Hogs fall hard, but still alive

The Saline Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Nate Allen Ra­zor­back Re­port

FAYETTEVIL­LE — So far the vis­it­ing team hit­ting a first-in­ning home run ul­ti­mately spells de­feat for the vis­i­tor in this best 2 of 3 base­ball Su­per Re­gional be­tween Arkansas and Ole Miss knot­ted one game each at Baum-walker Sta­dium.

With Ole Miss storm­ing back 13-5 Sun­day af­ter Arkansas won 11-2 Satur­day, the Su­per Re­gional is set to con­clude in today’s 3 p.m. win­ner-take-all game on ESPN2 at Baum-walker Sta­dium.

Today’s win­ner ad­vances among the Elite Eight play­ing for the na­tional cham­pi­onship at the Col­lege World Se­ries in Omaha.

The sea­son con­cludes for the loser.

On Satur­day, Ole Miss’ Grae Kessinger solo home­red in the first in­ning with the Rebels as vis­i­tors in Satur­day’s game that Arkansas led 4-1 af­ter the first and won 11-2 be­fore 11,350 paid.

Sun­day, with the Ra­zor­backs the vis­i­tors, Arkansas cen­ter fielder Do­minic Fletcher hit a firstin­ning 2-run home run.

The in­ning ended with Arkansas trail­ing Ole Miss, 3-2 then ir­re­vo­ca­bly down

8-2 in the sec­ond.

Ole Miss hit four home runs Sun­day, one each by Cole Ze­bowski, the firstin­ning 3-run blast sur­pass­ing Fletcher’s 2-run shot, Cooper John­son, Tyler Keenan and Kessinger in its Sun­day suc­cess be­fore 11,383.

Doug Nik­hazy, the Ole Miss fresh­man lefty starter ridiculed by Ra­zor­backs fans through­out Sun­day’s game for what be­came an un­for­tu­nate Satur­day nasal mo­ment video gone vi­ral picked up by so­cial me­dia, was tagged for 11 hits and five runs Sun­day in five in­nings. But Nik­hazy got the last laugh.

Nik­hazy struck out 10

against a walk, stranded the Ra­zor­backs score­less with one out and the bases loaded in the third, and sec­ond and third in the fifth, and was the win­ning pitcher now 8-3.

Re­liever Hous­ton Roth took it from there throw­ing four score­less in­nings.

“Con­grats to Ole Miss,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “They played a great game, played good de­fense and didn’t walk any­body and got in some good hit­ters counts, and hit the ball a long way and put to­gether a 5-run when we should have turned a dou­ble play, prob­a­bly two of them. We got back in the game but couldn’t get the big hit. Just credit their pitch­ing.”

Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco re­marked, “I’m proud of our guys the way they bounced back from yes­ter­day’s game which was so one-sided. We needed a huge per­for­mance on the mound and Doug gave us that. I think this wasn’t his sharpest day with all his pitches but a re­ally gutsy per­for­mance. Today was re­ally the of­fense. Start­ing with Zebo, a huge home run af­ter they got two in the first. That was big. And we ex­tended it with homers, a big homer by Coop and Keenan, and of course Grae at the end.

Roth and Arkansas’s

Kevin Kopps and Kole Ramage, each used Sun­day, likely are the only main re­liev­ers for ei­ther team not likely ready to pitch today with Arkansas start­ing fresh­man lefty Pa­trick Wick­lan­der, 6-2, 4.29 ERA, and Ole Miss start­ing fresh­man right-han­der Gunner Hoglund, 3-2, 4.64.

Ole Miss comes con­fi­dently into today’s de­cider hav­ing come back from a first-game SEC West se­ries loss to Arkansas to win the se­ries two games to one.

Arkansas last year ad­vanced to the Col­lege World Se­ries win­ning the win­ner-take-all third game with South Carolina.

“We’re two re­ally good teams,” Zabowksi said. “We’ve seen that the past two days. We can both hit, we can both pitch and we can both field. So (today) I think it’s go­ing to be a good game.”

Arkansas ju­nior three­year let­ter­man and Arizona Diamondbac­ks sec­on­dround draft choice Fletcher said, “Game 3 is not some­thing we’re scared of. A lot of us have been here be­fore. When the pres­sure’s on, that’s re­ally when we thrive I feel like.”

Arkansas’ Sun­day hope for a two-game sweep to Omaha was sec­ond in­ning snuffed the Ra­zor­backs reeled down 8-2 with fresh­man starter Con­nor Noland of Greenwood ban­ished and sopho­more Kole Ramage strug­gling in re­lief.

“I thought Con­nor just couldn’t lo­cate his fast­ball and his break­ing ball wasn’t as sharp as it has been,” Van Horn said. “They were on him pretty good and he was get­ting be­hind in the count, pow­er­ful lineup, a bunch of left-handed hit­ters, the wind blow­ing out.”

Arkansas got a first-in­ning gift Sun­day when both Ole Miss first base­man Zabowski and sec­ond base­man and Conway na­tive Ja­cob Adams both looked for the other to catch Casey Martin’s easy popup be­tween them. Nei­ther budged. It fell for a hit. That al­lowed cleanup hit­ter Fletcher to hit his 2-run home run.

Zabowski more than atoned for his first-in­ning de­fen­sive in­dif­fer­ence with his first-in­ning bat. Thomas Dil­lard, lead­off sin­gle that cen­ter­fielder Fletcher al­most snagged but couldn’t hold on a would have been spec­tac­u­lar catch, and Kessinger, hit by pitch, were aboard when Zabowski’s 3-run blast sailed over the right-field bullpen.

Ole Miss catcher John­son hit a just fair home run over right lead­ing off the sec­ond.

Though Noland has pitched well in re­cent starts in­clud­ing in the SEC Tour­na­ment against Ole Miss and beat­ing Cen­tral Connecticu­t State open­ing last week’s Fayettevil­le Re­gional, Van Horn had seen enough Sun­day.

He sum­moned sopho­more right-han­der Ramage.

Ramage walked his first bat­ter then nearly got a dou­ble-play re­prieve. Sec­ond base­man Ken­ley bob­bled Adams’ grounder but to­wards short­stop Casey Martin who got the out at sec­ond and threw to first for what ini­tially was an out un­til a re­quested re­view saw Adams beat the throw. Two more walks and Tyler Keenan’s 3-run triple put Ole Miss up 8-2.

In the sixth, Keenan blasted a solo home run over the right field bullpen even be­yond Zabowski’s firstin­ning clout.

Arkansas loaded the bases but couldn’t score off Nik­hazy in the third strik­ing out He­ston Kjer­stad and re­tir­ing Jack Ken­ley on a popup.

Arkansas did nail Nik­hazy for a 3-run two-out rally in the fourth.

Ja­cob Nes­bit, one-out sin­gle, and Trevor Ezell, Casey Martin and Matt Good­heart, con­sec­u­tive two-out RBI dou­bles, did the dam­age.

Mean­while Ramage pitched a score­less third and turned it over to re­liever Kevin Kopps in the fourth with two outs and Rebels at first and sec­ond and John­son up. John­son hit it deep but caught by Kjer­stad in right.

Arkansas pres­sured Nik­hazy with two-out run­ners at sec­ond and third in the fifth but Nik­hazy struck out Zack Plun­kett pinch­hit­ting for Chris­tian Franklin who had struck out twice.

Right-handed re­liever Hous­ton Roth opened the sixth and stranded Good­heart’s two-out dou­ble.

Keenan’s solo swat off Kopps opened a 3-run

Rebels sixth. Zabowski and Kevin Gra­ham were aboard with sin­gles when John­son bounced one up the mid­dle that short­stop Martin made a great stop on but threw wide of sec­ond base­man Ken­ley. It was scored a bases-load­ing in­field sin­gle. With Rebels run­ning with two outs, two crossed the plate as An­thony Servideo grounded to deep first and was ini­tially de­clared out with Kopps cov­er­ing.

How­ever on re­view Servideo beat the throw and net­ted a 2-run sin­gle.

Van Horn brought in fresh­man Eli­jah Trest for a sev­enth-in­ning post­sea­son bap­tism open­ing with a walk and Kessinger’s 2-run home run.

Trest then set­tled in to re­tire the next six for the sev­enth and eighth.

Re­view­ing Satur­day, Arkansas ju­nior right-han­der Isa­iah Camp­bell pitched a ca­reer long 8.1 in­nings and upped his record to 12-1 in his fi­nal start at Baumwalker.

Ken­ley, a 3-run first in­ning home run, Bryant na­tive Ezell, 3 for 5 with two dou­bles, three runs and a home run, Good­heart 2 for 5 with a home run and three RBIS, and Martin, 2 for 5 and two RBIS, swung big sticks for the Hogs Satur­day.

As the 45-18 na­tional No. 5 seed, Arkansas is home team to the No. 12 seeded Rebels, 41-26, today.

CRANT OS­BORNE/NATE Allen Sports Ser­vice

Arkansas grad­u­ate se­nior Trevor Ezell of Bryant gets a hit in the Ra­zor­backs’ 11-2 vic­tory on Satur­day. Ezell fin­ished 3 for 5 with two dou­bles, a homer, three runs and two RBIS. The Hogs and the Rebels play a win­ner-take-all game today at 3 p.m. for a shot at the Col­lege World Se­ries in Omaha, Nebraska.

CRAVEN WHITLOW/NATE Allen Sports Ser­vice

Arkansas ju­nior Do­minic Fletcher hits a 2-run home run in the first in­ning of a 13-5 Ra­zor­backs loss to the Ole Miss Rebels Sun­day in the Fayettevil­le Su­per Re­gional at Baum-walker Sta­dium. The Hogs and the Rebels play a win­ner-take-all game today at 3 p.m. for a shot at the Col­lege World Se­ries in Omaha, Nebraska.

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