FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. • Ole Miss, the only visiting team to win a series at Arkansas’ Baum Stadium in the last two years, will have to back end the super regional to reach the College World Series.
That’s what happened here in late March when the Rebels won the last two games of the series. In the opener Arkansas right-hander Isaiah Campbell outdueled Ole Miss right-hander Will Ethridge, and the Razorbacks won 5-3.
Saturday the game got away from Ethridge earlier, and Campbell went 8 1/3 innings as Arkansas took Game 1 11-2.
With Omaha on the line for Arkansas and the season on the line for Ole Miss, it will be two freshmen on the mound.
The Rebels will start left-hander Doug Nikhazy (8-3, 2.98) against right-hander Connor Noland (3-4, 3.56).
Nikhazy went 5 2/3 innings against Arkansas on March 30. He gave up five hits – three doubles – and three earned runs in his second SEC start.
The Rebels rallied to win 4-3.
“He’s their ace,” said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, who voted Nikhazy for freshman player of the year in the SEC. “A lefty, he’s crafty. Got a good arm, good breaking ball, can throw it whenever he wants. It might be his best pitch. Whenever he’s behind, he’ll come with it. He’s tough. We’re going to have to really be locked in.”
Ole Miss won three elimination games – one of them against Arkansas – en route to the SEC Tournament championship game.
“This one’s over,” said junior shortstop Grae Kessinger, who’s first-inning home run gave the Rebels a brief lead in Game 1. “We’ve got to come out tomorrow and just play one pitch at a time. All you can control is what you do from the first pitch of the game and stay having confidence in each other.”
Noland has started against Ole Miss twice, both wins for the Rebels, though he didn’t factor into either decision.
He went 4 2/3 on March 30 giving up seven hits and two runs, both earned.
He started the SEC Tournament quarterfinal game and went five innings with just two hits, one run, earned.
In the Rebels’ only Omaha visit under Bianco they back-ended with super regional with 5-2 and 10-4 victories at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2014.
Bianco says there will be no magical speech to his players.
“They get it. It comes down to controlling what you can control,” Bianco said. “It’s mundane, but it’s the truth. We’ve been in some of these situations before. This team has felt that. They get it.
“This stings a little bit right now, they all sting, but the score, as lopsided as it was, it’s just a win.”