Win Or Else

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Here's what's supposed to happen Sunday.

Ole Miss is supposed to beat St. John's Sunday afternoon and lose to Virginia Sunday night. That's the way it was set up to play out from the beginning.

But not so fast, says St. John's Ed Blankmeyer.

"We're alive, and anything can happen in baseball," said the veteran head coach. "That's one thing about baseball, anything can happen."

Second-seeded Ole Miss got run off Davenport Field by the top-seeded Cavaliers Saturday night to the tune of 13-7. The Rebels put up a good fight, and there's always something to be said about that.

Zach Miller

But there's a reason Virginia is the No. 5 national seed and the Rebels are a second seed, which means they are considered a top 32 team in this tournament.

The Cavaliers went to Omaha through Oxford last season. They have no intentions of not getting back there this season through a Super Regional of their own.

Coming into this tournament, the UVA position players had a combined 199 NCAA Tournament games under their belts. Four of the Virginia pitchers had combined to throw in 20 NCAA tourney games.

St. John's eliminated Virginia Commonwealth 8-6 in the first game on Saturday. The Red Storm was up 8-3 before the Rams scored three in the top of the ninth inning for the final margin.

Blankmeyer plans to send senior right-hander Bruce Kern (6-5, 5.91) to face a Rebel lineup of hitters that is having more success than it's had in a while. And in arguably the biggest ballpark they've played in, the Rebels have five home runs in two games.

What Ole Miss needed to happen against Virginia didn't. The Rebels needed to have some early success, and they needed for Aaron Barrett to be at the top of his game. But it was the opposite.

The Rebels were held scoreless through two innings while Virginia was efficient by getting three runs and taking advantage of opportunities that presented themselves. When the Rebels did catch up with three runs in the top of the third, then UVA answered with four in the bottom of the inning.

Virginia had its leadoff batter on in the first four innings and scored in every one of them. It's the type thing the Cavaliers have done all season and why they are 49-11 and one of the favorites to win the national championship.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said sophomore RHP David Goforth (1-5, 8.41) will start against the Red Storm. He also said everybody in his bullpen would be available Sunday.

Mike Bianco

St. John's felt like it let Drew Pomeranz "off the hook," according to Blankmeyer, Friday night. The Storm must be licking its chops to get to fast-ball, hard-throwing Goforth to see how they can handle him.

So the Cavaliers get all day to rest up and wait on an opponent. Virginia used three pitchers Friday and two Saturday. The Cavaliers have scored 28 runs in two games.

It won't be an easy task for whichever team wins the early game and has to face junior RHP Robert Morey (0-3, 3.60). But that's what they're playing for at 1 p.m. ET.

Here are quotes from the postgame of Ole Miss-Virginia Saturday night.

Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor:

"I think it was a very hard fought victory against a very talented Ole Miss club - our team grinded it out. Danny Hultzen found a way to get us to the seventh inning by toughening up and making pitches, especially in the sixth inning.

"Our offense is also really locked in right now. We're playing with a lot of emotion and battling with two strikes. We're taking advantage of our opportunities and it is great to see that. We're happy that we are playing tomorrow at 6 p.m."

On having such a strong offense two nights in a row:

"In order to have a big offensive day like we had tonight and yesterday, everybody has to contribute. Our offense the last three ballgames, has really been locked in. We have been swinging the bat aggressively but haven't really chased balls too often. Our execution in driving in runners in scoring position has been really tremendous as well. It is difficult to sustain that type of offense though. We have been swinging the bat really well but the balls have also been finding holes.

"You can be talented, but if you don't have some breaks go your way, it will be tough to advance on. We've had a little bit of good fortune. We're going to need to get a good outing tomorrow from Robert Morey because I don't know how long this offense can last."

On Branden Kline's three-inning outing:

"Branden Kline pitched really well and very aggressively for a young freshman. He gave up that home run but he came back and made the pitches he needed to. In the back half of the season, that guy has been tremendous for us."

UVA Pitcher Danny Hultzen:

On getting through six innings:

"It's really important for a starting pitcher to go deep in a game - especially at regionals. When we have big games like that, it is the pitcher's job to eat up innings and just get through it."

On having strong offensive support:

"It is awesome to have all of that run support. There have been games this year when we've put up 12 runs but there are also games where we have put up one or two. Going out with a lead is really comforting because you can attack the hitters."

UVA Outfielder John Barr:

On going 4-for-4:

"I was just looking for pitches up in the zone and I came up with runners in scoring position so I just wanted to hit up the middle and drive the ball."

UVA Infielder Keith Werman:

On his twelve pitch at bat to lead off the bottom of the fourth:

"It's always important to battle, especially when you lead off an inning. I did whatever I could to make contact with his pitches. He was throwing them for strikes and I kept battling. I wasn't ever going to give up and I never will. When you go out there you have to have fun. I had never done that before so it was a cool experience just trying to get on."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco:

"Virginia was just too good today. As we just mentioned to the team, we didn't pitch well enough and certainly didn't play good enough defense with the three errors to give us a chance to win. I don't mean that to take anything away from Virginia with 17 hits and the way they swung it and the energy they brought to the field. To offset that for us to have a chance to win today we had to pitch much better than we did today and certainly play better defense. Offensively we gave ourselves a chance to win if we would have done something a little bit better on the other side of the ball."

On facing Virginia's lineup:

"If you look at them statistically the whole lineup is hitting well. One of the lowest averages is in the three-hole, and not to take anything away from Dan [Grovatt] because he is terrific, but they have guys batting in the eight and nine hole batting .350-.360."

On where Ole Miss struggled and Virginia thrived:

"I think from our standpoint we fell behind too many hitters. I think the first four innings we allowed the leadoff hitter to get on each time. I think their offense really thrives on that and allows them to steal - to bunt - to do different things. That was a big issue for us through the first four or five innings. We just couldn't get the leadoff guy. The got either a base hit or a walk, so some of it is our fault and some of it is to their credit with base hits."

On Aaron Barrett's error while covering first base:

"I don't know how many were earned after that. You look at Aaron [Barrett] gave up seven runs and three were earned. Not taking anything away from Virginia because they got hits after that, but we can't give them those opportunities - outfielders running past balls, missing cutoff men. The first run we gave up was a leadoff infield single that [Zach] Miller's glove gets knocked off and [Phil] Gosselin beats it out. A [passed ball] gets him to second base - he gets to third, they move him over, so they score the first run on an infield single - we can't do that against them."

Ole Miss pitcher Aaron Barrett:

On his performance against Virginia:

"At the end of the day I didn't compete hard enough - the offense came out today and swung it as well as anybody. You have to give Virginia credit, they are obviously the No. 1 team in the nation for a reason, but at the end of the day I got behind in counts and didn't make enough pitches and I didn't give our team a chance to win today."

Ole Miss outfielder Taylor Hashman:

On the Ole Miss solid offensive effort:

"We came out swinging and that is what we wanted to do today - that is what we did yesterday and we wanted to do it again today. We put up some runs today - but we didn't make enough plays defensively to give ourselves a chance to win."

On facing Virginia starter Danny Hultzen:

"He is a really good pitcher and there is a reason he was offered a lot of money coming out of high school. He attacks the zone and our coach told us to be ready for everything around the plate - don't let me throw fastballs low - and I think we did that. He threw well and got a lot of pitches by us - but we also scored six runs off of him and they were all earned, so we got to him a little bit."

On countering Hultzen's mid-inning scoreless stretch:

"We got away from what our approach was in the first couple innings - we had to regroup and get back to what we were doing and been trying to do and preach all year - we had to get back to basics."


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