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Thursday, July 31, 2014

BLOG: Rebels dominate Jacksonville St. in regional opener

BLOG — Ole Miss made sure it wasn’t the latest No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 4 seed as the Rebels defeated Jacksonville State 12-2 in their first game of the Oxford Regional Saturday night at Oxford-University Stadium.

“We played very well tonight,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “Really proud of the way we came out tonight. It was very business-like. One of the goals was to be locked into this moment and play this game.”

Jacksonville State took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. The Ole Miss offense answered in a big way, scoring five runs in the home half. All five runs were scored with two outs in the inning. First baseman Sikes Orvis got the offense going with a two-RBI double down the right-field line.  Shortstop Errol Robinson delivered another big blow in the inning with a two-RBI single up the middle with the bases loaded.

“One of the keys when you play at home is that you want to score early and get the crowd into it,” Bianco said. “We had several good at-bats, and none were bigger than Sikes’ big double that I think kind of ignited us as a team and got the crowd into it.”

Orvis had a career night, going 3-for-4 with five RBIs with two runs scored. He had a two-run home run in the sixth inning.

“Coach B and Coach (Cliff) Godwin harped on us about coming out and being aggressive and try to get the crowd into it,” Orvis said. “We had to come out and get that run back, and I got a good pitch to hit early in the game. After that, I felt pretty grooved and felt good swinging it.”

Chris Ellis gave the Rebels exactly what they needed on the mound, tossing a complete game. Ellis allowed two runs off eight hits while striking out eight batters. The right-hander allowed one run in the first but threw six scoreless innings after that.

“After the first inning, I was kind of disappointed I gave up a run,” Ellis said. “There is nothing bigger than when you go out there and give up a run in the early innings then the offense puts up five runs right after that.”

With Friday’s schedule washed out due to inclement weather, Ellis having a long outing and sparing the bullpen for as many innings as possible was something Bianco wanted — and got.

“I thought Chris was terrific,” Bianco said. “The complete game was something we needed with a shortened regional to try and save the bullpen. Obviously he gave us that today.”

The first inning could have been a lot worse for Ellis and the Rebels, but a strong defensive play by Robinson, who snagged a sharply hit ball and started the inning-ending double play, helped limit the damage to one run.

“That was a great play,” Ellis said. “When the guy hit it, I knew he could run well. That was really the only play (Robinson) had, and he’s been great for us all year.”

Ole Miss will now play Washington in the winner’s bracket game at 3 p.m. Sunday. The winner will move on to Monday’s championship game while the loser will have to face the winner of Sunday’s early game between Georgia Tech and Jacksonville State at 7 p.m.

“(Washington) is very good,” Bianco said. “They are well-coached and put a lot of pressure on you. You can see why they came in second in one of the best baseball conferences in the country.” (May 31, 2014)

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