Sophomore Drew Pomeranz pitched 7.0 innings of seven-hit baseball with two earned runs, but it wasn't enough, as No. 8 Ole Miss fell to No. 5 Virginia 4-3 Saturday afternoon.
The Rebels held a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, but two errors and a timely base hit by Cavalier catcher Franco Valdes allowed two runs to score for the final.
With the loss, Ole Miss drops to 44-19 on the year and forces a third game on Sunday that will see one team advance to the College World Series while the other team ends its season. Game three will begin at 2 p.m. and be broadcast on ESPN.
"Another spectacular college baseball game," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "This time we were on the other end of it, so we feel a lot like they did yesterday. It was a well-pitched game. I thought Drew (Pomeranz) was tremendous today and I thought (Robert) Morey was tremendous. He went very deep and kept us off-balance.
"Much like what happened to them yesterday, we weren't able to close it out. When you get to this point, you have to be able to close it out."
David Goforth entered in relief of Pomeranz in the deciding inning, after the lefty exited with 146 pitches thrown. Pomeranz struck out 10 batters in the effort, with three walks, two runs and seven hits.
"I was just trying to go out there with the same plan and hit my spots," Pomeranz said. "Early on, I was trying to overthrow a little bit. I was leaving the ball up a lot. Later in the game, I settled myself down and just started trying to get ahead of the hitters. I started to do that a little better later in the game when I was a little tired."
After Goforth retired Cavalier DH John Hicks on a pop out in foul territory down the first base line, Danny Hultzen shot a grounder to second for what appeared to be the second out of the eighth. But after fielding the hit, Button one-hopped the throw to first, allowing Hultzen to reach base.
With men on first and second after a walk to Steven Proscia, Valdes stepped into the box and singled to right field to plate Hultzen and move Proscia to third. John Barr then grounded to short for a possible inning-ending double play, but the relay to first was a second late, as the go-ahead run came home to score for the 4-3 decider.
"I make that play 99 times out of 100," said Button. "The ball was hit hard and I had all day to throw it. I wish I could have it back. I feel bad for the team. We just have to flush it and get them tomorrow."
"It's the whole ballgame. People look back at Evan's play, but it's the nine innings," Bianco added. "You look back and it's the squandered opportunities, chances that we had with runners on base or at-bats we gave away. There are other plays throughout the game that dictate it."
Pomeranz, who entered the day sporting an ERA of 3.46, was strong yet again in his 15th start of the year. He amassed 146 pitches over seven complete, before giving way with his team holding a 3-2 lead.
The talented southpaw has now logged consecutive games of 109 pitches, 119 and now 146 over the course of nine days.
"Emotionally, when you look at the fans and when you're close, it hurts regardless of who's pitching," said Bianco. "Drew was Superman out there today. What a warrior. Obviously I'm disappointed for him, but he realizes that, ultimately, it's just about winning and moving on. We've got to take care of business tomorrow."
Ole Miss got the scoring started in the top of the first, as junior Jordan Henry led off the inning with a bloop single to left field. On the first pitch he saw against Virginia starter Robert Morey, Logan Power barreled up a fastball over the left field wall for 2-0 advantage.
Virginia responded in the third, after Barr walked with one out in the inning. Barr stole second shortly after, with Tyler Cannon delivering with two outs to plate Barr with a single. Phil Gosselin followed with a single and Dan Grovatt a walk, but Pomeranz avoided further damage when Hicks flew out to right field to end the threat.
The game was evened in the Cavalier fourth, when Hultzen singled between first and second to lead off. A fly ball out by Proscia and strikeout of Valdes appeared to dissipate the danger, but a double by Barr plated Hultzen to knot the game at two apiece.
The Rebels took the lead back in the sixth, when a leadoff walk by DH Matt Snyder would prove costly for Virginia. After Morey followed with a walk of 1B Matt Smith, senior Andrew Carraway entered in relief after 89 pitches. However, Kyle Henson welcomed the righty with a single to left to score Snyder.
A chance for a big inning was wasted, when a throw home got past Valdes, allowing Smith to attempt for third. But after Smith was thrown out, RF David Phillips grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Ole Miss had an opening in the top of the ninth, when 3B Zach Miller doubled down the third base line to start. Miller was moved to third on a SAC bunt by LF Michael Hubbard, but Kevin Mort flew out to shallow center and Henry grounded out to end it.
Goforth pitched 1.0 inning in relief, surrendering two runs, both unearned. The Rebel freshman allowed only one hit in the eighth, but issued a walk.
"As disappointing as this loss is, there's always tomorrow," Power said. "As soon as we get our uniforms off and get our showers, we're going to put this game behind us like we always do. We're a really good team and we've always been able to bounce back. We're just going to try and do that tomorrow."
Ole Miss fell to 41-32 all-time in NCAA Tournament play in the loss. The Rebels are now 19-16 in tourney games under Bianco and 3-7 all-time in Super Regional play. The team will have one more try tomorrow to advance to their first College World Series appearance since 1972.
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