The No. 5 Arkansas baseball team took two out of three games against the Mississippi Rebels on the road, moving into first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division, a half-game over No. 1 LSU.
The Razorbacks came into the series having not played since last weekend, when they won their second of the first three series in league play. Ole Miss came in struggling, just 1-8 against the SEC.
Inclement weather in Oxford, Mississippi, postponed Thursday’s series opener to be part of a Friday doubleheader.
In the first game, Arkansas took advantage of an early defensive miscue. Junior right fielder Jace Bohrofen led off the second inning with a bouncer to second baseman Peyton Chatagnier, which popped out of his glove on the transfer, allowing the first baserunner of the day. Three batters later, junior third baseman Caleb Cali hit his fourth homer of the year to the opposite field to give the Hogs a 2-0 lead.
Junior Hunter Hollan needed a bounce-back start after giving up seven earned runs last time out against Alabama. With an early lead in hand, the lefty struck out four batters the first time through the order and had a stretch of seven straight retired.
Three of the first four batters reached against Ole Miss starter Jack Dougherty in the fifth. Sophomore second baseman Peyton Stovall drove in a run with a groundout, and Bohrofen hit an RBI single.
The bases were loaded with one out for senior first baseman Brady Slavens, who parked a ball into the Mississippi bullpen to stretch the lead to 8-0 for his first home run since March 17 against Auburn.
“That was a big swing on an 0-2 count,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “Fastball kind of up and in, just short, quick to the ball and hit it out of the park. It was really good to see him swing the bat well and get some big hits for us.”
Hollan held down a potent Ole Miss lineup, turning in six scoreless frames, only allowing three hits and dropping his season ERA to an even 3.00.
A Slavens sacrifice fly in the ninth capped off a five-RBI game and an 11-2 win as Arkansas won its third series opener in four conference series.
In the second game, the Hogs squandered a golden opportunity in the second, as Rebel starter Xavier Rivas struggled to find the strike zone. The first three batters — Bohrofen, Cali, and sophomore designated hitter Kendall Diggs — reached, and one scored on a single by Slavens. The left-hander came back to retire the next three, including strikeouts of graduate shortstop Bolton and junior center fielder Tavian Josenberger to limit the damage.
Ole Miss tied the game against sophomore Hagen Smith, who made his first start since March 10, with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the second. The Rebels took the lead in the fourth 2-1 on third baseman Ethan Lege’s RBI single.
Arkansas responded in the top of the fifth. Graduate left fielder Jared Wegner drew a one-out walk and came around to score on Diggs’ double down the right field line to tie the game, but in the sixth, the Ole Miss bats came alive for the first time in the series.
Center fielder Ethan Groff led off the inning with a go-ahead homer. Smith hit the next batter, the last one he faced.
With sophomore Dylan Carter having thrown 33 pitches in the first game, Van Horn turned to junior Cody Adcock. A single and wild pitch allowed an insurance run to score and closed the book on Smith. The ace finished with five innings of work, four earned runs with seven strikeouts.
Adcock continued to struggle, issuing a walk and surrendering a three-run homer to Lege, blowing the game open to 7-2.
The Hogs put plenty of runners on the bases throughout the game, but it was a struggle to score. All told, 11 baserunners were stranded. Sophomore second baseman Peyton Stovall hit a two-run homer in the ninth, but Arkansas dropped the nightcap 7-4.
On Saturday, Cali continued to swing a hot bat, opening the scoring in the top of the third with a solo home run to center field. The junior college transfer started all three games and finished the weekend 4-11 and two homers.
“I’m just trying to do enough to win ball games for this team,” Cali said. “It feels good to be in the lineup, obviously, these past two weekends, because I feel like I’ve contributed to some wins that we’ve gotten and obviously that feels great.”
An outfield assist by Josenberger in the fourth cut down a runner at second and gave junior starter Will McEntire a critical first out in the fourth, but the Rebels still tied the game on an RBI double by first baseman Anthony Calarco.
A Cali leadoff walk set the stage in the fifth, as sloppy play by the Rebels came back to bite. An error charged to shortstop Jacob Gonzalez put runners at the corners with one out.
Cali came home to score on a wild pitch, and a Stovall RBI single stretched the lead to 3-1.
In the bottom of the inning, a Chatagnier walk chased McEntire from the game. The righty, who battled the flu all week, gutted his way through 4 ⅔ innings of two-run baseball with two strikeouts. Carter came in on relief for the second day in a row, but Gonzalez greeted him rudely with a two-run homer to erase Arkansas’ lead and atone for his error.
Cali once again got on base to start the seventh and later came around to score on an RBI single by Josenberger.
More sloppy defense allowed an insurance run to score on a Stovall single to right. TJ McCants bobbled the ball on the initial read and lobbed the ball into first base, allowing Josenberger to score all the way from first.
The extra run proved significant, as Ole Miss scratched out a run in the bottom of the seventh. The usual suspects came back to get the Hogs again — Lege hit a one-out double and came around to score on a Gonzalez RBI single.
In the back-and-forth affair, Arkansas restored a two-run cushion in the eighth, when Diggs’ single drove in Wegner, who led off with a double.
The Razorbacks took that two-run cushion into the bottom of the ninth. Two running catches by Wegner and Josenberger cemented a strong performance by freshman Gage Wood, who gave the Hogs three innings of one-run baseball, striking out four and picking up his second save of the season. He struck out Chatagnier to end the game and cap off another series win.
“We watched film about a week and a half ago, maybe two weeks,” Wood said. “We really talked about getting that slider working, and I can think of many times today where I used that slider, and I got swings and misses. I even struck out their best hitter, in my opinion.”
The Hogs will return home to face Arkansas-Little Rock for a two-game midweek series. The first game starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and will stream live on SEC Network Plus.
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