Schmidt Super For Razorbacks

OXFORD, Miss. -- Nick Schmidt keeps moving up the Arkansas strikeout chart and the Razorbacks keep moving up in the Southeastern Conference.

Schmidt threw seven innings, striking out 11 as the No. 10 Razorbacks won their fourth straight conference game, 12-3 over No. 22 Ole Miss on Friday at Swayze Field.

"Not that he hasn't been throwing great, he'd been throwing well enough to win," said Razorbacks catcher Brian Walker. "But he hadn't been the guy, the Friday night guy that we all know that he can be.

"He didn't throw well to the first couple of hitters, but he got out of the jam and then he was the Schmitty of old and that's the guy that I need the rest of the year --that we need the rest of the year."

The win, coupled with Alabama's loss against Florida, moved the Razorbacks into a tie atop the SEC West with the Crimson Tide, who the Razorbacks (35-15, 15-10 SEC) swept at home last weekend. Ole Miss (31-19,13-12) is two games back.

After loading the bases with no outs in the first, Schmidt worked out of the jam giving up only one run. He gave up two hits and a walk in the first, but just two hits and a walk in his last six innings. Schmidt didn't give up another run until Justin Brashear hit a two-out home run in the seventh.

"That was the game right there in the first inning," said Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn. "Had he not been able to find the release point and the strike zone with his offspeed stuff, it might've been a whole different story."

In getting out of the jam, Schmidt utilized his curveball and changeup to keep Ole Miss' batters off-balance.

"They were trying to take his fastball away and I don't blame them, he's a fastball guy," Jorn said. "That's a solid approach and it's pretty obvious, I thought, early in the first inning, they were going to go up there and swing at fastballs, figuring at some point, you're definitely going to get some, because that's what he throws. Him being able to get the curveball and the changeup over were real equalizers on them not being able to just sit hard."

Schmidt (8-2) now has 115 strikeouts this season, the third most in Arkansas history. Schmidt is behind only David Walling, who struck out 128 in 1998 and 155 in 1999. The sophomore is tied for No. 9 on the career strikeout list at Arkansas with 204.

Jorn said Schmidt's performance was his best in a long time, perhaps since he went eight innings, giving up three runs in a win at Vanderbilt on April 8.

"Honestly, the last couple of Friday nights, he wasn't as sharp as he was tonight," Jorn said. "He just got a little out of rhythm, a little out of whack with some of the things he'd been doing. We really went back to square one (with Schmidt) all this past week going into tonight."

Going into the game, the Razorbacks had struggled offensively on Fridays since SEC play began, hitting just .196. But Arkansas had no trouble raising that average in the series opener, with 17 hits --a season-high on Friday nights during conference play.

Down 1-0 early, Arkansas' offense got a jump-start in the second, when Danny Hamblin's blooper to center found a hole to start the inning. By the time the inning was over, the Razorbacks had racked up six hits, including Jake Dugger's three-run home run.

"The way we haven't been scoring, that was crucial," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said of Schmidt's working out of the first-inning jam. "They answered it. No outs, bases loaded and we only score one and then they come back and put three up on the board. That's a big momentum change and again,we did that for several weeks and we were on the other end of it. Now, we're on the wrong end of it."

Dugger's shot was one of three Arkansas home runs, as Brian Walker added one in the third and Hamblin another in the fourth to put the Razorbacks up 8-1.

The bottom third of the Razorbacks' lineup combined for six hits.

"That's always big if you can maintain some offense at the bottom of your order," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "A lot of teams, they put guys at the bottom of the order because they're not quite as good as the guys at the front or the middle but if you can have an end of the order with a little bit of speed and some pop, which we do, you can start some rallies there and then the top of the order can drive them in and that's what we did tonight."

Hamblin went 4-for-5, coming a triple short of the cycle. Clint Arnold was the only Razorbacks starter without a hit. James Ewing and Walker each had three hits, while Dugger and Matt Willard added two each.

Although Arkansas jumped on Ole Miss starter Craig Rodriguez (3-3), the junior lasted into the seventh inning, giving up nine runs on 13 hits, but walking none.

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