The Huskies must now win three elimination games over the next 25 hours, starting at 5 p.m. today against Georgia Tech and then twice Monday over Ole Miss, to advance to next week’s NCAA super regionals.
By Gregg Bell
UW Athletics Director of Writing
OXFORD, Miss. – The Huskies’ Road to Omaha just got a ton tougher.
Starter Jeff Brigham was as gritty as he was great, allowing just two runs in seven innings in stifling heat and pressure. But Washington’s bats couldn’t breakthrough with the timely hits they produced a day earlier, and host Ole Miss beat the Huskies 2-1 Sunday in the winner’s-bracket game of the Oxford regional at rockin’ Oxford-University Stadium.
The decisive hit was a solo home run in the fifth inning by Ole Miss’ Auston Bousfield off a 3-1 fastball by Brigham (7-4).
Washington (40-16-1) has to come right back this afternoon at 5 p.m. Seattle time for an elimination game against Georgia Tech (37-26). The Huskies blanked the Yellow Jackets Saturday to open this regional behind Tyler Davis’ first shutout in UW postseason history. Then Tech eliminated Jacksonville State 4-2 earlier Sunday.
The winner of UW-Georgia Tech tonight plays Mississippi (43-18) Monday at noon – and will have to beat the host twice Monday to win the region.
Yes, the Huskies will have to win three elimination games over 25 hours to advance to next week’s best-of-three super regionals.
Brigham, coming off a season high-tying seven innings last Sunday while beating UCLA, was gritty in lasting 124 pitches over seven innings in 85-degree heat with 70-percent humidity – and against a wildly roaring crowd of 9,599. Brigham allowed seven hits and two runs. He struck out four, walked three, and helped preserve a Huskies bullpen that may have to appear in three games over 25 hours.
To think: The junior right-hander missed all of the 2013 season following Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery in his elbow. Until this spring he hadn’t started in 21 months.
The Huskies doubled their hit total over the first six innings with singles by Trevor Mitsui and, one out later, Brian Wolfe to begin the seventh. Robert Pehl then stroked a single under the glove of Ole Miss shortstop Errol Robinson to score Mitsui. He got to second and Wolfe reached third when the outfielder’s throw was way wide and past home.
Ole Miss then replaced starter Christian Trent, (five hits, one run in 6 1-3 innings while pitching for the first time in 16 days) with Aaron Greenwood. Pinch-hitter Ryan Wiggins struck out. Ninth batter Erik Forgione fought off a couple two-strike pitches with foul balls before hitting a screamer – but directly at Ole Miss second baseman Preston Overbey. The Huskies stranded the two in scoring position and still trailed 2-1.
In the eighth, Berry got his sixth hit in two games here, a bloop single that skipped over the glove of charging and diving center fielder Bousfield. UW third-base coach Donegal Fergus considered sending Austin Rei, who had walked, from first all the way home in an attempt to tie the game. Fergus finally put the stop sign on his catcher, who really didn’t have a great chance to score on the play as the Ole Miss fielder retrieved the ball in short center field.
That was as close as UW got to tying it.
Berry, moved by coach Lindsay Meggs from sixth to fourth in the batting order after three hits Saturday in the 8-0 win over Georgia Tech, had two more in his first two at-bats Sunday. But those were the only two hits the Huskies had in the first six innings against Trent.
Brigham allowed the first two Rebels to reach in the bottom of the fourth. Then Ole Miss’ J.B. Woodman flicked a bad-luck, opposite-field double for RBI. It plopped inside the left-field line, far from Robert Pehl. The Huskies’ left fielder was playing Woodman to left-center.
But with second and third and no outs, Brigham held Ole Miss to just that single run. Will Jamison missed on a suicide-squeeze bunt attempt, and UW catcher Austin Rei ran down Ole Miss’ Will Allen, who had been halfway home from third, for the second out. After Brigham ended the threat he punched his right fist toward the turf and the Huskies’ dugout had life.
But after Berry singled leading off the fifth and Brian Wolfe got hit by a pitch one out later, the Huskies couldn’t answer. Pehl flied out and Chris Baker ripped a liner directly at Ole Miss right fielder Will Jamison to end that chance.
In the bottom of the fifth, Brigham fell behind No. 2 hitter Bousfield in a 3-1 count. Bousfield then launched a fastball on a line just over the wall beyond left-center field to make it 2-0 for Ole Miss.
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#1 Ole Miss 2, Washington 1
WASH 000 000 100 –- 1 6 0
MISS 000 110 000 –- 2 7 1
Jeff Brigham, Will Ballowe (8) and Austin Rei. Christian Trent, Aaron Greenwood (7) and Will Allen. W – Trent (9-0). L – Brigham (7-4). Sv – Greenwood (4). HR – Austen Bousfield (6). 3B – none. 2B – J.B. Woodman (2). LOB: UW 7, UM 8. Time – 2:53. Attendance – 9,599.