RALEIGH, N.C.—Mississippi had its back to the wall on Saturday at the Raleigh Regional. Good thing the Rebels had a Wahl of their own.
The Rebels held back ace righthander Bobby Wahl from Friday's opener against William & Mary, only to get upset and sent into Saturday afternoon's elimination game against No. 4 seed Binghamton. The junior righthander wasn't always at his sharpest against the Bearcats, but he delivered seven strong innings and the Rebels pulled away late to win 8-4 and keep their season alive.
"As inconsistent as maybe we've played throughout the year," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said, "he's been about the most consistent thing on this team."
Wahl has battled blister problems and his stuff hasn't always been in peak form, yet he still picked up his 10th win of the season against no defeats, and his ERA remains a stout 2.06. The Rebels rested Wahl during the Southeastern Conference tournament, so Saturday's start was his first since May 18. He came out throwing 91-93 mph in the first inning, but his velocity settled into the 89-91 range as the day went along, and Bianco said after the game that Wahl's blister issues reared up again.
It was hardly a smooth ride. Wahl had only one one-two-three inning among his seven and allowed eight hits. He fanned just two hitters, none after the second inning, which was his second-lowest strikeout total of the season. But the junior gutted it out, mixing his pitches with enough command to get weak contact. Binghamton scratched out two runs against Wahl but he held the Bearcats in check until Rebels offense was able to break through.
"I felt good," Wahl said. "In any big game, I love to take the ball and give my team the chance to win. I didn't have my best stuff today, but the only thing you can do in that situation is give your team the best chance to win."
The Rebels gave Wahl an early 2-0 lead, but Binghamton starter Jake Lambert settled in and had a fine game in his own right. After seeing Ole Miss' hitters getting comfortable swings at his fastball early on, Lambert switched to a steady diet of breaking balls that flummoxed the Rebels for the next five innings, while the Bearcats were able to come back and even the score with single runs in the third and sixth.
That momentum was short lived, as the Rebels’ lineup went back to work.
"They didn't look bugged by (losing the lead) too much," Binghamton coach Tim Sinicki said. "They just took it as part of the game and went back to business."
Ole Miss manufactured two runs in the seventh, with Tanner Mathis' RBI single up the middle breaking the tie and chasing Lambert. The Rebels added four more against reliever Jay Lynch in the eighth to put the game out of reach and secure another win for Wahl.
If that was Wahl's final collegiate outing, which it might be for the junior unless the Rebels come back to win the regional, he made his last impression a good one.
"I knew the pressure would be on today and I knew the kids would feel it today," Bianco said. "You have to win today to move on. We gambled a little bit (yesterday), it didn't turn out the way we'd like and it wasn't the way it was supposed to be. But when it's all said and done, I'm not sure if we had another guy that could've won today, so I'm glad we had him."