Getting Over It

Evan Button had a faraway look in his eyes after Ole Miss' 4-3 loss to Virginia that evened the series and sent it to game three Sunday at 2 p.m. Make that about as faraway as you can imagine.

Button answered the only question sent his way after the game. It was the first one asked among reporters. It was obviously the most memorable play in a game gone bad for the Rebels.

Moments earlier, Button was playing second base, and the Rebels were up 3-2 when a one-out routine ball was hit his way. He scooped it in what appeared to be textbook fashion and threw to first baseman Matt Smith for what should have been the second out of the bottom of the eighth.

But his toss was just short of its intended mark, and Smith couldn't handle it. It allowed Virginia's first baseman and Friday's starting pitcher Danny Hultzman to reach. He would later score. So would his teammate Steven Proscia. The Cavaliers led 4-3.

The Rebels got out of it as David Goforth, who had come in for starter Drew Pomeranz to start the eighth, allowed no more damage.

But ultimately the damage was done, although any number of scenarios could have unfolded for victory, even with the Rebels leading 3-2 after eight, had that been the case.

"I make that play 99 times out of 100," a totally demoralized senior infielder from St. Louis said. "The ball was hit hard, and I had all day to throw it. I feel bad for the team. I wish I could have it back."

But he can't. Errors are sometimes changed in an official scorebook following a game, upon further review. This one won't be. Even if it was changed, the outcome would remain the same.

But accurately, Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said the game as a whole needs to be looked at, and that the Rebels had their chances to be further ahead than just one run at the time.

"It's nine innings," he said. "We squandered opportunities. We had chances with runners on base. There were other plays throughout the game that dictate it. That's just one of them. The truth is you're going to make mistakes. You're going to make errors. The goal is to score more runs than them, and today we weren't able to do that. What happened to us happened to them in similar fashion yesterday."

Obviously nobody is more upset about the loss than Button tonight. Nobody will be pulling for everything to go right for the Rebels tomorrow than Button.

This is the same guy, if you will recall, who was injured late last season, attended the SEC Tournament anyway, stepped up onto the dugout before hundreds of Ole Miss fans, and motioned for them – for you – to come to your feet in support of the team and the Rebel pitcher going at the time.

You responded and the Rebels won.


Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor appears to be a truly nice guy. He reminds me a lot of former Auburn head coach Hal Baird, who was a remarkably classy guy. O'Connor's best friend in coaching, he said Thursday, is LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. The two worked together at Notre Dame.

That all being said, O'Conner was not putting 10,000 Ole Miss fans down when he referred to the crowd in his postgame remarks Saturday after a question was asked about the environment.

"I don't think the crowd has been a factor in it," he said. "Our kids have been very determined in and concentrated on what's in front of them."

He also said he and his team were having a ball.

"How do you not have fun?" O'Conner said. "This is, I think, the best environment in college baseball, without question. Passionate fans that are into the game. If you're a competitor as a college baseball player, this is what you want. This is the best."

Catcher Franco Valdes nodded in the affirmative when O'Connor said it was the best atmosphere. He did again when his head coach said it was a great experience playing here.

Relief pitcher Andrew Carraway, who was supposed to start Sunday's game for the Cavs and may still, but relieved Saturday starter Robert Morey, said he and his teammates just try to block it all out.

"There were a lot of questions coming in about what the atmosphere would be like," Carraway said. "You just kinda put it behind you, because everything that's going to happen is going to be on the field. But it is fun."

O'Connor agreed that it's what's between the lines that matters most, that and playable foul territory, that is.

"As I said yesterday it appears to be two evenly matched clubs with very, very good pitching," he said. "It comes down to a clutch hit or a clutch play that's going to be the difference in this series tomorrow. I know we're looking forward to the challenge in front of us. It should be another great ballgame tomorrow.

"This is a memory that these players will have forever," O'Connor continued. "The Ole Miss players get to play in it every day. We don't. It's a great experience, there's no question."

Now he'll get to experience it one more time on Sunday.

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