Sweet Revenge

HOOVER, Ala. – There's been some discussion all week about what Ole Miss is playing for here. A conference tournament championship, yes. But what else?

They're already in the NCAA Tournament and a likely two seed. They aren't going to play at home again.

So what else? How about a little revenge from the embarrassment that was the Auburn series last weekend.

Zach Miller talked about it Monday, that if they got to play the Tigers, who swept Ole Miss in three games by a collective 34-8 margin, they'd like to get some revenge.

Taylor Hashman said after the Rebels beat Auburn here Friday night 10-7 to advance, he hesitated to call it that. But the Rebs, he said, were indeed ready for this one.

"Coming into the game, we were really pumped to play them again, and we wanted to show them we can beat them, that we can compete more than we did last weekend," said Hashman, whose three-run home run broke a 7-7 tie in the top of the tenth inning. "We all just came out with the mentality – I won't say it was revenge. But we were really pumped up to play the game and we were happy with the outcome."

And it wasn't just offensively, even though the Rebels outhit the Tigers 12-10. On the mound Ole Miss was sensational against the potent Tigers, especially as the game wore on. Matt Crouse relieved starter David Goforth in the third and pitched four innings of three earned run, three hit, one walk baseball. But it was a personal record-tying eight strikeouts that kept the Tigers at bay during his time on the mound.

From that point on it was more of the same for the Rebel hurlers as Trent Rothlin, Matt Tracy (4-3 with the win), and Brett Huber (with his 12th save) allowed no runs and basically no baserunners. An inning for Rothlin with just a hit, an inning and two-thirds for Tracy with no hits and just a walk. Huber went the final frame with no hits, a walk, and a couple of strikeouts.

"It was really about getting ahead and throwing strikes," Tracy said. "Last week we fell behind and their hitters got really comfortable. They got in good hitting counts with a great offense. Today we got ahead a lot more, and that made it easier on us. Crouse was tremendous. Take away one pitch (a Hunter Morris 3-run homer in the 7th that chased Crouse), and he absolutely dominated. He showed me and Brett how it's supposed to be done against this team."

Huber pumped after win vs. Auburn

Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said the Rebels were intent on playing better and winning the game.

"I'm proud of our guys," he said, his troops now 38-21. "It was gutsy performance with our backs against the wall. We needed this win emotionally to get back on track."

The Rebels never trailed against the SEC West Champions, who helped the Rebs' cause with five errors. The game was tied three times (at 3-3, 4-4, and 7-7), but the Rebels always answered.

"I don't think it really mattered if we'd gotten behind or not," said the senior slugger Hashman, with his ninth homer of the year and who has become a real key in the Rebels' success the last half a season. "We knew we were visitors and they were home. And we wanted to come out and punch them early. I think we did that. We came with a good approach at the plate. We put up more runs than we had in a while. I think it was good for us emotionally. It was good for us in this tournament and for next weekend."

Next weekend. Yes there will be one. Everybody wants to know where the Rebels will go. For the second time in three seasons, they'll travel to an NCAA Regional.

That was already a given when they got here. Beating Auburn wasn't. Based on last week it was almost a sure thing they wouldn't.

But there's that important ingredient called fighting spirit. And what you saw Friday night from Ole Miss, along with a well-played game, was a team looking to show another team it was better than the last time around.

Few players offensively have contributed more than Hashman has lately, especially since he wasn't a regular earlier in the year. But he loves his role now.

"It's been fun. I can tell you that," the personable Naples, Fla., native said. "Last year I didn't get to play as much as I wanted to. This year I just came with a better approach, to be more aggressive earlier in the count. Yesterday I hit seventh. Today I hit fifth. You just have to go up to the plate with the same approach every day."

And sometimes, like in the tenth inning against Auburn, it all pays off in a big way.

"When I was on deck, I saw Matt Snyder battling and get a two-out hit. I wanted an opportunity to come up there and do something."

That he did. Now his team has an opportunity to do some more.

And that is indeed one of the reasons they are here.

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