Stormed Out

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – This was an Ole Miss baseball team that wanted to face Virginia again. St. John's decided not to allow that to happen with a 20-16 victory Sunday afternoon.

The Red Storm set the tone early and led 8-0 after the first inning. UM starter David Goforth didn't even make it through the first.

Had the Rebels wanted to pack it in early, St. John's gave them every opportunity. But they didn't. Offensively the Rebs had enough runs to beat most teams, and the Red Storm even helped out with three errors to none for Ole Miss.

The Red Storm moved on to face the Cavaliers Sunday night and upset them 6-5. The deciding game is Monday night to advance to a Super Regional.

Ole Miss, meanwhile, is done for 2010. The Rebels finished at 39-24 but short of most of their goals for the season.

To the Rebs' credit, they stayed with it and chipped away. But the Red Storm bats kept sending Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco to the bullpen for help that really never came.

Mike Bianco

"We couldn't stop ‘em," said Bianco, whose team won just one game in an NCAA Regional since going 0-2 in 2004. "We swung the bats all weekend here well. But to give up eight in the first, and to battle back...but we did. But throughout the game, every time we got close they'd answer. We had no answer for them offensively today. They were just so locked in.

"I'm proud of our guys and the way they fought," Bianco continued. "Certainly it was an uphill battle with three games to win (to advance from the Regional). And then to go down eight in the first, and for them to continue to compete and fight to the ninth inning, very proud of them."

"Even down eight runs, we had a good feeling about things," said Matt Smith, who was 4-for-6 on the day with a RBI and three runs scored. "What else are you going to do? I mean, this is it. It's win or go home. We did all we could do. We battled and stayed in there. I was proud of that. But at the end of the day, it wasn't good enough."

So the Rebels kept swinging and wound up with 18 hits. But the Red Storm had 22 hits and basically just outdid the Rebels on offense. It was as simple as that.

Goforth faced nine batters, got two outs in the first, but he was credited with allowing seven earned runs on four hits with three walks and a strikeout. It was a do or die game, but the mature and level-headed Goforth said his problems weren't nerves.

"I just couldn't throw the ball where I wanted," the sophomore RHP said, who ended the year 1-6. "I couldn't get my breaking ball over for a strike. I was leaving a lot of fast balls up. If you get in bad counts, it makes it a lot easier for those guys to hit, and that was my biggest problem."

David Goforth

A combination of all of that seemed to be the remainder of the UM pitchers' problems. Trent Rothlin went four innings and gave up three runs on five hits. Rory McKean, in his last appearance as a Rebel after five seasons, gave up four runs on five hits in an inning's work. Brett Huber, usually lights out, wasn't effective either, giving up six runs on eight hits, finishing it out the final 2.1 innings.

"To pitch like we did was a surprise," Bianco said. "We were hoping to pitch better in this first game and go with Huber (in game two vs. Virginia). We needed David (Goforth), just like we've needed David throughout the year.

"If you watched the rest of the guys that came in, we needed somebody to have a good day," he continued. "Today, nobody had a good day on the mound."

The Rebels answered the big first by the Red Storm with three runs of their own in the second. Rothlin held SJU at bay the next two frames while Ole Miss closed the gap to 8-5.

But the Storm had an answer all day. With the Rebs trailing 10-6 after 5.5 innings, St. John's unloaded with five runs in the bottom of the sixth. McKean was chased after the Red Storm had scored three runs. Huber was welcomed to the game with a two-run homer by Joe Panik that made it 15-6 and put the Rebs in their deepest hole of the afternoon.

After Ole Miss cut it to 15-11 in the top of the eighth, St. John's had yet another answer with five runs in the bottom of the eighth to lead 20-11.

But in the top of the ninth after a run was in, Matt Snyder sent one out of the park with the bases loaded, a grand slam that pulled Ole Miss to within four runs at 20-16. But that's the way things ended.

"It was one of those loser's bracket games with the wind blowing out that made it a tough day to pitch," said St. John's head coach Ed Blankmeyer. "The bottom line is we swung the bats. It was a hitter's day and a pitcher's nightmare, that's for sure."

Blankmeyer used four pitchers in the game but was able to get into the seventh with starter Bruce Kern. Although Kern gave up seven runs on 13 hits, Ole Miss pitching kept giving him breathing room.

"I was just trying to get as many innings as I could," Kern said, now 7-5 on the season with the win. "I tried to keep the ball down low to get as many ground balls as I could. Anything in the air had a chance to go."

And on this day, the things that went right the most were in favor of the Red Storm.

That obviously continued in their win against Virginia Sunday night.

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