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Rebels win first regional title since '72

OXFORD, Miss. -- Mississippi couldn't win a year ago in the NCAA tournament. This time, the Rebels simply wouldn't lose.

Barry Gunther and Brian Pettway each homered, Chris Coghlan and Stephen Head had three RBI apiece and Ole Miss tied its season high for runs in a 20-5 rout of Oklahoma on Sunday night to win the Oxford Regional.

The Rebels (47-18) made up for their two-and-out flop last year by shattering the 49-year-old school record of 13 runs in an NCAA tournament game -- set against New Hampshire in 1956 and matched eight years later against North Carolina.

"The biggest difference was coming into the regional -- last year, we had had a good year, but we kind of skidded at the end," Head said. "We were kind of unsure of ourselves last year and went 0-2. This year, this is exactly what we expected to happen. We came here, won our three ballgames and then head to the super regional."

After winning three regional games in three days by a combined 32-8, the Rebels partied by dogpiling on the infield grass behind the mound. They now can look forward to playing host to the Austin Regional champion, either Texas or Arkansas, in next weekend's super regional.

"We had to ask the [coaches] who won regionals ... do they dogpile? And we did," Head said, laughing.

It's the deepest Ole Miss has advanced in the tournament since the switch to the super regional format six years ago. The Rebels claimed their first regional title since they won their NCAA district in 1972 -- also the year of their last College World Series
appearance.

Until now, that was also the last time the Rebels won at least a share of the Southeastern Conference West Division title. The Rebels, who matched their season best in scoring set in a 20-7 win over Purdue on March 7, also keep adding to the school's single-season record for victories.

The team "has kind of joked over the last couple of weeks how we haven't won any hardware and then the SEC West, we weren't even sure if we got a trophy for that," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "Reflection will be a time after the season that you can look back at the year and realize how special it is.

"Certainly, this isn't the time for reflection -- we still have games left," he added. "But again, as the summer goes on, we'll start to realize what a special group of guys these guys are."

Gunther hit a two-run homer in the second and Pettway later added his team-leading 20th home run, a two-run shot that highlighted a four-run eighth.

Coghlan, named the regional's MVP, finished the weekend 8-for-14 with four RBI while Head was a combined 6-for-12 with four RBI.

"Any time you win an MVP, you're definitely proud of yourself," Coghlan said.

Rebels starter Eric Fowler (7-2) worked seven solid innings, striking out seven with no walks and allowing three runs on eight hits.

"It takes the pressure off the pitcher when you go out there with a big lead like that," Fowler said.

Chuckie Caufield hit two of Oklahoma's three home runs and finished the regional with three homers. Matt Bose also went deep for the Sooners.

"This program is going to be able to grow from this experience," Oklahoma interim coach Sunny Golloway said.

Ole Miss rocked Oklahoma pitcher P.J. Sandoval (3-3) in only his second start of the season.

Sandoval gave up nine runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings for the pitching-depleted Sooners (35-26), who used four pitchers in an 11-10 win over Maine in Sunday's first game -- a 3-hour, 53-minute marathon.

"I think that was pretty easy for you [reporters] to evaluate -- they had pitching left, and they swung the bats big-time," Golloway said. "We could not get them out. ... They deserve to move on."

Ole Miss took the suspense out of this one early, leading 7-0 after scoring five runs and batting around in the second inning.

The tone was set right away -- Henry led off the game with what seemed to be a routine fly ball to right-center, but he wound up with a triple when the ball dropped between Oklahoma outfielders Caufield and Kory Kaiser.

Coghlan then delivered a run-scoring single to put Ole Miss on top for good.

Zack Cozart began the second with a walk, and Gunther put the Rebels up 4-0 by driving a Sandoval pitch over the wall in deep right-center.

"I thought Barry's homer was a killer for them," Bianco said.

Sooners blow lead but hang on
No. 2 seed Oklahoma blew a big lead but kept its poise and stayed alive.

Freddy Rodriguez singled home the winning run in the ninth inning to lead the Sooners, who allowed a late six-run lead to evaporate, to an 11-10 victory over Maine in an elimination game in the Oxford Regional.

The Sooners, coming from the losers' bracket, needed a victory to force a winner-take-all rematch Monday. Ole Miss needed just one victory to claim a spot in the super regionals.

The Sooners, who were preparing for the game against Ole Miss, were not available for interviews after the Maine game.

Oklahoma won it when Chuckie Caufield doubled with one out in the ninth, and Rodriguez came through two batters later with a two-out dribbler up the middle against Jason Weymouth.

Maine (35-19) put together one final rally against reliever Will Savage. The Black Bears loaded the bases in the ninth with one out on a walk to Ray Vallee and consecutive singles by Joe Hough and Greg Creek, before Savage got Joel Barrett to ground into a
game-ending double play.

"We bunch runs together, we bunch hits together," Hough said. "We're a pretty good hitting team, and we know we can score runs with anyone."

Maine coach Paul Kostacopoulos said attempting a squeeze and playing for extra innings wasn't an option.

"We had to win it. We didn't shut them down in the last three innings at all," Kostacopoulos said. "It was time to win this thing, or that was it."

Savage (9-4) pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the victory. Weymouth (2-3) allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings of relief and took the loss.

Oklahoma appeared to have locked up a victory by scoring five runs in the eighth and taking a 10-4 lead, with the big hit coming when Ryan Rohlinger connected for a grand slam off Weymouth.

But Maine tied it up with six runs in the bottom of that inning, keyed by a two-run triple by Creek and capped by consecutive run-scoring singles by Aaron Izaryk and Curt Smith off Savage.

Kody Kaiser hit his second homer of the regional and 10th of the season, a two-run, opposite-field drive to left-center off Maine starter Troy Martin that tied it at 4 in the sixth.

Maine entered the regional as heavy underdogs, but the scrappy No. 4 seed shocked No. 2 seed Southern Mississippi on Saturday for its first NCAA tournament win since 1991 before taking the Sooners to the limit.

Barrett finished 3-for-6 and joined three teammates -- Creek, Ryan Quintal and Izaryk -- with two RBI apiece for Maine.