Arkansas finally outlasts Ole Miss
NO. 2 ARKANSAS 18,
NO. 3 OLE MISS 14
TOM MURPHY ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
The battle for the top of the SEC West turned into a pitching fiasco with a football-like final score on a sunny Sunday afternoon in north-central Mississippi.
The No. 2 Arkansas Razorbacks gave up every bit of an 11-run lead, then rallied for three runs with Ole Miss relief ace Taylor Broadway on the mound in the eighth inning to surge to an 18-14 win before a crowd of 10,042.
The University of Arkansas (26-5, 9-3) left town with sole possession of first place in the SEC West after the 4-hour, 25-minute game with its first series win at No. 3 Ole Miss (24-8, 8-4) since 2010.
“Gosh, you don’t want to play a 4-hour, 25-minute game and lose and come all the way home on a bus,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “It’s going to make that trip a lot better. Tomorrow when we wake up, we’ll probably think about this a little bit and how we hung in there and
found a way to win two out of three down here.”
The Razorbacks have a shot at regaining No. 1 in most of the major polls today after No. 1 Vanderbilt lost a home series against Georgia over the weekend.
Kevin Kopps (5-0), the fifth Arkansas pitcher, gave up his first run in 192/3 innings since Feb. 28 before getting an out in the seventh, but the senior right-hander struck out the side with runners on the corners in the ninth to finish his second three-inning stint of the weekend on 47 pitches.
“It came down to Broadway and Kopps,” Van Horn said. “Their guy against ours. Fortunately for us, we got the lead.”
Arkansas was out hit 14-13 by the Rebels but drew a season-high 17 walks and also got base runners on two hit by pitches and two errors. Cullen Smith, Braydon Webb and Cayden Wallace all homered for the Razorbacks, while Justin Bench and Kevin Graham went deep for the Rebels.
“I can’t remember a day we were that bad on the mound,” said Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco, who was ejected in the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes. “We’ve given up runs and hits, home runs. Today it was the walks.
“All that said my frustration, I lost my composure and got ejected from the game. I will say I’m proud of them. Down 11-0, didn’t look good, the human nature lot of times is to concede mentally and go through the motions, and they didn’t do that. Our guys competed for nine innings, and for that I’m proud.”
Arkansas has won road series against the two Mississippi schools for the first time since 2010, when the Razorbacks swept Mississippi State and won two of three at Ole Miss, as they have this year.
Ole Miss tied it 14-14 with three runs in the seventh off Jaxon Wiggins and Kopps before the Razorbacks put together their game-winning rally.
“We didn’t just sit on 11, we got to 14 and next thing you know it was 14-14,” Van Horn said. “It was crazy.
“I don’t think they get too rattled. I think everybody thought, obviously, when they scored those three runs that tied it up 14-all we’re like, ‘Wow, how did that happen?’ But you know we just walked up and down the dugout and said, ‘Hey, it’s fine. We’ve got two innings left. The game is tied. Let’s win the last two innings and get out of here.’”
Webb started the eighth with a walk from Braden Forsyth (0-1), then Matt Goodheart drew a one-out walk. After Broadway struck out Wallace, he faced Brady Slavens, the only Razorbacks who had not reached base to that point. Slavens drove an 0-1 pitch to the wall in right-center field, scoring both runners.
“It’s not what you’ve done before, and you’ve got to stay positive,” Van Horn said of Slavens’ approach on the game-winning double. “I remember a couple of years ago when Heston Kjerstad was like 0 for 6 or 0 for 7 in an extra-inning game at Auburn. I think it was like the 12th or 13th inning and his first hit was a home run and we ended up winning that game.
“It’s kind of the same for Brady. He got a big two-out double and drove in two runs and we don’t win that game without that hit.”
Christian Franklin got behind 0-2, then battled back and laced a run-scoring single off Broadway to make it 17-14 in the eighth.
Pinch hitter Jacob Nesbit led off the ninth with a single and came around on a throwing error by Tyler Myers to provide the final score.
Smith’s 200th career hit, and his 17th for the Razorbacks, was a dandy. He launched a three-run shot, his third, off the top of the wall in left-center field to give the Razorbacks a 3-0 lead off righty Dustin Diamond in the second inning. Wallace followed with a two-run shot, his fourth, after Jalen Battles singled to make it 5-0.
The lead ballooned to 11-0 after Arkansas scored six in the third inning. Battles and Goodheart had RBI singles, Robert Moore drove in a run with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly, then Wallace capped the inning with his eighth homer, a three-run shot on the second pitch thrown by 6-8 Wes Burton.
The seventh spot in the Arkansas order reached base in all six plate appearances, with Smith going 2 for 2 with 3 walks and 3 runs scored and Nesbit going 1 for 1 and scoring.
Battles went 3 for 4, drove in two runs and scored three, as did Webb. Smith and Wallace had 3 RBI apiece, while Moore, Goodheart, Slavens, Battles and Webb drove in two runs each.
Each of the five Arkansas pitchers gave up at least a run, including four by starter Lael Lockhart and five by freshman Jaxon Wiggins, who got two outs in the sixth but could not retire a batter in the seventh.
Peyton Chatagnier went 3 for 6 with 4 RBI and 3 runs scored and added a three-run double off Wiggins in the sixth to lead Ole Miss. Bench was 3 for 4 with a three-run homer. Graham went 2 for 5 with a two-run shot off Wiggins, his sixth, to cap the Rebels’ fiverun sixth inning.