OXFORD, Miss. – No. 3 Ole Miss faced a monumental Saturday task in a crucial doubleheader with top-ranked Arkansas, but the Rebels rebounded from a disappointing 7-3 Game 1 loss for an emphatic victory to split the day Game 2. Mike Bianco’s squad exploded for 32 hits across the doubleheader and used a powerful offensive attack in the nightcap to defeat the Razorbacks 13-6.
Doug Nikhazy picked up his third victory of the season in Game 2 after 5.2 strong innings pitched and just two earned runs allowed, while Tyler Myers was credited the loss in Game 1 after pitching a third of an inning and allowing two runs. Arkansas’ comeback victory in Game 1 spoiled an otherwise efficient night from Gunnar Hoglund, who turned in 5.1 IP and even carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning.
Offensively, the Rebels were led at the plate by a dominant day all around from their catcher Hayden Dunhurst, who was 7-for-10 on the afternoon. Through both games, Dunhurst combined for five RBI, one run, one triple and one double, and he undoubtedly provided the Rebels the spark they needed to rebound for a Game 2 victory.
No. 3 Ole Miss and No. 1 Arkansas are all set for a thrilling Game 3 matchup at Swayze Field tomorrow that will decide the series as well as the leader in the SEC West—and perhaps the No. 1 ranking in the country as well after Vanderbilt’s series defeat to Georgia.
Although Ole Miss outhit the Razorbacks in Game 1, the 100th meeting all-time between the schools, the story of the game was missed opportunities by the Rebels and aplenty of opportunities awarded to Arkansas. Ole Miss notched 14 hits to Arkansas’ mere eight, but the Rebels also left 13 runners on base and issued 11 walks of their own, giving the Razorbacks too many chances that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Saturday’s series opener was also an uncharacteristic outing for the Rebel ace Gunnar Hoglund, who was able to go 5.1 IP with just two hits allowed, but he issued five walks of his own, a new career high for the usual Friday night starter. Tyler Myers, working in relief, was handed the loss, his first of the season, as the Rebels simply couldn’t respond to the Arkansas offense.
Ole Miss opened up the game hot, scoring two in the opening frame on a Hayden Dunhurst two-RBI double that came late in his at-bat in the first of many positive plate appearances for the Rebel catcher on the day.
On the mound, Hoglund retired six straight to open his start before he allowed a leadoff walk in the third, the first of five for the Rebel starter. Besides the walks, however, Hoglund was otherwise perfect and didn’t even allow a hit through five complete innings.
In the sixth, however, Arkansas finally broke through for three runs, all credited to the Rebel starter, and a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Jackson Kimbrell and Tyler Myers attempted to stem the bleeding in relief of Hoglund in the sixth, but the Arkansas bats were too mighty for the Rebel relievers and were able to push five runs across the combined arms of Kimbrell, Myers, Austin Miller, and Josh Mallitz.
The Rebels surely threatened late in the ballgame of Game 1, including three golden opportunities with the bases loaded, but each time they stranded a trio of runners to ensure the Razorback lead.
Ole Miss got out to a hot start in Game 2 behind a strong early effort from Nikhazy and quick work at the plate. Just like in the first game, the Rebels once again plated a pair of runs in the opening inning.
Those two runs came as the Rebel bats erupted four hits in that first frame with leadoff singles from Jacob Gonzalez and Peyton Chatagnier, followed by a pair of RBI singles from Hayden Dunhurst and TJ McCants.
Nikhazy was able to stymie the Razorback bats for the better part of three innings that included a stretch of just nine batters faced to open his start for the Rebels. Meanwhile, the Ole Miss bats were continuing to pour it on Arkansas.
In the third, after a Kevin Graham walk and Justin Bench single, right fielder Hayden Leatherwood, making his first start of the day, unloaded on a pitch and sent it into the student section in right field for a three-run homer to make it a 5-0 ballgame after three complete.
Arkansas finally broke through in the fourth after a critical error would come around to haunt the Rebels. Bench dropped a would-be third out on a high pop fly in the infield grass, and the Razorbacks made him pay with two subsequent RBI singles following the error.
Ole Miss was able to recoup both runs from Arkansas just one inning later when the Rebels strung together yet another four-hit, two-run frame highlighted by RBI singles from Jacob Gonzalez and Ben Van Cleve.
Arkansas strung together three runs to cut it to a two-run ballgame by the seventh, which called for an early entrance into the ballgame for the Rebel closer Taylor Broadway.
The Rebels and Razorbacks traded blows throughout the game’s closing frames, with Ole Miss adding one in the seventh and Arkansas responding with one of its own in the eighth.
Ole Miss, however, made certain there would be just one Razorback comeback on the day with an explosive eighth inning, in which the Rebels scored five more runs and extended their lead to seven. In the inning, Graham, Dunhurst, Bench, and John Rhys Plumlee all drove in runs to help the Rebels pack on the insurance and help deliver Broadway an easy close to the top of the ninth.
With the win, Ole Miss evened the series and positioned itself for a crucial series victory against Arkansas, set to be decided at Swayze Field on Sunday with a first pitch of 1:30 p.m. CT.
– Ole Miss improves to 24-7 on the year, and 49-52 all-time vs. Arkansas.
– Ole Miss and Arkansas are now both 8-3 in conference play on the year. Sunday’s winner will claim the outright SEC West lead.
– Mike Bianco and Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn tied legendary LSU and Mississippi State coaches Skip Bertman and Ron Polk for the most games played between two SEC coaches with 66. Bianco leads the all-time series 39-27.
– For the fourth Ole Miss straight series against Arkansas, the two clubs will decide the series fate in a penultimate Game 3 finale.
– In Game 1, Hayden Dunhurst notched a new career-best with five hits as part of a 5-for-5 game. His previous high this season was just two hits in a game.
– Dunhurst was also 7-for-10 across both games today.
– Gunnar Hoglund recorded a new career-high with five walks today. The Rebel ace also carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, throwing 100 pitches before allowing a hit.
– Tyler Myers recorded his first loss of the season today, and dropped to 2-1 in games out of the bullpen.
– Hayden Leatherwood recorded his second HR of the season today in the third inning of Game 2.
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Story by OLE MISS SPORTS NEWS
- Image Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics