The No. 2 Arkansas Razorbacks and the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels split a Saturday doubleheader after Friday night’s game was moved due to bad weather. Both teams sat at 7-2 atop of the SEC West going into the series as the winner would assume sole position of first place in the division. The Hogs won their ninth game this season when trailing by three or more runs by scoring seven straight runs to come back and win Game One 7-3 and stun a packed Swayze Field in Oxford, Miss. Arkansas would fall behind early again 5-0 in Game Two, but they would battle back within a couple of scores late in the game. However, the Rebels would explode with five runs in the eighth inning to put away the game 13-6. Now, we will have to wait for Sunday’s rubber match to determine who is best in the West.
The Hogs followed the same script as usual by falling behind 2-0 after the first inning. Patrick Wicklander gave up a two-run double to Hayden Dunhurst who would go 5-for-5 in the first game of the series.
In the third inning, Wicklander would give up another run, but that would be it for the Rebels for the rest of the game as they were never able to take advantage of any opportunities for the rest of the afternoon. Wicklander would get out of a bases loaded jam to end the third inning, and after four, he would hand the reigns over to Zebulon Vermillion. Wicklander gave up six hits, three earned runs, and had seven strikeouts. Ole Miss would leave runners stranded with the bases loaded three times in the game.
Meanwhile, the offense for the Hogs did nothing once again for several innings until the sixth, when Matt Goodheart finally got the first hit of the game, and here came the part when the team exploded for another comeback.
Christian Franklin would hit an RBI to score Goodheart. Casey Opitz followed with a deep sacrifice fly to score another. Then Zach Gregory would hit another pitch, and suddenly, it was a tied game.
Ole Miss sent out several pitchers from its bullpen, searching for answers.
However, in the seventh, Arkansas had the bases loaded and then was gifted a walk to take the lead 4-3. Ole Miss gave up nine walks in the first game on Saturday. It would be followed by a wild pitch to make it 5-3.
In the seventh inning, Kevin Kopps came in for the save, and well, that’s about all you have to say. Kopps would pitch for three scoreless innings and give up five hits. Some nice defensive work would help him out along the way.
Freshman sensation Cayden Wallace would add two more runs on a double in the eighth, and the Hogs scored seven straight to win Game One 7-3.
Ryan Costeiu got the win even though he appeared for less than an inning, and Kopps got the save. Goodheart had a good game going 3-for-4 on the afternoon.
Dave van Horn put out a new lineup in the second game by taking out Goodheart, Brady Slavens, and Zach Gregory. Instead, Brayden Webb, Charlie Welch, and Dylan Leach came into the starting nine possibly because DVH wanted to have all right handers against the Rebels’ starting pitcher Doug Nikhazy.
Peyton Pallette would get the start for Arkansas and quickly would give up a few hits resulting in the Rebels taking another 2-0 lead after the first inning. Then in the third, he would give up a three-run homer to Hayden Leatherwood, making it 5-0.
Dave van Horn would keep Pallette in the game for the next couple of innings however. He would finish by giving up nine hits, seven earned runs, and would have five strikeouts.
The Hogs would get on the board in the fourth inning with a pair of RBI singles from Leach and Opitz. However the Rebels would respond with two runs in the next inning to make it 7-2.
The Hogs would get back in the game on an RBI by Jalen Battles, and Nikhazy’s day would be done after 105 pitches. Drew McDaniel for Ole Miss would walk the next batter and then allow a run to score on a wild pitch.
You would think that at this point, here comes the Hogs.
Christian Franklin would lead off the seventh with a home run to right field to cut the lead to 7-5.
The Razorbacks would load the bases with two outs, but a pop up ended the inning.
After another Ole Miss run, Cayden Wallace would step up again with an RBI double in the eighth, and the Hogs were down 8-6.
But that would be as close as they would get as Ole Miss blew the game open in the bottom of the eighth off of Kole Ramage, and well, that’s about all you have to say about that. Ramage pitched two innings and gave up six hits and five runs. Ole Miss won Game Two 13-6.
Nikhazy got the win; Pallette got the loss. Arkansas goes to 25-5 overall and 8-3 in the SEC.
The Hogs stranded 12 on base, but pitching really let them down in this game. Some of DVH’s lineup decisions and game management might also be called into question. Should Pallette have been left in the game for as long as he was? Should Ramage been allowed to appear in a big weekend series when he has been struggling so far this year? Many believe that the only answer is that Dave van Horn must be saving his rotation for the rubber match.
Thus, it all comes down to Game Three on Sunday at 1:30 pm.