By Zach Swartz/Special to the Journal
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ole Miss will miss out on this week’s SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., after dropping both games of a doubleheader against Arkansas on Saturday.
It’s the first time since 2002 the Rebels will not be in the SEC tourney field.
Ole Miss took a 2-0 loss in Game 1 and dropped the second, 5-3, despite carrying a lead into the sixth inning. Both were seven-inning games after Friday night’s rainout.
The Rebels (31-24, 13-17 SEC) appeared to be in good position to make the tournament after Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State – three of the four teams that entered Saturday ahead of Ole Miss in the division – all lost.
The fourth was Arkansas (36-18, 15-15), but the Rebels were unable to do their part to get past them.
“It’s tough to accept right now,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Biacno. “But at the end of the day, the rules are the rules and the tiebreakers are the tiebreakers …We just didn’t win enough games.”
In Game 1, Ole Miss could not figure out Arkansas sophomore lefty Randall Fant (3-3), who retired 16 Rebels in a row after a first-inning walk. Rebels starter David Goforth (4-8) was the hard-luck loser, going the complete six innings while allowing two runs on six hits.
A sacrifice fly in the first plated the Razorbacks’ first run, and Arkansas’ Collin Kuhn added insurance with a homer in the sixth. Ole Miss got three men on in the seventh, but Yarbrough was thrown out at the plate with one out, and Will Allen grounded out to end the game.
With the loss, Game 2 meant one thing: winner goes to Hoover, loser goes home.
The Rebels got RBIs from Matt Tracy and Miles Hamblin in the first to take the early lead, and Matt Snyder hooked a solo shot around the right field pole to extend it to 3-0 in the third.
Ole Miss starter Austin Wright retired seven of his first nine batters but gave up three straight hits in the third. One was a two-run shot by Kuhn, who pestered the Rebels with a long ball in each game of the series, which cut the lead to 3-2.
Bobby Wahl relieved Wright in the fourth. He held the Hogs to just one hit, but lack of control in the sixth – a walk, hit batter and balk – put runners on second and third with one out. A perfectly placed bunt by Arkansas shortstop Tim Carver tied the game, and a single and sacrifice fly gave the Razorbacks the 5-3 lead going into the seventh.
Two Rebels reached scoring position in the seventh with one out, but Jordan King, who pinch ran for Snyder, was gunned down at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch. It was the second straight game that a Rebel was out at home in the final inning.
Will Allen walked, but Austin Anderson grounded out to end the game – and Ole Miss’s chance to make the tournament.
“The only thing we could hope for is to have our hitters come through in the seventh inning and hope for the best,” said Wahl (0-2), who took the loss. “We were in it to win, and we played really hard.”
Barrett Astin (5-1), the third of five Arkansas pitchers, tossed four innings of two-hit shutout relief and picked up the win after his one-out save in the first game. D.J. Baxendale picked up his third save Game 2.
Arkansas is the SEC West champion and will be the No. 2 seed, playing seventh-seeded Alabama in Wednesday’s first game. An Ole Miss win would have eliminated the Razorbacks from the tournament and handed the Rebels the No. 8 slot.
“We played hard all day and all weekend with our backs against the wall knowing we had to win two,” said Bianco. “You have to credit Arkansas. They made the plays and we left some opportunities out there.”
Ole Miss will find out its NCAA Tournament fate on Monday, May 30, with a live broadcast of the selection show on ESPN at 11:30 a.m.