The Razorbacks (37-16 overall, 13-15 in the Southeastern Conference) are locked in a three-way tie with Auburn and Vanderbilt. They would be the No. 7 seed if the SEC Tournament if the season ended today while the No. 19 Rebels (38-16, 16-12) secured a spot in the tourney. Game 2 of the series is set for 3:05 p.m. today.
Arkansas stranded 11 base runners and were held to only four hits, the second lowest output this season. In addition, Rebels pitchers Mark Holliman and Stephen Head combined for 11 strikeouts.
"We had the bat knocked out of our hand all night," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "That was embarrassing to be honest with you. I just told our hitters to look in the mirror and figure it out. It's 50-something games into the season ... Put the bat on the ball."
Trailing by a run with no outs and runners on first and third, the Razorbacks couldn't put the bat on the ball against Head, who entered in relief of starter Mark Holliman. Head struck out John Henry Marquardt and Craig Gentry before getting Jake Dugger to hit an infield popup to end the threat and Arkansas' last true chance of a rally.
It was a situation which could have called for a bunt since the Hogs had their nine-hole hitter (Marquardt) at the plate and a stingy southpaw on the mound in Head.
"I thought about (bunting)," Van Horn said. "But I've got (Clay) Goodwin who can't run on third. I've got a guy that can't run there (Marquardt was making his first start since knee surgery on May 2) and he's not a great bunter. They've got a great fielding pitcher on the mound, so (a bunt) is going to have to be perfect.
"What we would have got out of it was no runs and maybe a sacrifice, so what better of a position would we have been in (with a bunt)?
"We've just got to hit the baseball. We can't strike out."
The Rebels, despite their defense lining up to protect against a possible bunt, weren't surprised Marquardt or Gentry didn't lay one down either to try to even the score at 4-all.
"I would have thought somebody would have put it in play," Head said. "I'm not a strikeout pitcher and I'm sure (bunting) entered into (Arkansas') minds, but I was able to get a couple of strikeouts which was bare luck."
Ole Miss built a 4-0 lead with three runs in the second and another in the fourth off Arkansas starter Nick Schmidt. The four earned runs on eight hits were the most the usually consistent freshman has allowed in a start.
"I thought we swung it well," said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, whose team had 15 hits. "It was one of those situations where we couldn't bunch (hits) together and we never got the big hit or we could have scored a few more.
"I know this wasn't Schmidt's best game, but he was able to minimize and keep his team in the game."
In the second, consecutive leadoff singles by Ole Miss' Jon-Jon Hancock and Zack Cozart were followed by a two-run triple to left-center field by Barry Gunther. Miles Franklin then grounded out to second to score Gunther.
Gunther singled in the fourth and later scored on a single to right by Chris Coghlan to make it 4-0.
After leaving two base runners in the second and fourth innings, Arkansas finally broke the ice in the fifth as two runs came across when Danny Hamblin drew a bases-loaded walk and Clint Arnold hit a sacrifice fly. The Hogs added another run in the sixth with back-to-back doubles by seniors Scott Hode and Goodwin to close the gap to 4-3.
Hode's line drive to right-center was the first hit off Holliman, a hard-throwing right-hander who held the Hogs to three hits in a 1-0 win last season. He allowed one earned run on two hits while striking out eight before being relieved by Head with no outs in the sixth.
The Rebels picked up a run in the seventh to increase the lead to 5-3 when Justin Henry's sacrifice fly scored Head, who reached on a single and led his offense with a 3-for-5 effort.
"Holliman's no-hitting (the Hogs), but they're still scoring runs," Head said. "They don't go away. They play hard and they're in it every ball game, so these next two games, anything can happen."
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