Ole Miss evens regional at Arkansas with 13-5 win
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Tyler Keenan homered and drove in four runs and Ole Miss tied its super regional series against Arkansas with a 13-5 win Sunday.
Ole Miss (41-26) scored eight runs in the first and second innings to erase an early 2-0 deficit and force a third game at 3 p.m. on Monday with the winner advancing to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Rebels are 5-0 this postseason in elimination games, but Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco downplayed that during Sunday’s postgame interviews.
“You’ve asked that question a couple of times,” Bianco joked with reporters, “but I can’t answer that in a way to help your story.”
Arkansas (45-18) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Dominic Fletcher’s two-run home run, but the Rebels answered back in the bottom of the first when first baseman Cole Zabowski crushed a three-run homer off Arkansas starter Connor Noland.
“He threw me a change-up,” Zabowski said. “He threw me a change-up the pitch before. I was just trying to see him up in the zone and I got a good pitch to hit.”
Ole Miss never trailed the rest of the way, scoring five more runs in the second inning. Keenan drove in three with a bases-loaded triple to extend Ole Miss’ lead to 7-2, then Keenan scored on a fielder’s choice. His 15th homer of the season in the sixth gave Ole Miss a 9-5 lead.
Arkansas, which won the opener 11-2 on Saturday, scored three runs in the fourth inning on three straight RBI doubles by Trevor Ezell, Casey Martin and Matt Goodheart, but the Razorbacks left the bases loaded in the fifth and two runners in scoring position in the sixth.
“We battled back but we could not come up with the big hit,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
Ole Miss freshman starter Doug Nikhazy (9-3) rebounded from the shaky first and pitched five innings to earn the win. Houston Roth pitched four scoreless innings for Ole Miss, and Bianco said the Rebels needed that to keep the remainder of his bullpen fresh for today’s deciding game.
“I thought he was really sharp today,” Bianco said. “He’s pitched really well down the stretch for us. That’s as good as I’ve seen him against a really good offense. Just a good day with the fastball and breaking ball and a handful of changeups. He had the fastball working on both sides.”
The Rebels crushed four home runs off Arkansas pitching, including two off Noland, and took advantage of almost double-digit walks. In the seventh Ole Miss shortstop Grae Kessinger launched a massive two-run shot to left off Arkansas reliever Elijah Trest to extend the Rebels’ lead to 13-5.
“We walked (Ole Miss) eight times and you can’t walk them eight times,” Van Horn said. “We got what we deserved. They whipped us.”
Noland (3-5), who gave up a lead-off homer to Cooper Johnson in the bottom of the second before being replaced by Kole Ramage, gave up four runs on three hits.