Sunday at the Regional

Ole Miss awaits the winner of Missouri-Western Kentucky today at 5 p.m. The Tigers and Hilltoppers play at 1 p.m.

It hit me late Saturday night and into early Sunday morning exactly what I'd been doing. I started adding up how much college baseball I'd taken in the past several hours.

Around noon, I turned the TV off after watching a little bit of Ohio State and Marist from the Tallahassee Regional, left the house and headed to Swayze. Then I watched in person as Missouri eliminated Monmouth from the Oxford Regional.

I followed that by watching Ole Miss beat Western Kentucky and covering it. Then I went home to watch Virginia and Cal-Irvine. While watching that one, I learned Texas and Boston College were playing the longest baseball game in NCAA history, so I found it on the internet.

The thing is, I know some of you did exactly the same.

That's where baseball is at Ole Miss now, in the thoughts of the masses and a priority to attend for many.

Really, I'm not a college baseball junkie, although you wouldn't know that by my actions listed above. I do love the sport and always have, ever since I watched games at the old Swayze Field, which was in the Rebel Shop area by the football stadium.

Saturday afternoon at the current Swayze Field, more than 9,000 showed up to watch Ole Miss win 7-4 against a Western Kentucky ballclub that's here to win the Oxford Regional and still believes it can. But its road is tougher.

Ole Miss, at 2-0 this weekend, awaits the winner of Missouri and Western Kentucky. The Rebels won't play until 5 p.m. Mizzou and WKU will battle at 1 p.m. in the heat of the day, which should be near 90 degrees and hotter than that on the field in a blazing southern sun.

The winner will be eager to play Ole Miss again, but they'll also be fatigued some from playing in those conditions, even if they are 18-22 year olds in great shape. And their pitching will be thinner than it already is. It will take a major effort mentally and physically for them to win against the Rebels. If they can get it done, then they'll have to repeat it Monday night.

Ole Miss will be rested and ready to play for a Regional title at 5 o'clock Sunday, hoping to get to host again next weekend if things work out on the west coast at Irvine. And they might. Virginia, the two seed, just upset Irvine, the top seed and the No. 6 national seed, 5-0. I know. I was watching.

But Virginia looks good and is a strong two seed with superb pitching. The Cavaliers just shut out the host national seed to prove it.

There are no easy outs. Advancing is always difficult.

Ole Miss led 2-0 against Western Kentucky when Matt Snyder, 0-2 on the day and with few hits in several of his last at-bats, strolled again to the plate. The talented freshman Rebel wasted little time proving why he is still in the lineup as the DH.

The moment was vintage Mike Bianco, and I even mentioned that as Snyder came up to bat. Some wondered why Bianco didn't make a change and try somebody else at DH.

But I knew. I've covered nine Bianco teams and I know Snyder is the kind of player he will stick with in situations just like this one. He knows at some point a guy like Snyder, with pop in his bat and an aggressiveness in his style of play, will produce just when the Rebels need it most.

And as Snyder dug in, I said so. He's sticking with him because something good is going to happen for the kid and for Ole Miss at some point. I just didn't know it would be right then.

The pitch from Shane Cameron. The swing by Snyder. The drive deep to right, the ball landing past the fence and into the bullpen, driving home two Rebels already on base as well as himself. Just when his team needed it most, just when Phillip Irwin needed it most.

The Rebel starter was doing a masterful job but could have used some backup in the form of runs. And he got them from Snyder.

Later, Irwin would run into a bit of trouble. A two-run shot in the sixth, followed by two more runs the next inning, and all of a sudden it's 7-4. I was becoming a bit uncomfortable with the situation, as I'm sure thousands were watching and listening.

Bianco seemed to go with Irwin even longer than normal. Go get him, some even yelled from the stands, likely speaking for others.

But Irwin pitched into the seventh, David Goforth had a short stay, and Jake Morgan took the Rebels home with no further damage.

So much for being uncomfortable. It was all just another winning day for the Bianco program. Another very important winning day.

Had the Rebels lost, they'd have been fighting Missouri early this afternoon in the heat and would have had to win twice Sunday and again on Monday.

And that's a tough assignment for any team, even the No. 1 seed playing at home.

So the Rebels hope to take care of business today, and they hope it doesn't take quite as long as it did Texas to beat Boston College. The Longhorns finally got the victory 3-2 in 25 innings.

And the longest game in NCAA baseball history was over.

I listened to the end, and I promise I'm not a college baseball junkie. (Or am I just kidding myself?)

But it is nice to be a serious and important part of the college baseball landscape, don't you agree?


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