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Rebels fall short against Arkansas, drop game three and series to Hogs

Rebels fall short against Arkansas, drop game three and series to Hogs

OXFORD, Miss. — SEC baseball returned to Swayze Field in Oxford Saturday afternoon, and with it came the No. 2 ranked Razorbacks from Arkansas.

After weather delayed and then postponed the start of Game One until Saturday, Ole Miss fans did exactly what was expected of them and turned out in grand fashion. The college baseball world had its eyes on O-U stadium as it welcomed its fans back for what was the largest weekend attendance in program history at a total of 33,423.

Game One: Arkansas 7, Ole Miss 3

(Click here for box score.)

In Game One, Ole Miss (23-7, 7-3 SEC) jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first inning as Hayden Dunhurst knocked a 2-RBI double into right field that scored Jacob Gonzalez and Kevin Graham. 

The Diamond Rebels would add one more run in the third inning, but that is where the the scoring would end. 

Starting pitcher Gunnar Hoglund would leave in the fifth inning, and the Rebs would go to the bullpen too early for the long day ahead. 

Rebel pitching would not be able to control the scoring frenzy that would ensue in the sixth when Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz pushed a sacrifice fly out to deep left field for what would be the first of 7 runs over the next three innings. 

With the final score 7-3 in favor of the Razorbacks, the Rebels would strand a total of 13 on the bases and lose their bid for the opening-game win.

Game Two: Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 13

(Click here for box score.)

In Game Two, Doug Nikhazy would take the mound and deliver what the Rebels needed with a gutsy performance against a hard-hitting Razorback team. 

Nikhazy would pitch 5.2 innings and the Rebel bats would help his cause.

Ole Miss third baseman Justin Bench and right fielder Hayden Leatherwood would combine for 5 runs on 6 hits. The Red and Blue continued a strong hitting day and scored 13 runs on 18 hits as they earned a 13-6 victory over Arkansas.

Game Three: Arkansas 18, Ole Miss 14

(Click here for box score.)

Game Three saw the Razorbacks’ bats come to life as they hit the long ball early. Right fielder Cayden Wallace would produce the first of three home runs out of the stout Arkansas lineup, creating an early hook for Rebels’ starter Derek Diamond after only 1.1 innings pitched. 

Ole Miss watched the Arkansas offense go off for 11 runs by the end of the third inning, but the Rebs would not be discouraged. 

Ole Miss stayed in the trenches and battled a full 9 innings and blasted two home runs of their own off the bats of Bench and Graham.

However, the early scoring of Arkansas proved to be too tall of a task for the Rebs to overcome as they fell just short on their comeback bid, losing 18-14 before an exuberant 10,042 fans.

Analysis

The story of the Arkansas series is not centered around Ole Miss at the plate. In fact, the the Rebels outhit the Razorbacks all three games of the series, even without Captain and cleanup batter Tim Elko who is out due to an ACL injury suffered against North Alabama last Monday.

Instead, it is more about a pitching staff that struggled at times against one of the best teams in the country. 

The Diamond Rebs knew they had to step up at the plate because of Elko’s absence  — and they did. The Red and Blue combined for 46 hits versus only 33 for Arkansas. This weekend Hayden Leatherwood fell mere inches from having two home runs on the books. Bench also picked up his pace and hit a homer of his own. This team is heating up and not giving up. 

While Ole Miss failed to get the timely hit in the first game, having to turn to the bullpen too early is what helped cost them the series. The Rebels will need to shore up the bullpen so they can rely on it in the tough series that lie ahead. Ole Miss is in the midst of one of the most challenging three-week stretches that any team in college baseball will face, but it will not take much to right the ship. 

I expect the Diamond Rebs to rest up and mend their wounds. The past two weekends offer a test to the team moving forward. Have a short memory with respect to the losses. Build resolve. Define yourselves as the elite players and team that you are. 

You can bet Coach Bianco and staff will have this team ready for a visit from Austin Peay on Tuesday at 6:30 pm on SECN+.

(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)

About The Author

Chad Smith

Chad holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Ole Miss and stays immersed in Rebel sports and alumni affairs. As a second-generation Rebel, he loves everything that makes the university unique and appealing. While he supports every sport on campus, his primary love is Ole Miss Baseball. As a baseball scout and creator of the only group dedicated to Ole Miss Baseball, Chad enjoys focusing on the players’ and the team's success on and off the field. The unique atmosphere created by the fans, facilities and coaching staff has transformed Swayze Field into a world-class program that others only dream of having. Chad currently lives in Lula, Georgia with his wife Danielle, his German Short-Haired Pointer Renegade "Hotty Toddy," and a cat named Boudreaux.

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