However, to get to the scout’s dream matchup, Ole Miss (37-22 overall) will have to do its part today against William & Mary (37-22) in the opener of the Raleigh (N.C.) Regional.
First pitch is set for 1 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.com.
HITTING THE LINKS: Checkout the links below to get caught up on how the Rebels got to this point or click HERE to catch up on Ole Miss’ entire season (and HERE for all of the Oxford EAGLE’s photos):
OLE MISS SEASON STATS
5.24 Waguespack showing signs of promise
5.24 Alabama sends Rebels packing
5.27 BLOG: UPDATED: NCAA announces regional sites
5.27 BLOG: Rebels headed to Raleigh (N.C.) Regional
5.28 Will Wahl or Mayers start Game 1? Bianco hasn’t made a final decision yet
5.28 Rebels headed to Raleigh Regional
5.29 Bianco decides on Mayers as Game 1 starter
5.30 VIDEO BLOG: Rebels prepare for Raleigh (N.C.) Regional
5.30 Rebels need Mathis, Mistone to keep hitting
5.30 Raleigh Regional should be interesting
5.31 Regional provides Bousfield chance to hit reset
5.31 William & Mary not just happy to be in Raleigh
5.31 Rodon, Wahl could face each other Saturday
Vine videos of Doak Field at Dail Park: HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.
Also, want to keep up with NCAA Tournament scores from around the country? Here’s the CWS Twitter feed.
ROGERS’ TAKE: Earlier in the week I asked Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game to chime in on the Raleigh (N.C.) Regional. Here’s what he had to say:
Overall, I think this is a pretty competitive field. Though Ole Miss has been inconsistent at times this season, I still think the Rebels have a legitimate shot to win an NCAA Regional with Bobby Wahl/Mike Mayers in that rotation. The big key for me is that offense must step up, because to win that NCAA Regional, Ole Miss will likely have to get through N.C. State.
Speaking of N.C. State, the big key with them is starting pitching has to be better. Carlos Rodon has been dominant, but the Wolfpack aren’t going to scare you when it comes to the rest of their weekend rotation. Interestingly enough, N.C. State actually has a solid bullpen, so, jumping on the starting pitcher early and often is a big key to beating those guys. Then, offensively, N.C. State is good, not great. There’s a lot of versatility in that lineup though with Brett Williams and Trea Turner (both very good athletes with speed), along with Brett Austin, while third baseman Grant Clyde is playing very well. NCSU will be on the warpath this weekend, so it ought to be interesting.William & Mary is a rather interesting club. It leaves a lot of to be desired on the mound (look at opponents run totals over the weekend), but the Tribe can hit with anyone. The starting pitchers for Ole Miss and whoever else plays them must get off to hot starts and keep that offense from getting the wheels in motion.
As for Binghamton, it’s not a good offensive team … I’m not expecting much out of Binghamton this week.
HE’S BACK: After coming down with a stomach bug that kept him out of Thursday’s practice at Doak Field at Dail Park, shortstop Austin Anderson is in the lineup. At the time, head coach Mike Bianco said he’d be shocked if Anderson missed today’s opener and it appears he’s right — the guy who makes the lineup should probably know, afterall…
Anderson took batting practice pre-game and at least appears to be good enough to go today. Sophomore Jake Overbey, who started all four games at the College Station (Texas) Regional last season because of injuries to Anderson and Blake Newalu, took the extra infield reps Thursday.
Anderson, batting second, is hitting .300 with a .379 on-base percentage and a .405 slugging percentage.
ABOUT THE TRIBE: William & Mary is a team some thought shouldn’t have earned an at-large bid in the field of 64 after losing the CAA championship game to Towson. The Tribe, as first-year head coach Jamie Pinzino said Thursday, realize how lucky they are: Their inclusion in the regional is their first as an at-large team and just their third appearance overall.
Pinzino joked that he’d much rather be wearing his Tribe baseball hat rather than a bucket cap recruiting somewhere.
The Tribe will send sophomore left-hander Jason Inghram (8-6, 3.46 ERA) to the mound. In 96.1 innings, Inghram has struck out 96 against 23 walks.
“Jason has had a great year for us all season. Our weekend rotation is one of the big reasons we’re playing here this weekend,” Pinzino said. “We could have gone with a couple of different guys, but we have all the confidence in the world that Jason can go out there, start and give us a chance to win. Last weekend we had to do some things to our pitching to try and win that conference tournament with us being a bubble team and not knowing what our fate was going to be, so we had some guys pitch a little bit more than we probably wanted them to but Jason had a chance to have a normal week. He had one start last weekend and I think being able to keep him on his normal schedule and the way he pitched last week went into our decision.”
Pinzino added later: “We have confidence in him, whether it’s Ole Miss, N.C. State or Binghamton. We just thought it was our best chance to go out there and put our best foot forward in Game 1.”
Ole Miss will turn to right-handed junior Mike Mayers (5-5, 2.98).
The Ohio native has struck out 70 against 31 walks in 87.2 innings. He has also held opponents to a .231 batting average.
“I enjoy the pressure and obviously right now Game 1 is the biggest game of the year,” Mayers said, asked his thoughts of getting the ball instead of Wahl. “I’ve been told they can swing it so we’re definitely going to have to play our best tomorrow.”
Could Mayers turn around and throw on Monday if needed?
“That’s in the back of your mind, but then again you have to take care of business before you worry about anything,” Mayers said. “My goal right now is to get the ball to Bobby Wahl.”
In his last start, Mayers picked up Ole Miss’ lone win in the SEC Tournament, leading the Rebels past Kentucky 4-1. Mayers allowed one unearned run in 6.1 innings.
“My last start just kind of proved that fastball command is big,” he said. “If I can command both sides of the plate with my fastball it opens up a lot of things.”
NO. 3 WILLIAM & MARY TRIBE (37-22)
CF Ryan Brown (.329 BA/.458 OBP/.419 SLG)
3B Willie Shaw (.305/.422/.399)
1B Michael Katz (.365/.453/.563)
2B Ryan Lindemuth (.363/.442/.481)
C Ryan Hissey (.280/.347/.346)
LF Jonathan Sarty (.286/.315/.345)
DH Jackson Shaver (.262/.330/.327)
SS Ryan Williams (.251/.344/.294)
RF Derek Lowe (.246/.330/.269)
LHP Jason Inghram (8-6, 3.46)
NO. 2 OLE MISS REBELS (37-22)
LF Tanner Mathis (.268/.401/.296)
SS Austin Anderson (.300/.379/.405)
C Stuart Turner (.381/.452/.533)
3B Andrew Mistone (.316/.386/.381)
1B Preston Overbey (.280/.330/.423)
CF Auston Bousfield (.262/.354/.354)
DH Will Allen (.232/.267/.318)
2B Christian Helsel (.203/.291/.246)
RF Will Jamison (.287/.405/.403)
— — — SCORING SUMMARY — — —
WILLIAM & MARY 4, Ole Miss 0 (Top 5): Things got out of hand in a hurry for the Rebels in the fifth. After pitching around a couple singles and walks in the first four innings, Ole Miss couldn’t get out of its own way in the fifth as four walks and two errors led to four runs. Mike Mayers walked in two runs on back-to-back bases-loaded walks. A two-run error under the glove of Andrew Mistone (his second blunder of the inning) pushed William & Mary’s lead to 4-0 and also ended Mayers’ day. Reliever Aaron Greenwood struck out DH Jackson Shaver to end the frame.
William & Mary 4, OLE MISS 1 (Bottom 6): Mistone led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, advanced to third on Auston Bousfield‘s double and scored on a groundout by Will Allen to break the shutout.
William & Mary 4, OLE MISS 2 (Bottom 7): Ole Miss chipped away at the Tribe’s lead a bit more in the seventh. After Tanner Mathis hit a one-out single and Austin Anderson doubled to right-center, Stuart Turner stroked a deep fly ball to center field that scored the Rebel left fielder.
FINAL: William & Mary 4, Ole Miss 2.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: The Rebels could never get enough timely hits to jump on W&M starter Jason Inghram. The sophomore southpaw allowed eight hits, one walk and hit one batter in eight innings before turning the game over to Matt Wainman for the ninth. In the final frame, Mathis hit a two-out single that glanced off Wainman’s glove, and Anderson was plunked, but Turner flew out to left to end the game.
With the loss, the Rebels will play the loser of N.C. State-Binghamton on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT.
BY THE NUMBERS: Mayers fell to 5-6 on the year, allowing four unearned runs on three hits and six walks, which tied a career-high. He also struck out three of the 24 batters he faced. If there was a silver lining, it was provided by Bousfield and Greenwood. Bousfield hit a double — his first since May 11 — and Greenwood pitched four scoreless frames before turning the game over to Jeremy Massie to record the final out. … The Rebels left 10 on base, including eight in scoring position. … Michael Katz and Jonathan Sarty each had two hits for W&M. Mathis had a game-high three hits for the Rebels.
TURNING TO WAHL: Facing elimination, the Rebels will turn to Wahl in the first elimination game.
Asked about his decision to hold his ace — an easy decision to question in hindsight — Bianco said it wasn’t about the Tribe. If the team had played better as a whole, the Rebels would be playing in the winners’ game Saturday.
“It had nothing to do with William & Mary and a lot to do with the guy (Mayers) sitting next to me and all the confidence we have in that guy. If you don’t have a guy that you think can win the game, I think it’s a much harder decision to make but at the end of the day you have to win,” he said. “At the end of the day, you don’t just have to win today, you have to win tomorrow and on Sunday, three in a row. If you lose you have to win four in a row. I don’t think it was that difficult of a decision. It even has less to do with Mike. If we play well, play a little better defense, Mike throws a few more balls in the strike zone or we bunch a few more hits together certainly there’s a little different feeling. We just didn’t play very well in all three phases. They played better than we did in all three phases.”
Wahl hasn’t pitched since giving up six earned runs in 2.2 innings at No. 2 LSU on May 18. Despite the rough outing and the long time in between starts, Bianco was asked if he felt more comfortable with his ace throwing against the loser of Binghamton-N.C. State.
“You knew he’d have to pitch at some point. It wasn’t by design to pitch him in an elimination game, but I don’t think you feel comfortable now,” he said. “Now you have to win pitches, win outs, win innings and we’ll start rising from there on out over the next couple of days and try to make a run.”
THAT’S WHAT HE SAID: Below are selected quotes from the post-game press conference:
“I felt fine warming up. I went out there and struggled to find my fastball command obviously. In that one inning it didn’t matter what I did. I tried a few things to fix it up and as a veteran it’s my job to fix it up, figure it out and get us out of that inning. … After the first inning Coach Bianco pulled me aside and we talked. I was a little herkey-jerkey with my windup and after that I went back out there and focused on that. I’m not really sure what happened after I lost my rhythm.” —— Mayers on his struggles.
“I want to credit William & Mary. They played hard and played very clean baseball. Inghram filled up the zone the whole day, were error free and made all the plays and he made pitches to get out. We just had the one inning we couldn’t get out of and that was basically the ballgame. It’s one we certainly felt got away.” —— Bianco on the game overall.
“I thought he was able to locate his fastball away early and he came in later in counts. Enough offspeed. We didn’t have a ton of runners in scoring position but the few times we did we couldn’t get the big hit or the big double. A couple of times a ground ball and a SAC fly and a push bunt that I thought Inghram made a heck of a play. It wasn’t a great bunt but certainly a great play. We weren’t able to bunch enough hits, but I thought he did what you do as a left-hander. He was able to keep the ball down and low and away and he was able to throw enough pitches in to keep us honest and enough offspeed to keep us honest.” —— Bianco on Inghram.
PARTING VIEW: Below are both post-game press conferences. First is Ole Miss’ with Turner, Mayers and Bianco. The second is of Katz, Inghram and Jamie Pinzino.
(Remember to check back at OxfordEAGLE.com for the latest Ole Miss baseball news for as long as the team is alive in the NCAA Tournament.) (May 31, 2013)