Arkansas has its formula for Thursday night. Just like against LSU one week ago, Dominic Taccolini followed by Zach Jackson was too much for Ole Miss in the 10-3 opener in SEC baseball at Baum Stadium.
Ole Miss couldn't touch Taccolini and Jackson. The front rows in Baum Stadium were constantly fanned by the swing and misses from the Rebels over first eight innings.
“They both have great stuff,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “Taccolini's stuff was everywhere, with three pitches and Jackson is 92-93-94 and then an electric breaking ball. You kind of have to guess with him (if you are a batter).”
There was a little excitement thanks to eight walks, but Taccolini and Jackson combined for 13 strikeouts. Jackson got out of a bases loaded jam with three strikeouts in the seventh. He whiffed the heart of the order – J.B. Woodsman, Sikes Orvis and Tate Blackman. The Rebels are 2 for 34 on the bases loaded.
"I thought early on they played better than we did," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "They swung it better, but we were able to minimize, get out of a couple innings and keep it close. Then against their big closer, Jackson, we had the bases loaded against the middle of the lineup and credit him, three punch-outs in a row.
"That was a big blow when you have an opportunity, especially with your main guys in the lineup. More disappointing probably than that is you could tell that just knocked the wind out of us. We come out and make three errors and in doing so it kind of takes the pressure off of them, off of Jackson and that was disappointing we didn't continue playing the game because we could have maybe had another opportunity later in the game. Coming out and making three errors and giving them three unearned runs takes the pressure off."
The Arkansas offense cracked 15 hits and took advantage of four Ole Miss errors, two on one scoring play.
Joe Serrano, moving into the leadoff spot for the first time this season, led the way with three hits. The Hogs put it away with three in the seventh and two in the eighth, three of them unearned.
The Razorbacks (13-12, 2-5) play host to the Rebels (13-13, 3-4) at 6:05 p.m. Friday night in the second game of the series.
The Hogs broke open a 2-2 game with three in the fifth. Serrano singleds and moves to second on a Bobby Wernes ground out. Andrew Benintendi singled to center to score Serrano from second. Serrano dodged the tag at the plate, without sliding. Cullen Gassaway followed with a one-hopper off the wall in right center for an RBI double. Tyler Spoon added an RBI double off the wall in left, scoring pinch runner Clark Eagan.
The Rebels seemed to fall apart after the three strikeouts with the bases loaded.
“Things are so even in this league, that it's like that,” Van Horn said. “That's when their mistakes came, after that inning.”
The Hogs won for just the third time in 13 games and did it after a long night. They won 7-3 at Memphis on Wednesday night, then bused home through a nasty thunderstorm. They made it home a little before 3 a.m. Van Horn said there was a scare just after they passed Little Rock.
“We hit that cold front and there was some wind, real spooky,” Van Horn said. “The bus went sideways, maybe down and it was all the driver could do to hold on to the wheel with two hands. I was right there beside him wanting to know if he needed some help. I think if you weren't awake, you were after that.”
Jackson said he was awake.
“I was in the back of the bus in a card game,” Jackson said. “I couldn't tell if the bus swerved in a curve in the road or what.”
Serrano said, “It was late when we got home, but that's just like a minor league trip. You are playing, on the road and playing again. A lot of guys slept in this morning. I thought we were a little sluggish, but Dominic went boom, boom, boom at the start and we were into it.”
Taccolini's boom fizzled in the third when his slider was low for five walks. There was a caught stealing to help keep the Rebels to two runs.
“I couldn't find the plate,” Taccolini said. “Give Bobby Wernes credit. He encouraged me. I got Orvis on a ground ball and that seemed to help. I was pissed off at that point. It shouldn't have happened. Tucker Pennell freaking saved me. I threw maybe 10 sliders in the dirt and he gobbled them up like they were nothing.”
Bianco said, "They walked eight guys and hit one and we only scored three runs. We had opportunities in the third and in the seventh, but didn't get one big hit, one big double that busted the game open."
Van Horn said he juggled the lineup in Memphis and again Thursday night, going with a platoon system in a right against left setup.
“The team is starting to play,” he said. “We are using more players, some platoon. I told them it's not about you, it's about team.
“We've let too many games slip away and we can't get them all back at once. But we are playing better.”
The move of Serrano to leadoff came after a heart to heart with Van Horn. The senior outfielder cranked a homer at Memphis.
“I had a talk about two weeks ago with him,” Van Horn said. “I told him he's a senior and it's time to go. He made a few adjustments in his stance and he's starting to square up some pitches.”
Serrano said, “He told me there were some flaws in my swing. It's not really about me preferring leadoff. I'll hit anywhere. Coach gave me some thoughts on being productive. I worked on some things Monday during an off day and some things that felt good. Hopefully, it will put me in a groove the rest of the season.”
Trey Killian will start for the Hogs on Friday night and he'll have that spot going forward when the Hogs get away from the Thursday openers for SEC series.
“No matter what happens going forward, it will be Trey on Friday night,” Van Horn said. “We got him another day of rest and he'll be fine going forward on Friday.”
Arkansas 10, Ole Miss 3
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