Rebels tops Cajuns 5-2, force decisive game with Omaha at stake

LAFAYETTE — See you Monday night.

Thanks to solid pitching by Ole Miss and an eighth-inning Rebels rally, the Lafayette super regional will come down to one game for a trip to the College World Series.

The Rebels broke open a pitchers’ duel with three runs in the bottom of the eighth Sunday night, using that big inning to take a 5-2 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette and force a winner-take-all third game at 6 p.m. Monday.

And, for the second time in two nights, a dropped fly ball played a key role.

Ole Miss (45-19) had runners at first and second with nobody out in the eighth when Will Allen lifted a fly ball to right-center field. Ragin’ Cajuns center fielder Seth Harrison, after a long run, dropped the ball, allowing Austin Bousfield to score the eventual winning run from second base.

Sikes Orvis and pinch hitter Colby Bortles followed with singles, Bortles’ shot to center field bringin home two big insurance runs that kept Ole Miss alive after the Cajuns had taken a 9-5 win in Saturday’s opener.

“That was a big hit by a freshman coming off the bench,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “I’m proud of our guys, especially after a tough night (Saturday) when we were disappointed in the way we played, to come back and play well today. We needed to play well against a very good team.”

The three-run rally wrapped up a back-and-forth final two innings during which each team finally broke through after impressive starting pitching performances by Rebels lefthander Christian Trent and Cajuns righty Carson Baranik — ironically, both drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.

“Both pitchers threw a really good game,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “Their guy set a tempo, and Carson set one for us. Nobody could really get the big hit until we gave them a crack and they crawled through it. That’s what good ballclubs do.”

Trent checked the power-hitting Cajuns on three singles and a double and allowed only an unearned run in the fifth inning before being relieved by Aaron Greenwood in the eighth.

Trent’s fastball had the Cajuns popping up much of the game. He also struck out seven.

“I just used mainly my fast ball,” said Trent, a product of Madisonville and an LSU signee out of high school.. “Normally my offspeed plays a bigger role, but I used the fastball a lot tonight.”

Baranik (11-2), the Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, gave up a first-inning run and then faced only two over the minimum in the next 5.2 innings. With two outs in the seventh, though, Preston Overbey caught up with a hanging curve ball on a 1-2 pitch and laced it deep to left field.

Cajuns left fielder Caleb Adams, who robbed the Rebels of a homer with a seventh-inning circus catch Saturday, went back to the wall again but came up a few feet short as Overbey rounded the bases for his fourth homer of the year.

“I hung a breaking ball,” Baranik said. “I should have thrown a better pitch, but he got a good swing on it.”

The Cajuns (58-8) got to Greenwood for a tying run in the top of the eighth when Michael Strentz drew a leadoff walk, was sacrificed up by Ryan Leonards and Blake Trahan drilled his third hit of the game to right field. Strentz outran right fielder Will Jamison’s throw to the plate for the equalizer.

The thrill for the hometown crowd was short-lived, though, when Bousfield led off the bottom of the eighth with a single that landed in front of Adams in left. That brought on reliever Ryan Wilson, who promptly walked Austin Anderson on a 3-2 pitch. Allen then lofted the fly ball that Harrison misplayed — much like Bousfield had dropped one in the second inning of Saturday’s game.

“We walked that first hitter, we missed a fly ball and we gave up a couple of critical hits,” Robichaux said. “Carson did everything he could; we just didn’t finish it when we came out of the pen.”

The Cajuns made their only trip to the College World Series in 2000, and Ole Miss hasn’t made the Omaha trek since 1972. Top-ranked UL-Lafayette has not lost back-to-back games this season.

In Monday’s winner-take-all game, senior lefthander Cody Boutte (9-0) will go for the Cajuns against junior and Lake Charles product Sam Smith (5-4).

“We have to flush this and get back out there tomorrow,” Robichaux said. “You look back at their history ... we came back and won after we lost opening night, we lost to Jackson State the first game of the regional and we came back.”