No Sunday Sizzle

Ole Miss hadn't had a result like the series finale 11-1 loss to Arkansas all season. Through 48 prior games, they'd all been close losses or victories. Then came Sunday.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco

IMG 1392[1] from Ben Garrett on Vimeo.

Sam Smith, Mr. Reliable until the last couple of weeks, wasn't himself on the mound. And Arkansas starter Chris Oliver was sensational.

Oliver entered the contest with a 3.05 ERA and held the Rebels to well under that.

Ole Miss had actually taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning after Smith had taken care of the Razorbacks in the top of the first. But it was 5-1 Hogs after three innings, and Smith's day was done.

Jeremy Massie came in and gave the Rebels a chance to get back in it. But there was no offense to be had as Oliver went through seven innings and allowed just the lone run on five hits with five strikeouts and three walks. And his Razorback offensive teammates kept the scoring going.

Oliver's relievers, Jacob Stone in the eighth and Michael Gunn in the ninth, followed suit. Nothing for the Rebels in those frames either.

UA head coach Dave Van Horn said Oliver got better as the game moved on.

"Oliver didn't have it the first three innings, then all of a sudden he found the fastball and stated throwing harder," Van Horn said. "He had a good change-up early that got him through a couple of innings, then he started using the fastball."

Van Horn, whose team lost 3-2 and 7-4 in the previous two games against the Rebels this weekend, said his team could have won the series but certainly was the better ballclub Sunday.

"Today, we probably couldn't have played any better defensively," he said. "They have a really good defensive team, and we played better than them. Maybe a lot better. We got timely hits. We started innings with no outs, 1 out, 2 outs. We kept fouling pitches off and getting big hits."

Arkansas, which had struggled offensively much of the season, got 16 hits off Smith, Massie, Preston Tarkington, Hawtin Buchanan, and Matt Denny. The Rebels managed just five hits against the Razorback trio.

Rebel catcher Will Allen said Oliver was good and set the tone for his team after a shaky first inning.

Mike Bianco
Bruce Newman

"Unfortunately after the first inning (Oliver) was lights out," he said. "After we took away his fast ball, which is what our plan was, he just started dumping everything in there for strikes. He's a great pitcher and had a great day against us."

Allen said the Rebels were not locked in as they should have been to complete the sweep.

"It's unfortunate to see it get out of control (score-wise)," he said. "We were throwing to the wrong bases and letting people run in front of us. We're better than that, and we'll get back on track after finals. We're looking forward to Georgia."

Allen said he didn't see anything differently from Smith today than he has any other Sundays.

"It was another normal day in the pen," Allen said. "He looked sharp and ready to go. The only thing I was trying to focus with him down there was just keeping the ball down. They came out swinging, especially after the first. They got after it. They hit well. Sam will get back on track, and we have all the confidence in the world in him."

Ole Miss is now 35-14 overall and 15-9 in the Southeastern Conference, leading the Western Division with six games to play – three vs. Georgia at home and three on the road at Texas A&M.

Florida leads the overall SEC at 18-6 in conference games. In the West, Mississippi State is behind Ole Miss in second at 14-10, followed by LSU at 13-10-1 and Alabama at 13-11.

Arkansas improved to 11-13 in league play and 29-20 overall.

The Rebels have final exams this week, then host Georgia next weekend, beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m.

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