by Matt Sefcovic (@MattSefcovic)
Over the years, Swayze field has hosted numerous marquee matchups, but there has not been a weekend series that has welcomed more fans than the matchup between Arkansas and Ole Miss this weekend. Over 33,000 fans came to the ballpark this weekend to watch these top five teams battle it out for first place in the SEC West. The game on Friday night was postponed due to weather, but the double header on Saturday and finale on Sunday provided plenty of fireworks to get the attention of college baseball fans across the country.
For the Rebels, the first game on Saturday was all about timely hitting, or lack thereof. Ole Miss managed 14 hits and 4 walks, but were only able to string together 3 runs on their way to a 7-3 loss. The Rebels were leading 3-0 heading into the sixth inning, but Arkansas would put together three consecutive crooked numbers in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.
Patrick Wicklander started on the mound for the Razorback, tossing the first four innings, giving up three runs before turning things over to a bullpen. From there, the Rebels were unable to manage another run, striking out 16 times for the game. Ryan Costeiu (W, 5-0) picked up the win after recording just one out in the bottom of the sixth.
At the plate, the Rebels were led by Hayden Dunhurst who had a monster day at the plate going 5-5 with 2 RBI. Justin Bench, Jacob Gonzalez, and Kevin Graham each had two hits apiece. Matt Goodheart set the pace for the Hogs, scoring three runs with three hits, while Cayden Wallace and Christian Franklin each had 2 RBI.
In game two, Arkansas skipper Dave Van Horn made a change in the weekend rotation, starting Peyton Pallette in place of Zeb Vermillion. The move did not go as planned as Pallette gave up seven runs on four hits in four innings on the way to a 13-6 loss. Doug Nikhazy (W, 3-1) picked up the win for the Rebels after throwing 5.1 innings and giving up just two earned runs, and Taylor Broadway (S, 8) finished out the game to force the rubber match on Sunday.
The Razorbacks tallied 12 hits on the day, but could not string anything together, though Robert Moore and Jalen Battles each had multi-hit games. Franklin homered in the seventh inning to bring Arkansas within two runs but Ole Miss responded and won the game. The Rebels put together 18 hits on the day with six starters recording a multi-hit game. Dunhurst and Hayden Leatherwood both had 3 RBI as Leatherwood hit the lone home run for the home team.
In a rubber match that saw the two teams combine for 27 hits and 32 runs, it took nearly 4 ½ hours for the Razorbacks to secure the series win in Oxford. Arkansas jumped out in front 11-0 after the top half of the third inning, but the Rebels were not going to go down without a fight.
Coach Bianco’s club battled all the way back to tie the game in the seventh inning, but Arkansas proved to be too much, winning the game and taking over the top spot in the SEC West. Cayden Wallace, Cullen Smith, and Braydon Webb all homered for the Hogs, with Smith and Wallace each adding 3 RBI. Peyton Chatagnier and Justin Bench each added three hits for the Rebels, with Graham and Bench both hitting home runs.
For the game, 14 pitchers were used, 12 of them gave up at least one run, and of the two that did not give up a run, one did not record an out. Kevin Kopps (W, 5-0) picked up the win for Arkansas after halting the Rebels comeback, allowing just one run over the final three innings. If you love offense, it does not get any better than this as both teams delivered blow after blow until the final inning.
The Razorbacks got the best of the Rebels this weekend, but Ole Miss proved they belong even without their star hitter, Tim Elko, scoring 30 runs in three games against the best team in the country. After going 5-1 against Ole Miss and Mississippi State, the Razorbacks have set themselves up as the leader of the pack in the SEC West. They will be able to sit back and watch Ole Miss and Mississippi State beat up on each other this weekend as Arkansas hosts a struggling Texas A&M team that was just swept by Alabama. The SEC West is arguably the best division in baseball and Dave Van Horn has his team in a position to pull away from the pack.