In the bottom of the second, Zach Miller singled and Taylor Hashman beat out a bunt. The plan was to make sure to get Miller to second and in scoring position. There was a little more icing on the cake when Hashman arrived a moment early to first. That was the first opportunity to make something big happen.
Alex Yarbrough, so valuable at second base and at the plate as a freshman this season, bunted as well, but was out. But he'd done his job with Miller and Hashman both in scoring position at second and third.
Kevin Mort would have hoped for more than a ground out, but it got Miller home and Hashman to third. Then up came little-used Tanner Mathis, who we haven't seen much of in weeks. And back in March he had been the team's leading hitter.
He's still third in hitting at .322 with 37 games and 18 starts. The Lake Charles, La., freshman's on-base percentage remains third on the team at .327. Mathis brings a lot to the table and did Friday night.
His triple to the right center gap got Hashman home and kept the inning going, putting the Rebels up 2-0 and giving Drew Pomeranz some breathing room.
Mathis said he even got a little positive nudge from the Rebel ace.
"I just told myself to stay patient and stay calm," said Mathis, in left field against the Red Storm. "Pomeranz came up to me and said just swing it like you do in BP. So I did and I connected. The rest of my swings after the triple were like my BP swings, too. So what he told me helped a lot."
Bianco said Mathis was a positive for the Rebs.
"He's really had some great BPs, and also done well in his few opportunities lately," he said. "We went with some older guys (in the past), but we thought (Mathis) would bring some life. And once he hit the triple, he had more life. He was getting down the line faster. He was covering more ground in the outfield. He can run, and he brought a lot of energy."
But the tenth-year head coach felt good about things offensively all night.
"I thought we had a good plan and that we swung with a lot of confidence," Bianco said. "And we were efficient. We swung at the strikes and got good swings off. We didn't chase very many bad pitches. When there were opportunities to bunt, we did those things. We got runners in with sac flies. Hashman's two-out, two-strike base hit in the eighth showed what we did throughout the game. Just a good night for us offensively."
Now the matchup everybody had been waiting for is now on tap. Ole Miss and Virginia are playing again.
The Cavaliers (48-11) won 15-4 against Virginia Commonwealth in game one. The Rebels (39-22) got past St. John's 10-5 in game two.
The Rebels have been asked about playing the Cavaliers all week. Revenge has been a word used. It isn't so much that now as it is winning and moving on. Bianco has said that all week about whichever team the Rebels have lined up before them.
"They're a great program," Ferguson said. "After last year and how it ended up, we're excited to get a rematch. So we're excited to play them again."
Bianco said he tried to keep the focus on the game with St. John's, and now attention can be turned toward UVA.
"To me each year is different, and I don't look at it like a they beat us last year type of thing or revenge. They're very impressive and just as advertised. They're better than they were last year, and they were really good last year, and they're playing with a lot of confidence."
The Cavaliers will likely go with ace LHP Danny Hultzen, a sophomore with a 9-1 record and a 2.43 ERA. Coach Brian O'Conner said Friday night he was leaning toward starting Hultzen, although he could start junior RHP Robert Morey (9-3, 3.60).
Senior RHP Aaron Barrett (7-4, 4.16) is the Rebels' choice to face the Cavaliers.
Bianco said he wasn't sure if Rebels' ace Pomeranz would see any more action in this tournament.
"The only way we would use him is if we got to Monday, and then we'd have to check to see how he feels," he said. "That's far away."
Bianco said the fact that the MLB draft is that same day (Monday, June 7) should have no effect.
"I don't think so, but it is what it is," Bianco said. "But we're a few games away from that even entering my mind. If we get to that point, we'll check with him and see how he feels."
VCU (34-35) and St. John's (40-19) play today at 1 p.m. ET in an elimination game, while Ole Miss and UVA play at 6 p.m. ET.
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