By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Zack Cox hits mostly singles, but when you hit enough of them, they can change a game.
Friday night Cox changed it with his two-out intentional walk. Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco chose instead to pitch to Brett Eibner.
Eibner’s three-run home run in the seventh inning changed the tone, and Arkansas hammered away at the Ole Miss bullpen en route to an 11-4 win before 8,519 fans at Swayze Field.
Eibner’s 17th home run gave Arkansas a 4-2 lead and opened the flood gates as the No. 14-ranked Razorbacks, the SEC’s top-hitting team against league pitching, cranked out 16 total hits and scored 10 runs over the final three innings.
No. 11 Ole Miss had a 10-game win streak snapped and falls a game behind Arkansas in the SEC West race. Game 2 in the series is tonight at 7.
Ole Miss ace Drew Pomeranz (6-1) suffered his first loss. He had retired Eibner twice and hit him one other time, but Eibner hit a 1-1 change-up and smashed it off the batter’s eye in center field.
Pomeranz gave up nine hits and four runs, all earned, in 6 2-3 innings.
“You’re talking about one guy hitting about 120 points higher than the other guy,” Bianco said. “Certainly we have a lot of respect for Eibner, but you’re talking about a guy in Cox who was really locked in in his first three at-bats. He had barreled up three balls. It was really kind of pick your poison.”
The Razorbacks (36-10, 15-7 SEC) made it 6-2 in the eighth on a two-run home run by Tim Carver.
The Rebels (33-14, 14-8 SEC) got as close as 6-4 in the bottom of the inning when Matt Smith answered with his own two-run homer.
But Arkansas buried the Rebels in the ninth with five hits and five runs, four coming on a pinch-hit grand slam by Travis Sample.
The Razorbacks couldn’t get the big inning against Pomeranz but feasted against relievers Matt Crouse and Trent Rothlin, who gave up seven hits and seven runs in a combined 21⁄3 innings of work. Both allowed a home run.
At the time of the intentional walk, Cox had three hits, but they were all 2-out singles, none leading to a Razorbacks’ run.
Still, Cox, who began the night hitting .443, impacted the game in his first at-bat when he hit a shot off Pomeranz’ right leg.
Pomeranz waved off the training staff as they trotted to see him. He was evaluated, however, and in the innings that followed, his velocity was less than it usually is.
“I really didn’t feel it all. I just tried to kick the ball out to Zach Miller (at third),” Pomeranz said.
The Razorbacks’ got back-to-back hits in the second, a double by designated hitter Monk Kreder, who scored on a single to center by James McCann, the next man up.
The Rebels got the run back in the bottom of the second when Taylor Hashman took a 1-2 pitch deep into the left field party section. It was his seventh home run of the season.