OMAHA, Neb. – John Gatlin's family is a familiar group at Ole Miss baseball games. But they aren't…
Gatlin, the hero of Ole Miss' 2-1 win against Texas Tech Tuesday, said he finally got to talk to his parents when he got back to his hotel from the game. He sat down in the hallway, Rebel uniform still on, and had another life moment.
"My dad answered the phone. He was crying; he couldn't talk," said Gatlin, whose three surgeries and recoveries, the death of his grandmother this week, and his brother's wedding this weekend are all well documented. "He said my mom had been crying and my brothers were there crying. It was really special."
Gatlin knew he would hear from a lot of people after the game, either by phone or text, email or pats on the back. His phone, he said, was crazy.
"It was blowing up. I still haven't gone through most of it. It will take a while."
Gatlin has been a baseball player for a long time, growing up with the game, then on to Tupelo High School and Itawamba Community College. And then Ole Miss.
Nothing matched Tuesday's walkoff on college baseball's most visible stage. It's one he will get pats on the back from and "I remember your hit in Omaha..." comments for the rest of his life.
"That's definitely the biggest moment in my career," Gatlin said.
And thanks to his successful hit, he may get to do it again as soon as Thursday night.
Orvis On Omaha
Sikes Orvis was happy for Gatlin. He said nobody deserved it more.
"Awesome. Couldn't happen to a better guy. This was like the perfect storm with (Aaron) Greenwood running (at third base). John Gatlin, fifth-year senior coming up and all he's been through. I was like, this has to happen. It's going to happen."
Orvis said Gatlin simply got the job done.
"I saw the picture of him hitting it, and it was like six inches off the ground," Orvis said. "It was awesome. To see him get that walkoff in Omaha, there is nothing more special."
Orvis said playing baseball in a huge park like TD Ameritrade, with the wind blowing in, makes things different for sure.
"We knew it was big, and then there is a hurricane coming straight in from center field," said Orvis, smiling for the 20 or so media gathered this morning at Creighton. "It's been tough. I know personally it's knocked me off my game a little bit. I get in hitter's counts, I usually try to pull something, drive something. But if I do that here, it's just going to get knocked down. I try to go the other way and hit line drives.
"But every team has to deal with it, not just us. And we've faced some quality arms. Both teams have had some awesome pitchers. Big ball park. Tough to hit. It's certainly made for a lot of low-scoring games. I'm sure the fans are ready for some offense."
Holt Perdzock is another pinch hitter who has been special this season. In his last three at-bats he's had five big RBI for the Rebels.
"Holt's a veteran coming off the bench, and he's oozing confidence right now," Orvis said of his teammate. "Three at-bats and five RBI, that's impressive coming off the bench. He's in a groove right now."
Perdzock said he knows his role and relishes it.
"I've been pinch-hitting a lot and I'm used to it now," said the Memphis University School product. "I just stay calm and do what I do every time I get up there."
Perdzock said he has a gameplan every game, since he knows his role so well.
"I know about the seventh or eighth I'm going to have to get ready and get loose and get my timing down for whoever is in the game pitching," he said. "If there's a righty in, I have a pretty good idea I'm going to hit."
Perdzock was happy for pinch-hitting mate Gatlin and his big moment on Tuesday.
"Awesome. We're so proud of him. Him being a senior, it's great it happened for him. We all love him."
Perdzock, when a reporter asked if he should give some of the regular hitters some pointers since they've struggled to get hits here, said they'll be fine.
"The bats will come around. We all know that," he said. "We've been one of the best hitting teams all year. We'll be alright."
Mike Bianco said he watched TCU and Virginia go 15 innings as the Cavaliers defeated the Horned Frogs after midnight Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.
The fact that it went so long may or may not affect pitching staffs and rest for TCU. In fact, Bianco said that probably is overhyped some.
"They pitched so well it's not like they used a ton of pitchers," he said. "Probably more will be made of that, especially with the day off. And as deep as both those staffs are, I don't necessarily think there'll be any affect at all. They were very efficient."
Bianco said there are several factors in the lack of hit and run production in Omaha this year.
"Lot has been said and all of that's true about the ball park. But I don't know if that's necessarily been our case. Maybe a combination of that. I thought Will (Allen) smoked a couple of balls (Tuesday) that were just regular outs. Just as much is the pitching we've faced. They have just been really good."
Bianco said the Rebels still need to do a better job of hitting.
"We need a few better at-bats and to get some more timely hits," he said. "I just think it's a combination of the park and the pitching. You're not going to have a lot of opportunities. Hopefully the bats will get hot and we'll have more hits on Thursday."
Bianco and TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle go way back. The two programs have played four series, home and home, since 2008 and met three times in the College Station Regional in 2012.
Beyond that, the two head coaches of the Rebels and Horned Frogs have a relationship that dates back to when Bianco was an assistant coach at LSU and Schlossnagle was on the staff of head coach Rick Jones, who retired last month, at Tulane.
"You're at two schools literally an hour apart. You see each other recruiting. You play each other several times a year (back then). Over the years we've made it a point at the (coaches) convention to spend time together, our wives and us."
Bianco was the Team USA pitching coach last summer. Schlossnagle was the head coach.
"We spent 35 days together," Bianco said. "That fostered (our relationship) even more."
Bianco said usual third-game starter Sam Smith will take the Omaha mound Thursday night.
"He's been our guy. We have so much confidence in him for game three," Bianco said. "He's a guy that always gives us an opportunity to win."
Bianco said that Tuesday's game is over and now it's on to Thursday. But he said it was great to see his players so happy about the way things turned out against the Red Raiders.
"You could see it. All the wins in postseason, you can see the joy. This team has been terrific all year. I said I'd be surprised after the loss (to Virginia) if they didn't come back. I don't want to act as if they're a care-free group that's not locked into the moment. But certainly they take that pressure and turn it a different direction.
"They have a lot of confidence in one another, a lot of belief. (Tuesday) was special because of the way it happened. Those are the things that kids dream of. We talked about that in the pregame. They've dreamed of these moments their whole life. As a coach that's one of the neatest things about my job. You get to live it with the guys."
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