AP NEWS

Arkansas pounds Ole Miss 14-1, earns return to CWS

June 11, 2019
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Mississippi catcher Cooper Johnson, left, tags out Arkansas batter Christian Franklin who was trying to advance to first base after striking out during the second inning of Game 3 at an NCAA college baseball super regional tournament Monday, June 10, 2019, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
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Mississippi catcher Cooper Johnson, left, tags out Arkansas batter Christian Franklin who was trying to advance to first base after striking out during the second inning of Game 3 at an NCAA college baseball super regional tournament Monday, June 10, 2019, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Plenty has happened since Cody Scroggins arrived at Arkansas in 2016 as a highly touted two-sport star at nearby Bentonville High School.

He endured a position change from infielder to pitcher and underwent Tommy John surgery. But his talent never deserted him.

When his number was called on Monday with an appearance in the College World Series on the line, Scroggins was ready.

The right-hander entered with two outs and the bases loaded in the second inning against Ole Miss with his team trailing 1-0. He got out of that jam and went on to pitch 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Meantime, the Razorbacks’ offense exploded and Arkansas beat Ole Miss 14-1 in Game 3 of their super regional to earn a chance to play for the national championship in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Cody came in and did a tremendous job getting that third out in the second inning,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “That was an incredible, gutsy outing. He just went out and really threw well and he just did it again and again and again. Cody was the MVP of the game. Without him, we might not win that game.”

The Razorbacks (46-18) took control with a four-run second inning, scored three more in the third and added five in the sixth to bury the Rebels (41-27). Scroggins allowed just two hits, one of those an infield single, and did not walk a batter.

“His stuff was electric,” Ole Miss catcher Cooper Johnson said. “He has four-seam and two-seam (fastballs) and splits it half and half. The four-seam has a ton of ride on it and he has good location. He was just locating his fastball and staying at the knees. He just had an awesome day.”

Arkansas had 12 hits off four Ole Miss pitchers, including six for extra bases, and was 8-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

Right fielder Heston Kjerstad and catcher Casey Opitz each homered and combined for six hits and eight RBIs.

Kjerstad doubled in the second and scored on Opitz’s single to tie the game at 1-1. Jacob Nesbit drove in a run with a single, and Trevor Ezell singled to right to score two more.

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said both Nesbit and Ezell hit good pitches.

“Nesbit hit a 1-2 slider that (Johnson) actually went down to block,” Bianco said. “He smoked it down the left-field line. Then Ezell, he has two strikes and comes up with a big base hit. I thought those two big at-bats in the second just really turned the game.”

Kjerstad doubled into the right-field corner in the third to drive in two runs, and Opitz added an RBI single for a 7-1 lead.

SHORT HOPS

— Arkansas will be making its 10th appearance at the College World Series and its sixth under Van Horn. This is the first time in program history that Arkansas has made consecutive CWS appearances. The Razorbacks were eliminated by Oregon State last year.

— The team that scored first in all three games of the super regional ended up losing. Ole Miss jumped to a 1-0 lead Monday before Arkansas took control in the second inning. On Sunday, the Razorbacks jumped ahead 2-0 in the first before Ole Miss rolled to a 13-5 win.

— Arkansas will take on Florida State in the opening game of the College World Series after the Seminoles swept LSU in their super regional. This is longtime Florida State coach Mike Martin’s final season as the Seminoles’ coach. He is the winningest coach in Division I baseball with 2,021 career victories.