Sophomore Drew Pomeranz allowed one run on two hits in a complete game performance, while sophomore Matt Smith had two RBIs on three hits in four at-bats, as No. 9 Ole Miss topped WKU 4-1 Monday in the final game of the 2009 NCAA Oxford Regional.
Starting on two days rest in his 14th start of the year, Pomeranz placed the team squarely on his 6-foot-5 shoulders. He opened the game with seven strikeouts against the first nine batters he faced, and finished with a career-high 16 on the night to tie the school's single game record.
The talented southpaw entered the day sporting an ERA of 3.86, but surrendered only one unearned run and a walk over 119 pitches.
"Legendary performance by Drew Pomeranz," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "We talked about it in our coaches' meeting this morning, that he was the type of guy that would give you that Curt Shilling, bloody sock type performance that people would remember for the rest of their lives. What can you say when you have that kind of performance?
"We tried not to waste too many pitches, but (WKU) is aggressive. That kept his pitch count down. He had 16 strikeouts for a power guy. Usually, you're going to have a few more pitches than (119)."
Pomeranz, who worked 8.0 innings and surrendered one run on five hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts against Monmouth Friday, no-hit the Hilltoppers through six before allowing two hits and a run to score in the seventh.
If not for a throwing error by shortstop Kevin Mort in the third, a Wade Gaynor walk in the fourth and a passed ball by Kyle Henson in the fifth, no Hilltopper would have reached base over the course of six complete innings.
"From the first inning on, I was just trying to hit my spots and keep them off-balance," Pomeranz said. "I focused on one hitter at a time. Honestly, I was just thinking pitch-to-pitch and trying to hit my spots. I wasn't thinking of anything else."
With the win, the Rebels (43-18) advance to their fourth Super Regional in five years and improved to 40-31 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.
Ole Miss will meet No. 7 Virginia, winners of the NCAA Irvine Regional, in a best-of-three series Friday at 1 p.m.
"As far as the rest of the team, how proud I am of the way they responded," said Bianco. "They've responded like this all year long. At times, we haven't been at our best, were slapped around or knocked to the canvas, but we've always responded. And tonight, in the biggest night of the year, which you probably can't put anymore pressure – especially after last night's loss – we grinded it out against a very good Western Kentucky team."
WKU's Matt Ridings was also impressive on short rest, scattering five hits over his first five innings, after pitching 6.1 innings and allowing four earned runs against Missouri Friday.
However, Ole Miss was able to gain a 1-0 advantage in the sixth, as Smith reached on an infield single with one out. Senior Kyle Henson followed with a run-scoring double to score Smith from first, but Ridings was able to get out of the inning with no further damage.
Ridings finished after seven innings pitched, with one earned run, seven hits and four strikeouts in the loss.
"I thought Matt (Ridings) was just outstanding coming off of two days rest and 118 pitches," WKU head coach Chris Finwood said. "He worked out of a couple of jams and made some big-time pitches when he had to. I couldn't be more proud of him."
The score held until the bottom of the seventh, when WKU (42-20) knotted the game at one apiece with their first two hits of the game.
With one out in the inning, Oxford product Chad Cregar rolled a grounder to first that was mishandled by Smith. The play was ruled a hit, however, with Creger stealing second shortly after. After Hilltopper shortstop Terrence Dayleg popped out to the pitcher for the second out of the inning, designated hitter Matt Hightower shot a single to second that Button misplayed.
Creger headed home on the error, with Button's throw up the line, easily plating the equalizer. The Rebels were able to get out of the inning, as Hightower was caught stealing on a perfect throw by Henson.
Ole Miss quickly retook the lead in the top half of the eighth, as Logan Power led off with a single to right field. DH Matt Snyder followed with a similar single down the first base line, putting runners at first and second with no outs.
Up came Smith, who then tripled to the right-center gap to score both runners. After consecutive strikeouts from Kyle Henson and Zach Miller, RF David Phillips launched a double to deep center to score Smith and give the Rebels the 4-1 final.
Pomeranz would close the door in the ninth, with two strikeouts and a sliding catch by CF Jordan Henry to end it.
With all 8,255 fans in attendance on their feet in appreciation, the tournament MVP exited with his eighth win of the year in impressive fashion.
"I was really excited (to pitch Monday)," said Pomeranz. "I was looking forward to it, even last night. I just kept thinking about going out there and being relaxed and hitting my spots like I did. It worked out."
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