After the No. 2 Arkansas Razorbacks and the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels split a doubleheader yesterday, the Hogs were able to win 18-14 on Sunday and take the series in one of the wildest games you will ever see. With both teams sitting atop the SEC West at 8-3 coming into the game, Arkansas now has sole possession of first place in the division and will likely be ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation in all of the polls on Monday. The Hogs hold a 53-52 lead in the all-time series, and with this victory, they claim their first series win at Swayze Field since 2010.
Arkansas exploded for an 11-0 lead after just three innings on a trifecta of home runs as the bottom of the order powered the offense, but Ole Miss would battle back multiple times throughout the game to finally tie the game at 14-14 in the seventh inning. However, a Brady Slavens double would provide the necessary winning runs, and Kevin Kopps would come in and put the game away in the final innings.
The Razorbacks took their usual script and threw it right out of the window by getting on the board early and often. After two got on base in the second inning, seventh-place hitter Cullen Smith blasted a home run to center field off of Ole Miss starting pitcher and 80s character actor Derek Diamond to bring everybody home. Smith was batting a .235 average and had only two home runs coming into the game.
After another single, Braydon Webb, who was inserted into the lineup, hit a second homer to make it 5-0. Webb was only batting .138 on the year and hit his fourth home run. Diamond would be relieved and in would come Josh Mallitz for the Rebels.
However, the Hogs were just getting started. In the third, Jalen Battles got his second hit of the game on an RBI, which was followed by a sacrifice fly to score Smith, and a Matt Goodheart single brought Battles home. Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco had seen enough, and that would be it for Mallitz with the Hogs up 8-0.
Wes Burton, a big right hander and the living personification of Ole Miss baseball, would come in and promptly have his first pitch smashed by Cayden Wallace for a three-run homer, and Arkansas lead 11-0. This was Wallace’s eighth home run of the season.
Meanwhile, everything was going right for the Hogs as Christian Franklin would make one of the best catches of the year.
Ole Miss would respond though not long afterwards. Two runs would be enough for Dave van Horn to pull Lael Lockhart after giving up four hits with only one strikeout, and Ryan Costeiu would come into the game. However, Justin Bench would hit a three-run homer, and suddenly the Rebels were only down 11-5.
The game would begin to slow down, but he action would continue as Bianco would be thrown out of the game by the umpire for arguing balls and strikes which he had been doing for a while. He had been upset about what he believed was an inconsistent strike zone, and the umpire Stephen Hagan had enough. Still facing a six-run deficit, perhaps Bianco was willing to press his luck if an ejection could help rally his team. They would tack on one run on another hit by Peyton Chatagnier.
In the sixth, the Razorbacks would extend their lead after a pair of walks and a single by Battles to score a run. The bottom of the lineup was huge as DVH played his cards right today with his starting selections. The seven through nine hitters combined for seven hits and 10 runs. Two more walks would load the bases and then gift the Hogs another run. Ole Miss would bring out their sixth pitcher of the game, and he would plunk Goodheart to give the Hogs a 14-6 lead.
However, Ole Miss was far from done. After Caden Monke was pulled, Jackson Wiggins would come in and get rocked. With the bases loaded and two outs, Chatagnier would hit a 3-RBI double to cut the lead to 14-9, and the next batter would hit a home run to pull the Rebels closer with a 14-11 score. Wiggins’s day would be done soon after having given up four hits and five runs with two strikeouts.
Kevin Kopps would be brought in to get out of a jam in the seventh inning, but even he would give up a couple of singles along with a fielder’s choice as Ole Miss would unbelievably come back to tie the game 14-14. The rowdy home crowd in Oxford had been rewarded for their patience as the Rebels looked to take the lead. However, Kopps would get out of the inning by retiring the next two batters, and we would go to the eighth.
Ole Miss would bring out another reliever in Taylor Broadway who would get two outs for them. Brady Slavens, who was about the only Hog not to get a hit yet, came up and delivered a two-run double to deep right field to reestablish the lead. Franklin then added on an extra run to make it 17-14 before the inning was done.
In the ninth, Arkansas added one final run on a Webb bunt that was thrown away for an error, and with that, the air finally was let out of the building as Arkansas could breathe a sigh of relief with the score 18-14.
Kopps is undoubtedly the best pitcher on the team, and he would prove it by eventually retiring the side as the Hogs would go home in first place in the SEC West and a claim as the nation’s top team.
Ole Miss used nine different pitchers in the game and threw 214 total pitches while giving up 13 hits. They incredibly issued 17 walks on the day. The Razorbacks used five different pitchers and gave up 14 hits. The total game time was four hours and 25 minutes.
Kopps gets the win as Arkansas is now 26-5 overall and 9-3 in the SEC.
Up next, Arkansas has a midweek series against in-state UAPB followed by a weekend at home versus Texas A&M.