At times, it has felt like a fairy tale. In a game that spanned two days and almost 21 hours, Virginia's dream season took another step forward with a 4-1 victory over Ole Miss. The win pushed the Hoos to 3-0 in their side of the bracket and into the final series, continuing their post season dominance over the Rebels.
Friday night's contest began with a bang for Virginia, getting to Rebel pitcher Jeremy Massie early by way of a couple hits and a walk. Then the apocalypse joined the party.
After a rain delay of one hour, 33 minutes, the umpire crew called the game for the night as the hail and locusts descended on Omaha (which, if you didn't know, is across the river from where Coach O'Connor grew up!).
At 2:02 pm CT play resumed with runners on first and second and no outs for the Hoos. Ole Miss decided to relieve Massie and start righty junior Scott Weathersby on the bump. Virginia managed to get the runners to second and third, but no further.
The Rebels got on the board first, scoring the pesky Will Allen on a delayed double steal in which Virginia catcher Robbie Coman, to the chagrin of Wahoo fans everywhere, went for the throw to second. The unearned run was luckily all that crossed the plate in the bottom of the second, but the Rebs threatened again in the third. Virginia pitcher Josh Sborz shook off some early nerves and left the bases juiced for Ole Miss, giving the Wahoo bats some life in the top of the 4th.
Virginia saw the Ole Miss base loading and raised them some runs. Robbie Coman overcame his struggles behind the plate by knocking a two-run single through the gap into right field while at the plate. Branden Cogswell laid down a textbook squeeze bunt scoring John LaPrise for a little extra breathing room, and the Hoos were rolling. A Joe McCarthy two-out double gave Virginia the 4-1 lead, scoring Danny Pinero, but the Rebs wouldn't threaten again.
Artie Lewicki came in for three innings of one-hit relief, followed by the amazing Nick Howard who came in for his 20th save and the final three outs that sent Virginia to their first ever final series. Throughout the College World Series, the Virginia pitching, both starters and bullpen, have been incredible. Their ERA as a team is a measly 0.55, allowing only four runs in three games. The CWS record (through four games) is 0.60, so at least there's something to strive for.
Play of the day has to be the fifth inning ender from one Mr. Michael Papi, who sprinted from first all the way to the stands and stole a souvenir right from the hands of some clamoring young fans.
Virginia now will face Vanderbilt in the best-of-three series that starts Monday night at 8pm on ESPN. Vanderbilt, the victor in the other half of the bracket, needed a walk off in the bottom of the 10th in the full on elimination game against Texas.
Let's go Hoos, and I want to see more of the Nick Howard power kick, which has quickly become one of my favorite celebration moves. Bring home the 'ship!