By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Sam Smith struggled for a second-straight weekend, and this time Ole Miss didn’t have the offense to bail out its starter.
Right-hander Chris Oliver held the No. 11-ranked Rebels to five hits over seven innings in an 11-1 Arkansas win before 7,121 fans at Swayze Field on Sunday.
Ole Miss clinched the series on Saturday by erasing an early four-run deficit with its potent bats.
Something else was different a day later. Unlike Christian Trent, who recovered and pitched five innings, Smith didn’t settle in.
He lasted just three innings, seven days after leaving his start at Kentucky after just 22⁄3 innings. Ole Miss eventually won that game and completed a road sweep.
“For Sam to have success, he has to really command the ball, and today he didn’t. They made him pay for it,” Rebels coach Mike Bianco said.
Ole Miss (35-14, 15-9 SEC) had a five-game SEC win streak snapped and finds itself in first in the SEC West with six games left, a game ahead of Mississippi State.
Only three games separate the top five teams in the West.
Arkansas (30-20, 11-13) had 16 hits against five Ole Miss pitchers.
Smith was impressive in the first, using only nine pitches to retire the Hogs in order. It was not an accurate forecast of what would come.
“We swung the bats today, 16 hits, and defense was huge for us. It showed today when it’s all going our way and everything’s clicking, we’re pretty good,” Oliver said.
In the top of the second the Hogs got three straight two-out hits from Blake Baxendale, Bobby Wernes and Michael Bernal, the last two driving in runs.
Eric Fisher’s two-run single in the third was part of a three-hit inning. He struck it well and got it to the right of Ole Miss second baseman Preston Overbey without a play. Fisher was 6-for-10 for the weekend.
Arkansas added a run on a ground ball by Clark Eagan and left the third with a 5-1 lead.
Bianco was more concerned about how the Rebels played at the finish as Arkansas put up six runs over the final two innings after Jeremy Massie pitched four scoreless innings before allowing two runs in the final two-thirds of an inning.
“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.”
Ole Miss doesn’t have a midweek game. The Rebels will entertain Georgia (9-14, 23-23)this weekend, starting Friday night.
The Bulldogs are coming off a series victory against No. 9 South Carolina.