With a trip to Omaha on the line, the Arkansas baseball squad dominated Ole Miss in the first and third games of the Super Regional series to earn its first consecutive back-to-back appearances in the College World Series.
Arkansas routed Ole Miss 11-2 behind 11 hits and three homers in game one of the three-game series of the Super Regional June 7.
After a home run by Ole Miss’ Grae Kessinger put the Rebels in front 1-0 in the first inning, Arkansas levelled the score in the bottom of the frame on an RBI-single from junior outfielder Dominic Fletcher. Junior second baseman Jack Kenley followed two batters later with a three-run bomb that gave the Hogs a 4-1 lead that would only grow.
Redshirt junior pitcher Isaiah Campbell threw a career-high 8 ⅓ innings and allowed only two runs on five hits, walked one and struck out seven. The two runs he allowed came on solo shots from Kessinger in the first inning and left fielder Thomas Dillard in the ninth. Campbell earned his 12th win of the season in his last start at Baum-Walker Stadium.
“Just walking off for the last time on the mound at Baum, it was special,” Campbell said. “A lot of emotions when I was walking off that mound, just seeing the fans giving me a standing ovation, it was awesome. I’m going to miss this place and everything, but we’ve still got unfinished business.”
Redshirt senior Trevor Ezell went 3-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and an RBI. He would have had two homers if not for a spectacular play from Rebels’ center fielder Ryan Olenek, who scaled the wall and robbed Ezell of what would have been his fourth extra-base hit of the day.
Arkansas’ first four hitters all had two or more hits and went a combined 9-for-18 with seven RBIs, two doubles and two homers. Sophomore utility player Matt Goodheart had three hits, three RBIs and a home run on the day.
The Hogs got out to an early lead in game two Sunday as junior outfielder Dominic Fletcher’s two-run homer fired up the Arkansas crowd. The Rebels answered in the bottom of the first, scoring three runs, and then they extended the lead by scoring five more in the second to give them a six-run cushion. Ole Miss went on to score 13 runs on 12 hits, four of them home runs.
Freshman Connor Noland started his 18th game of the year Sunday but exited the game after just one inning. He allowed four runs on three hits, two of them home runs. It was Noland’s shortest start since being pulled without recording an out against Vanderbilt on April 5.
Arkansas equaled the Rebels’ hit total with 12, and the Hogs’ 2-4 hitters each had at least one hit and one RBI.
Rebels’ infielder Tyler Keenan had a bases-clearing triple in the second inning that gave Ole Miss a 7-2 lead and hit a home run later in the game to give him four RBIs. Rebels’ infielder Cole Zabowski also had a home run in the game and tacked on three RBIs.
The Razorbacks used three straight two-out doubles from Ezell, sophomore shortstop Casey Martin and Goodheart to draw within three in the fourth inning, but Ole Miss scored three in the sixth and two more in the seventh to secure the win and force a game three.
Redshirt junior reliever Cody Scroggins threw 4 ⅓ scoreless innings out of the pen in game three of the series on Monday, backing an Arkansas offense that was lethal from top to bottom as the Hogs stamped their ticket to Omaha.
Scroggins entered the game with two outs in the second in relief of freshman starter Patrick Wicklander. He held the Rebels scoreless for 4 ⅓ innings, allowed two hits, no walks, struck out eight and recorded his third win of the season.
Arkansas was relentless on offense, tallying 14 runs on 12 hits, six of those going for extra bases. It was Scroggins’ first appearance in the Super Regional and his longest outing of the season.
Sophomore outfielder Heston Kjerstad and sophomore catcher Casey Opitz struggled through their first two games of the series, going a combined 2-for-15 with one RBI, but were the motor of Arkansas’ offense in the series finale. Opitz went 3-for-3 with four RBIs and a home run, and Kjerstad was 3-for-4 with four RBIs, a round-tripper and two doubles.
Ezell continued his postseason dominance with a three-hit, three-RBI performance. Two of Ezell’s three RBIs came on a pivotal single in the seventh that gave the Hogs a 4-1 lead that capped off a four-run second inning.
Junior relievers Jacob Kostyshock and Matt Cronin held Ole Miss scoreless for the last three innings of the game and sent Arkansas to the College World Series for the second year in a row. It’s the first time in history that the Hogs have gone to Omaha two years in a row, and the sixth time appearing in the CWS under the reign of Razorbacks’ head coach Dave Van Horn.
“It was just an incredible ride, a journey or whatever you want to call it this season,” Van Horn said. “Win or lose, it’s going to finish in Omaha, and that’s where you want to finish.”
After a disappointing SEC tournament, Arkansas’ bats awakened for the Regional and Super Regional tournaments. The Hogs scored an average of 8.3 runs and allowed only 3.7 runs per game over the span of the Regional and Super Regional tournaments and had nine or more hits in all of those games.
Arkansas posts a 46-18 record on the season as they head to Omaha to take on Florida State in the first round of the College World Series. The first game will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday and will be broadcast on ESPN.