COLUMN: It was quite a sight to watch from the press box at Oxford-University Stadium.
For a team that quite frankly hasn’t had a lot to get excited about this season, taking the series from a South Carolina squad that hasn’t lost one since the end of last season was a big deal.
The mob of players that engulfed Preston Overbey at first base following his walk-off sacrifice wouldn’t have been made possible if not for the fortitude of fifth-year senior Jake Morgan.
After allowing one run to score via a fielding error in the seventh, Morgan settled in to allow just two more base runners over his final 2.1 innings of work.
Ole Miss skipper Mike Bianco called Morgan’s performance “gutsy.”
And rightfully so.
Morgan’s trips to the disabled list and back have been well chronicled in the pages of the EAGLE and Sunday’s appearance against South Carolina was just the most recent chapter.
“He’s a different breed,” he said. “As you saw a couple years ago against Virginia and this, it’s one thing to have success on the mound late in the game. It takes a special person to want to have the ball late in the game, but it also takes more of a special person to have the adversity to overcome the things he goes through and still be able to play.”
Following Morgan’s warmup pitches between the eighth and ninth innings, catcher Miles Hamblin signaled to Bianco and trainer Tony Barnett to have a meeting with Morgan.
It was obvious that Morgan wasn’t feeling great, but after a brief visit, Morgan buckled down to sit the Gamecocks in order, including a strikeout of center fielder Evan Marzilli to send the game to the bottom of the ninth.
“Being a fifth-year guy and a guy that doesn’t have many weeks left, you have to trust somebody and I don’t know if there’s anybody I trust more than Jake Morgan,” Bianco said.
Morgan’s teammates have faith in fellow pitchers Bobby Wahl and Brett Huber, but as second baseman Alex Yarbrough pointed out, something’s different when Morgan takes to the mound.
“He’s been great and he’s one of everybody’s favorite guys on the team,” he said. “It’s great to see him do that. You could tell right when he stepped on the mound that he was going to fill up the strike zone and dominate. That’s exactly what he did.”
Coming off of last weekend’s sweep at Florida, and with a spot in Hoover, Ala., for the Southeastern Conference Tournament — and the NCAA Tournament — on the line, the importance of Sunday’s victory was not lost in the mob of players at first base.
Perhaps, it was the reason for the jubilation.
“It took a lot of energy and to come together as a team,” Morgan said. “We’ve had our struggles. That’s obvious to everybody. We came together and played well. We had one error all weekend. We had two really good games.
“Every team is up and down, and everyone goes through struggles, but I think we’re hitting a hot spot. I’m excited about the upcoming weekend.” (May 9, 2011, Page 4B)