Ole Miss’ first SEC tournament game will be against a pitcher the Rebels were unable to figure out in Oxford.
Arkansas right-hander Chris Oliver went seven innings and allowed only one run. The Razorbacks came to life over the last two innings with six runs and went on to win 11-1.
They were in firm command much earlier after chasing Sam Smith after three innings. Arkansas posted two runs in the second, three in the third and would finish with 16 hits. The five runs were more than enough for Oliver.
“He’s one of those guys with one of those arms that when he wants to throw it 97 he can throw it 97. He can pitch at 92, 94 and 95 easy. He’s gotten his change-up going. When he gets on top of that curve ball it’s got some depth. You’ve got to expect that thing, and then he can throw that fastball right by you,” Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said.
Oliver allowed five hits along with three walks, but he didn’t let the Rebels bunch them together for a big inning.
When the game was over Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco challenged the Rebels for their mental focus in the late innings.
“It’s embarrassing. It’s one thing for them to play well and pitch well, but throwing the ball to wrong bases, not communicating and letting them run on you … ,” Bianco said. “That’s the frustrating part. We’re better than that.”
Arkansas advanced to the double elimination portion of the SEC tournament with a 4-0 win over Texas A&M.
The Razorbacks have won seven of their last eight dating back to their 11-1 win in Oxford to avoid a sweep.
“We needed a win in the worst way. We were 0-2 on the weekend. We felt like we should have been 1-1 at a minimum. Oliver went out and had a tremendous outing, and we scored a lot of runs. He’s been pitching well down the stretch.”
Van Horn praised the depth of his pitching staff — The Hogs top three starters have sub-3.00 ERAs — but that’s not been the key component of the turnaround.
“Why we’ve started winning is we’ve started scoring runs. We started getting big hits finally. We’ve played pretty good defense this year, better than the last couple of years, turned double plays better.”
Arkansas had only six hits against the Aggies, and the three-run seventh that sealed the deal included runs scored on a hit-by-pitch and a walk.
Van Horn is hoping for another big outing from Oliver against Ole Miss.
“They have power. They have guys that can really run, and they’ve got good pitching. They don’t throw many balls except when they want to,” he said. “They make you earn everything you get. That’s why they fought through this league and won the West. They’re good.”