Sunday Stunner

Western Kentucky was getting them on but not getting them in. Then came the eighth. The Hilltoppers rallied in the last two innings to beat Ole Miss and force a Monday final.

Third-seeded WKU beat the top-seeded Rebels 10-9 in a comeback of monumental proportions that appeared to leave everyone of the 8,377 announced in disbelief.

But, as they say, that's baseball.

"It was a great college baseball game," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "But not so great if you're an Ole Miss fan. But just an unbelievable game. Certainly you tip your hat to Western Kentucky for the day that they had today."

The day that they had today included doing what they do best. Hit the ball often and sometimes knock its cover off.

The Hilltoppers got 20 hits on their way to 10 runs. The eighth inning was the killer for Ole Miss as Rebel closer Jake Morgan, sensational all season, gave up six runs on five hits, including a three-run blast by Wade Gaynor (his 24th homerun of the season) to center field that tied it 9-9.

Morgan was pulled without recording an out.

"I felt fine. I felt good out there on the mound," said Morgan with nine saves on the campaign. "Felt like everything was the same. I just didn't locate my pitches. I was leaving everything up and that's what happens when you throw against a good team like that. If you leave stuff up and don't hit your locations, you get hit around."

"If you want to be critical, obviously he fell behind some hitters," Bianco said. "It's tough to pitch with a lead. It's one of those where I'll look back at it and wonder should I have brought him in that early with that type of lead, because they're not used to pitching with that type of lead.

"But that's taking credit away from Western Kentucky and what they did at the plate," he continued. "Five hits off one of the best closers in the country. It was more of what they did. They hit the breaking ball. They hit the fast ball. They had a lot of good at-bats."

Nathan Baker, who got the loss, entered after Morgan exited and got three outs with no further damage.

Until the top of the ninth, that is. That's when Hillopper Jake Wells led off with a solo home run into the Rebel bullpen to give his team a 10-9 lead and ultimately the victory.

Reliever Garrie Krueger came in for WKU to claim his second save of the season as the Rebels went three up, three down to end it.

Ole Miss, with 11 hits of its own, led 3-0 after two innings and 7-1 after six.

Western got two in the top of the seventh, but the Rebels answered in the bottom of the seventh when Matt Smith launched one out of the park after Logan Power had walked with an out. That made it 9-3 and those same 8,377 who would be in disbelief later had to believe at that point this one was a win for the red and blue.

Western Kentucky head coach Chris Finwood concurred.

"I've been doing this for 21 years, and this is probably the best ballgame that I've been a part of in terms of comebacks, the stage, and the atmosphere," Finwood said.

Of course it wasn't WKU's first rodeo of the day. The Hilltoppers had already sent the Missouri Tigers packing 11-6 earlier in the afternoon.

"To go out there and play the way they did for 18 innings and then to beat a heck of an Ole Miss ballclub in front of a great crowd with that type of comeback is an amazing feeling," Finwood said. "I am fairly certain this was the biggest win for us in school history."

The situation at hand turns completely toward Monday's 7 p.m. championship game of the Oxford Regional.

For the winner it's move on to a Super Regional. For the loser, it's end of the season.

"Flush it and come out tomorrow and play in front of our fans," said Matt Smith of the Rebels.

"Hopefully this will carry over to tomorrow," said WKU's Matt Rice.


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