FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. • The quest for Omaha has ended for Ole Miss.
On a dry windy Monday with conditions favoring hitters among teams that know each other well, it was the Arkansas lineup that got it done as the No. 5 seed Razorbacks – the defending national runners-up – clinched a return trip to the College World Series with a 14-1 super regional win before 10,092 fans at Baum-Walker Stadium.
In a super regional for the first time since its Omaha run of 2014, Ole Miss (41-27) was looking for its second CWS appearance under coach Mike Bianco.
This weekend also marked the first super regional appearance for Ole Miss since 2014. The Rebels are 1-5 in super regionals under Bianco.
The Rebels snapped a six-game losing streak on the last day of the regular season and have gone 9-4 since that time with four wins over top-15 RPI teams.
The Razorbacks’ fast start against Ole Miss right-hander Gunnar Hoglund and inefficient offense and bullpen work by the Rebels made that goal unattainable.
“Worry isn’t the right word, but both teams were anxious to be the team that got off to a hot start with the bats and threw the first punch. They threw a couple punches early and caught fire. We just didn’t put enough good at-bats together,” said Ole Miss catcher Cooper Johnson, whose two-out hit gave Ole Miss a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
With opponents this season hitting .625 the second time through the order against the freshman Hoglund, it was leadoff hitter Trevor Ezell in his second at-bat that got the big hit after a Jacob Nesbit double had helped set the table. Ezell’s two-run single made it 4-1 in the second inning.
Bianco said he stayed with Hoglund in the second because he was hoping for “length” from the starter before handing the game to the bullpen.
“Two huge at-bats that turned the game was Nesbit with a 1-2 slider that he smoked down the left-field line, then Ezell’s at-bat with two strikes, he gets a basehit. Those two at-bats in the second really turned the game,” Bianco said.
As it turned out the bullpen wasn’t much help.
Austin Miller and Parker Caracci, Bianco’s top two relief choices, combined to allow seven hits and seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.
“I thought we pitched tentative. We couldn’t throw the breaking balls into the strike zone, we fell into bad counts, and that offense will make you pay for that,” Bianco said.
The Razorbacks (46-18) pushed a crack in the door against Hoglund then blew the game open against Miller who allowed two inherited runners to score and gave up three more runs of his own.
As the Arkansas lead ballooned right-handed reliever Cody Scroggins threw 4 1/3 innings of two-hit scoreless relief. He struck out eight and walked none.
The first four Arkansas batters were hitting .459 through the first two games, but it was the middle and bottom of the order that got the Razorbacks in business.
The Razorbacks’ five- through nine-hole hitters were 6 for 36 the first two days. With Omaha on the line that group was 7 for 18 led by Heston Kjerstad and Casey Opitz who each had three hits and four RBIs.
“It’s always important for the bottom of the order to contribute somehow, someway,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “(Ole Miss) is one of the scariest lineups to sit in the dugout and try to maneuver through. We played almost a perfect game today.”