(Part 8 of an eight-part series previewing the College World Series)
Making its first College World Series appearance since 1972, the Ole Miss Rebels (46-19) are pitted against Virginia on Sunday at 7 p.m. at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
Hosting the Oxford Regional, the Rebels took care of Jacksonville State and Washington (twice).
Ole Miss secured its elusive fifth CWS berth by winning two out of three games in a hard-fought Lafayette Super Regional. Louisiana-Lafayette won the opener 9-5 with the Rebels bouncing back to take Games 2 and 3, 5-2 and 10-4.
In its previous four Super Regional appearances, the Rebels lost to Texas in 2005, Miami in 2006, Arizona State in 2007 and Virginia in 2009. Clinching its first trip to the CWS, UVa won two out of three against Ole Miss in the Charlottesville Super Regional.
“The road to the College World Series is one that's bumpy and winding,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, the catcher for LSU's 1989 CWS team. “I didn't expect it to take this long to get there.”
Virginia holds a 4-2 edge in the all-time series, including a 13-7 triumph in the 2010 Charlottesville Regional.
Ironically, the two schools met for the first time in 1972 with a trip to Omaha on the line. After dropping the first contest 9-3 to the Cavaliers, Ole Miss bounced back for a 9-0 victory.
Ole Miss brings a 2.72 team ERA into the CWS.
Sophomore Christian Trent (9-0, 2.21) junior righthander Chris Ellis (10-2, 2.45) and junior righty Sam Smith (5-4, 3.45) form the starting rotation. Ellis, the Los Angeles Angels' third-round pick, was the first of nine Ole Miss selections in the Major League Draft.
Five different pitchers have contributed saves from a solid bullpen, which is led by junior righthander Scott Weathersby (3-1, 2.00, 2 saves), senior righty Aaron Greenwood (3-1, 1.96, 4 saves) and junior rigthy Josh Laxer (2-2, 1.32, 6 saves).
Ole Miss' .303 team batting average is tops among the CWS field.
Senior first baseman Sikes Orvis is batting .295 with 51 RBI while leading the team with 14 home runs and a .555 slugging percentage. Orvis has hit one more homer than TCU's entire team and two more than California Irvine.
Junior center field Auston Bousfield paces the Rebels with a .349 batting average along with six bombs and 50 RBI.
Catcher Will Allen is hitting .345 with a .513 slugging percentage, seven round trippers and 23 doubles.
Senior Austin Anderson, who moved to third base after starting the previous three years at shortstop is batting .331 with a .421 on base percentage, five home runs and 41 RBI.
Other key contributors include freshman outfielder/designated hitter J.B. Woodman (.308 batting average, 2 HRs, 20 RBI), freshman shortstop Errol Robinson (.299-0-19), junior left fielder Braxton Lee (.290, 24 RBI), senior second baseman Preston Overbey (.269-4-34) and junior right fielder Will Jamison (.254-2-13).