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Ole Miss Ends UW's Playoff Run

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by University of Washington Athletics

OXFORD, Miss. – In the end, the Huskies came one hit short.

They are way in surplus on heart.

Relievers Will Ballowe, who had to start because no one else could, was great. Alex Nesbitt, pitching for the first time in a month, was tremendous in relief of him four for innings – two more than he’s ever gone – before he got hurt in the 10th inning.

But the Huskies stranded go-ahead and then tying runs on the bases in the last innings and lost to host Mississippi in the championship round of the NCAA tournament’s Oxford regional 3-2 in 10 innings, a wild, absolutely thrilling game at rockin’ and soaked Oxford-University Stadium.

The Huskies (41-17-1) finish with their most wins since 2003 and only the fifth time in school history UW has won at least 40 in a season. At one point the Huskies won 19 of 21 games and raised to as high as fifth in the national rankings – the highest in program history.

The team its league's coaches said would finished 10th in the 11-team Pac-12 this season fell one hit short of advancing to their first best-of-three super regional since the NCAA went to this 64-team tournament format for baseball in 1999.

"I'm really proud of my team," said fifth-year coach Lindsay Meggs, Husky baseball's turnaround artist from Pac-12 afterthought to national contender. "We've come a long way in a short amount of time. Like I told my team when we talked, it's about life lessons. ... It hurts, but we've learned to count on each other. And we came here and represented ourselves as fine young men and representatives of our great university.

"I don't think you will ever see anyone play harder."

Ole Miss (44-18) won it on a two-out triple by regional most valuable player Sikes Orvis that eluded fill-in right fielder Kyle London off the grandstand railing down the line, when the Husky slipped on the warning track soaked by two downpours that halted the seventh inning for nearly two hours.

That rain, a presence throughout UW’s entire, five-day stay here, poured down in the top of the seventh with Ole Miss having a runner at second, one out and a 3-0 count on Ole Miss’ batter. The delay was 1 hour, 52 minutes -- made longer by the fact the umpires ordered the grounds crew to not put the tarp over the infield immediately. It poured for five more minutes before the tarp went on, making the infield look like Green Lake. When the sun came out, it took too long for the infield to be prepared – 30 minutes. By then another downpour drenched the stadium.

That made it impossible for Huskies’ closer Troy Rallings, who had thrown 29 pitches while allowing three hits and one run over 1 2-3 innings

Ballowe was tremendous in the emergency start for the Huskies, who don’t really have a fourth starting pitcher and had already used their main three the previous day.

The sophomore left-hander, usually a set-up reliever, allowed six hits and a solo home run by Ole Miss No. 6 hitter Colby Bortles in 4 2-3 innings. It was the longest – and most timely -- outing of Ballowe’s career. He struck out one and did not walk anyone in his third start of the season and fifth as a Husky, giving UW exactly what it needed.

Brandon Choate walked the only batter he faced, loading the bases with two outs in the top of the fifth with the score tied at one. Huskies closer Troy Rallings, who hadn’t pitched in nine days, emerged from the bullpen beyond left field, pounded his chest three times in front of the foul pole and sprinted in down the foul line as if he was trying to catch a bus. The crowd here loved Rallings’ characteristically intense show.

They didn’t love when on his first pitch, Rallings retired Austin Anderson on a ground ball to first baseman Branden Berry to end the threat and keep the game tied at 1.

Ballowe, from Danville, Calif., had his father and girlfriend here pitched a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts Sunday in Washington’s thrilling, 2-1 loss to Ole Miss (43-18). That was hours before UW beat Georgia Tech 4-2 in an elimination game Sunday night to set up this big day.

Check back here to GoHuskies.com for updates and postgame reaction from another wild day in Oxford.
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