Unlike Them

LAFAYETTE, La. – Mike Bianco said his team didn't play well. Tony Robichaux said his team did.

"We just played good baseball," said the veteran ULL head coach, his team an amazing 58-8.

"I felt like we played poorly and gave them too many opportunities," said Bianco, his team now 44-19. "They're too good of a team to give that many opportunities to."

After Louisiana-Lafayette's 9-5 Super Regional opening win Saturday night, Ole Miss finds itself in the same position as the last time it played a Super Regional on the road.

That was in 2007 at Arizona State, and it ended for the Rebels the next night with another loss.

After Saturday's game, Auston Bousfield, with an uncharacteristic drop of a fly ball which would have ended the second inning and kept the score 3-0 Ole Miss, said Sunday is another day.

"We've bounced back all year," he said. "I don't expect anything less from us. We'll be ready to go tomorrow."

The Rebels appeared to be ready to go in this one. But a five-run third for ULL that chased Ole Miss starter Chris Ellis and replaced him with Jeremy Massie was ultimately enough for the Ragin' Cajuns, who led 6-3 by then.

The Rebels have prided themselves on being a resilient team in the tough Southeastern Conference. This year they only had one bad stretch. That was a midweek loss to Southern Mississippi in Pearl, and a sweep at the hands of Alabama that weekend.

Ole Miss came back strong after that, won the SEC West, finished second in the overall standings, won the Oxford Regional, and has more wins than any team in school history but the 2005 team which had 48. The 2006 and 2009 teams also won 44 games.

But the bottom line problem facing Ole Miss now is that Louisiana-Lafayette hasn't lost back to back games all season. The Rebels will have to become the first team this year to do that to advance to the College World Series.

Chris Ellis, so dependable all season, wasn't his usual self in this one by any stretch. But the Rebel offense certainly tried to help him early.

After the mistakes began, however, it was basically all ULL.

But let's be truthful. Without Ellis this season, the Rebels aren't in a Super Regional.

"I had trouble throwing strikes, and I got myself in a lot of trouble," said Ellis, who went two and a third innings allowing five runs, four earned, with two strikeouts and three walks. And just one hit.

"I thought he lost command there," Bianco said. "I thought he lost a little bit of his composure. It happens. But it hasn't happened to him all year. He lost his rhythm and couldn't get the ball back into the strike zone."

In fact, it's true. Ellis has been dependable all season, except at Alabama in the team's first loss of a sweep on the road that weekend.

The team not being able to win the game in one of his starts doesn't bode well for the rest of the way here against the powerful Cajuns.

The Rebels do send another dependable arm to the mound in left-hander Christian Trent, the Louisiana native who is the scheduled starter Sunday night. He, too, has been a key reason the Rebels are playing a Super Regional in his homestate, or anywhere for that matter, with his 9-0 record and 2.37 ERA.

ULL will counter, though, with a pitcher of almost equal stature statistically. Robichaux will start junior right-hander Carson Baranik (11-1, 3.27 ERA).

Saturday night Ole Miss proved you can't give this Ragin' Cajun offense anything. They sit ready to pounce on every opportunity and have a versatile offense that can, as Robichaux said postgame, do more than just launch home runs, even though it now has 67 of them.

But it was the Rebels who appeared to be in such control early, up 3-0 and with a crowd of at least 600 Rebel fans cheering their every positive move.

Then they flinched. Not once, not twice, but several times. And on the biggest stage so far. And with a chance to break through to next week.

They still have that with potentially two more games. Teams every year get to Omaha by winning the back side of a three-game Super Regional. But not by continuing to play the way Ole Miss played in game one.

"You can't do that against most teams, but certainly not against that offense," Bianco said.

It was all so uncharacteristic of this year's Rebel ballclub. But an all-too-familiar occurrence in Super Regionals for Ole Miss.

They'll have to play better in all phases Sunday - and they are clearly capable of doing so - or they'll likely be done again.

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I keep getting asked who should win this Super Regional. I evaluate it this way.

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