Arkansas Wins The West

With its back against the wall and after getting a nine-inning gem from starting pitcher Jess Todd, Arkansas rallies from a two-run deficit in the 10th inning Friday night to grab a 4-3 win over Ole Miss and in the process win the SEC's Western Division title.

All around him Friday night in Baum Stadium, his Arkansas Razorbacks deliriously celebrated their freshly earned Southeastern Conference Western Division title.

Amidst the jubilation, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn stopped Jess Todd, threw his arm around the junior right-hander and uttered six simple words.

"Thanks for giving us a chance," Van Horn said.

Those sentiments surely were shared by Todd's teammates, as well as the 9,218 fans that saw Arkansas beat Ole Miss 4-3 in 10 innings.

They all undoubtedly would've been bumming, not rejoicing, without Todd's nearly flawless effort. Todd struck out a career-high 12 batters, recording his third consecutive 10-plus strikeout game and his fourth in his last six starts.

Todd went nine innings before being pulled in favor of Chris Rhoads in the 10th inning. He allowed just one run on four hits and walked just two Rebels.

"Jess was unbelievable tonight," Van Horn said. "It was another one of his great games. He's just an incredible, incredible competitor."

By squandering numerous scoring opportunities, the Hogs deprived Todd of his fifth consecutive victory. But the 6-foot, 213-pounder wasn't complaining afterward.

He just beamed, thrilled at the thought of receiving some jewelry.

"I've never been a part of this," Todd said. "I can't wait 'til I get that ring."

Todd started strong, striking out Ole Miss' first two hitters in the first inning and picking Jordan Henry off first base after he walked. He allowed a two-out double in the second and then retired seven of the next eight batters he faced.

The Rebels scored their only run off Todd on an infield single in the fifth. Todd was then untouchable in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. He retired all nine of the Rebels he encountered in those three innings and struck out six of them.

"It was probably the adrenaline," Todd said.

Also, Todd experienced the return of one of his go-to pitches earlier this season.

"I had my four-seam (fastball) going," Todd said. "It's probably been about a month-and-a-half since I had that pitch going."

Despite having thrown 116 pitches already, Todd trotted out to the mound for the ninth. He gave up a two-out double to Cody Overbeck before striking out Logan Power on a hard-breaking slider, the kind he threw all evening.

All he could do then was sit, wait and, eventually, celebrate. First baseman Danny Hamblin said that no one deserved to revel in the victory more than Todd.

"He was phenomenal," Hamblin said. "Phenomenal. I mean, on Saturdays, he's the best pitcher in the country right now. He's just a bulldog out there."


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