For so many different reasons you could not have predicted John Gatlin as the hero for Ole Miss’ first College World Series win since 1969.
Sometimes, that’s when life has a way of finding you. As the list of available pinch-hitters was getting shorter by the at-bat, Gatlin, the former Tupelo High School standout, had an idea his time was coming, and he responded.
With two strikes, Gatlin lifted ball over a drawn-in infield and into short right field. It likely would have been a basehit under regular circumstances.
Pinch-runner Aaron Greenwood — not a typo — scored easily, and Ole Miss remained alive in Omaha. The Rebels will face tonight’s loser, Virginia or TCU, Thursday.
Other reserves had long since passed Gatlin, whose career has been marred by three surgeries. He’s been healthy this season but hadn’t produced like he did in 2012 when he hit .255. Injuries kept him on the shelf for all of 2013.
There were other reasons to make Gatlin an unlikely hero, his emotions for one. His grandmother died just two nights ago, and his parents were unable to make it to Omaha for his biggest moment.
There was a lot of drama in getting to that second run, because the Ole Miss offense that helped the Rebels win so many games has still yet to catch up with them in Omaha.
They won today and were in position to win their Sunday night opener against Virginia because of pitching and defense.
Today, Christian Trent went eight shutout innings — his second-longest outing of the season — with six hits and only one walk. The Rebels were errorless behind him, and he left after 115 pitches.
Pinch-hitter Holt Perdzock again delivered a big hit, his RBI single past third base scoring Sikes Orvis for a 1-0 Ole Miss lead in the seventh.
Trent got the Rebels through the eighth, and Scott Weathersby was trying to protect a one-run when he gave up a one-out single. Speedy pinch-runner Zach Davis then stole second and third and scored on a sac fly.
The Ole Miss walk-off win was set up when Colby Bortles, pinch-hitting for J.B. Woodman, drew a one-out walk. Then, pinch-hitter Brantley Bell hit a comebacker to the mound. Tech pitcher Cameron Smith, waiting for his defense to cover the bag, threw wild to second, and Bortles got all the way to third. That’s when Greenwood entered the game and Gatlin did his thing.
Here’s Will Allen:
A little Ole Miss BP.
Texas Tech (45-20)
RF Smith .281
2B Burleson .272
LF Neslony .385
1B Gutierrez .307
DH Kirsch .303
3B Long .209
CF Conley .270
SS Proudfoot .315
C Redman .252
RHP Ryan Moseley 1-2, 3.32 ERA,
Ole Miss (46-20)
LF Lee .286
CF Bousfield .344
3B Anderson .326
C Allen .341
1B Orvis .293
DH Woodman .302
RF Jamison .254
2B Overbey .267
SS Robinson .300
LHP Christian Trent 9-0, 2.21
Forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and wind for game time with a 30 percent chance for rain and isolated thunderstorms in the evening.
If it holds, the 6 p.m. game will be in danger for rain more than the Rebels’ 2 p.m. game.
Here’s Mike Bianco talking Christian Trent, Texas Tech and other topics:
From the Mother Ship, today’s CWS coverage: