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Utah baseball: Utes upset host Mississippi 6-5 in extra innings in NCAA Regional opener

OXFORD, Miss. — Utah’s storybook season will continue for at least two more games after the Utes (26-27) knocked off Oxford Regional No. 1 seed Mississippi (43-18) 6-5 in 10 innings Friday night.

The Utes battled for an entire game and just a little more before breaking through with a run in the 10th inning to take a 6-5 lead when Chandler Anderson, who entered the game as a pinch runner for Kellen Marruffo — who singled with two outs — crossed the plate on Hunter Simmons’ game-winning RBI double off Rebel closer Wyatt Short, who entered the game with two outs in the eighth.

“Great college baseball game tonight,” Utah head coach Bill Kinneberg said of the game. “I’m extremely proud of our guys and the way that they hung in there, battled back in this arena here, which is a great atmosphere for college baseball. I couldn’t be prouder of 27 guys who kept going and kept pushing and ultimately in the tenth got a big hit and got the win.”

For four-and-a-half innings, Utah’s storybook season quietly seemed to be adding yet another remarkable chapter, quietly going about its business, only to be met with extreme adversity in the bottom of the inning.

The heavily Mississippi-partisan crowd of 10,166 — a record for Swayze Field — was noticeably nervous and quiet. The Utes had just regained a 2-1 lead in the top half of the inning when Andre Jackson scored on AJ Young’s sacrifice fly. They had the heavily favored Rebels on the ropes with their best on the mound.

Jayson Rose had been near perfect through to first four innings, allowing only one hit, a solo home run off the bat of Kyle Watson in the third. The moment seemed ripe for the taking.

As the crowd came alive, Rose showed the first signs of struggle all night, issuing a four-pitch walk to Ryan Olenek, a single to Holt Perdzok, and another walk to the Rebels' nine-hole hitter, Watson.

Rose seemed to gather himself for a moment when he quickly jumped ahead of Ole Miss leadoff man and shortstop, Errol Robinson, with a 1-2 count. However, Robinson worked the count full and drew a bases loaded walk to tie the game. Ole Miss then took the lead on the very next at bat when Will Golsan singled home two runs. The Rebels would get one more run on a Tate Blackman RBI fielder’s choice before the inning would end.

“I think I was trying to do a little too much,” Rose said of his fifth-inning struggles. “I had bases loaded, and I think I tried to do a little too much. On that 3-2 pitch (to Robinson) I thought that if I dropped it in, it would have been strike three, but I left it up a little bit. I thought (it was just) lack of command, and those walks really killed me that inning.”

Rather than allowing the deflating half inning to become the conclusion of the story, Utah kept battling, refusing to go quietly into the night.

The Utes answered with three runs of their own in the top of the sixth after they chased Rebel starter Brady Bramlett out of the game after the fifth. They immediately took advantage of an opponent’s bullpen, as they have done so many times this season.

Cody Scaggari welcomed freshman Rebel reliever Brady Feigl into the game with a leadoff single in the sixth. Marruffo would draw a one-out walk, as would Hunter Simmons to load the bases. Andre Jackson would make the margin just two after an RBI fielder’s choice before Josh Rose would help his bother out and tie the game with a double over the head of centerfielder J.B. Woodman.

“It’s a tough situation,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said of Feigl’s performance. “There are 10,000 people in those stands. We have the lead, and it’s raining. He just wasn’t able to make enough pitches to get off the field for us tonight.”

Rose would then show poise in the bottom half of the inning, retiring the Rebels in order before his night would be done without earning a decision. The sophomore threw 6 innings and allowed five runs (all earned) on four hits while striking out and walking four batters each.

Rose would give way to Riley Ottesen (2-2, 6.37 ERA) who gave up only one hit in three scoreless, striking out four for the Utes while earning the win. Short (2-3, 2.74 ERA) took the loss.

Dylan Drachler would pick up his ninth save of the year, albeit far from cleanly when Henri Lartigue struck out swinging to give the Utes their first win against a No. 1 seed in a NCAA regional.

The Utes advance to play Boston College tomorrow evening at 5 p.m. CDT.