.

"I think he hit his hard, mine went farther though," the first baseman, who knocked in four RBI, said. Guerrero agreed.

"Matt Smith has the power to hit it off the dad-gum navy tent up there, and I don't have that in me, so I put it down the line."

With the win, Ole Miss evens the season series with Kentucky at two games apiece and seizes the momentum in what is becoming a hard-fought feud. Taking the tournament is the objective, but the Rebels see beating the Wildcats as making the experience a little sweeter.

"Our main goal was to win this thing," Guerrero said. "Beating Kentucky and Georgia, two teams that almost swept us, great job by the whole team. How do I say it? It is pretty much a rivalry. We don't really like Kentucky. We wanted to really beat them."

Guerrero rated the home run the biggest of his baseball life, and it was even more special due to being on the shelf for several weeks with stress fractures in his feet. The outfielder returned at DH during the Auburn series and again assumed his outfield position last week in Lexington.

The time off was difficult, but the junior feels he is at full strength.

"Yeah, I was hurt and bumming about it. I didn't get to travel three weekends. Finally get back, and I don't feel like I have skipped a beat. My foot is healthy right now."

And so are the Rebels, who have solidified their regional situation and are primed for what is now an annual postseason run.

"We didn't know if we had clinched (a regional berth) after last night, but after this, this is a big win," Guerrero said. "Not many teams do that. It showed some guts. I knew it was gone and felt it. I told people in the dugout I was about to do it. And I did it. It was amazing."

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