Utah players swarm Dylan Drachler after he closed out Ole Miss in regionals (Aaron Fitt)

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Utes Prove They Aren’t Just Any 4-Seed

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OXFORD, Miss. — The fifth inning was when a normal No. 4 seed would have unraveled. Writers and fans would have applauded the plucky 4-seed for hanging tough for a while, carrying a 2-1 lead into the fifth before the home juggernaut inevitably took control of the game, relegating the gritty underdog to a mere footnote, quickly forgotten.

But Utah is anything but a normal 4-seed. The Utes are undeniably plucky, but not in the manner that term is usually deployed, as an unintentionally condescending backhanded compliment. Their pluck was forged in the fires of a miserable first month of the season that saw them sink into a 4-11 abyss — then raise themselves, inch by inch, out of that abyss and all the way up to the summit of the Pacific-12 Conference standings. To win the Pac, even in an abnormal year for the conference, it takes heart and perseverance and, lest we forget, talent.

So the Utes know they are good. And when Ole Miss surged ahead with four runs in the fifth inning Friday with help from three Jayson Rose walks and a pair of singles, and the Swayze Field crowd of 10,166 worked itself into a frenzy unlike anything the Utah players had ever experienced as baseball players, the Utes simply went back to work. And they responded immediately, with three runs in the top of the sixth to tie the game. Then they held Ole Miss scoreless over the next five innings. And finally, Utah scored again on a Hunter Simmons RBI double in the 10th to knock off the top-seeded Rebels, 6-5.


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