BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas day of baseball in Oxford on Friday will be remembered for what happened in the sixth inning or game one and what didn’t happen in the second inning of game two.
Brady Slavens’ grand slam was the big blow in a six-run outburst and Hunter Hollan pitched brilliantly as the Razorbacks downed the Rebels 11-2 in the opener of the doubleheader.
But with a chance to grab a stranglehold in game two, Arkansas (24-6, 7-4) tallied only a single run in the second inning and ended up falling 7-4 in game two.
“Yeah, just started out really well,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “I thought we played extremely well the first game. Pitched outstanding. Got out of a jam or two. But got a lot of big hits and created some innings through walks and driving pitch counts up, different things that really helped us the first ball game.”
Arkansas had Hagen Smith on the mound in the second game and took and took a 1-0 lead on Slavens’ bases-loaded single with nobody out in the second inning.
But Ole Miss starter Xavier Rivas got Parker Rowland to fly out to short left and fanned both John Bolton and Tavian Josenberger to avoid further damage.
“The second game didn’t go great,” Van Horn said. “Had a chance to really, really break it open in the second and didn’t take advantage of it. We scored one run. I think that probably ended up costing us the ball game.”
Ole Miss tied on Reagan Burford’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the second tied it and Ethan Lege’s RBI single gave the hosts a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
Arkansas’ Kendall Diggs doubled in the typing run in fifth.
But Ethan Goff homered off Smith to give Ole Miss the lead in the sixth and Lege’s three-run blast off reliever Cody Adcock capped a five-run inning to put Ole Miss up 7-2.
Peyton Stovall’s two-run homer in the ninth capped the scoring.
Smith (5-1) pitched into the sixth and allowed four runs on four hits, fanning seven and walking two.
“Yeah, I though his outing, for Hagen, was average,” Van Horn said. “That first inning looked pretty good, second inning just okay. Fought it a little bit, fought his command, didn’t have all of his pitches going.
“Had a little trouble throwing fastball for a strike when he needed to. Threw a couple of four-pitch walks to lead off innings and that was costly. Cost him a lot of pitches.”
Arkansas outhit Ole Miss 15-6 in game one with Slavens’ slam off losing pitcher Jack Dougtherty (2-3) the key in the fifth-inning explosion.
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, who led his team to the national title last season, was obviously thrilled the Rebels (17-12, 2-9) bounced back in game two.
Xavier Rivas pitched six innings in the night cap while allowing two runs on five hits, walked four and fanned seven while throwing 109 pitches.
“We said it between the games when we went inside – the first game was disappointing as once again we just don’t play well in game one in any of the phases,” Bianco said. “But the beauty of this league is that – and it happens all the time – that somebody gets beat up in game one and ends up coming back and winning game two and we did.
“So you credit Xavier. It starts on the mound and he was terrific.”
Rivas’ key was keeping from working out of acting on the bases per Bianco.
“That’s really a key and we couldn’t do that in the first game,” Bianco said. “I think eight of the nine hitters that inning got on base and we just couldn’t get off the field. We just gave up a six spot and when you give up a six spot in one inning, you usually are not going to have success.
“Xavier was able to minimize the damage at times like he can. He looked super out there. Super strong. He made some great pitches to get off the field and beats one of the best pitchers, not only in our conference, but one of the best in the country in Hagen Smith. He matched him pitch for pitch and just outlasted him.”
Hollan (5-1) did the same thing in the opener while allowing three hits, walking three, fanning four and hitting two batters in the opener before leaving after the first two Ole Miss batters reached base in the seventh.
“He was outstanding,” Van Horn said. “He gave us a chance to get in the dugout pretty quick, a bunch. We scored a couple here a couple there and built up a lead and got some big hits.
“For the most part he went out there and he mixed. He pitched backwards a lot at times, got the jumping at the ball and hit some fly balls. We turned a double play or two. Really good outing.”
Hollan was sure he would have a good outing after a subpar one against Alabama last weekend.
“It was like after the outing last week, I told Parker, I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve never had back-to-back bad outings in my life, so we ain’t going to let that happen this week,’” Hollan said. “So I was confident, I was excited. I threw off the mound yesterday a little bit after the game got canceled and felt really good and had a bunch of confidence going into today.”
The two teams will meet Saturday at 2p.m with Will McEntire (4-1, 5.77 ERA) – coming off the flu – expected to start for Arkansas and JT Quinn (3-0, 5.79).