By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – It’s tied at the top in the SEC West again.
Aaron Barrett pitched a career-long eight innings, and Matt Smith drove in all three runs, as No. 11 Ole Miss edged No. 14 Arkansas 3-2 to even their SEC series at 1-1.
One day after the Razorbacks slammed three Ole Miss pitchers with 16 hits, they managed only two and couldn’t put big innings together the way they did in Friday’s 11-4 Arkansas victory.
Ole Miss won without cleanup hitter Matt Snyder, who tweaked his injured shoulder on Friday. His status for today’s decisive game, which begins at 1:30 p.m., is unclear.
Barrett scattered six hits, only one of them for extra bases, a home run by Razorbacks third baseman Zack Cox in the fourth inning.
It was a comeback effort of sorts of Barrett, who had not reached the fourth inning in two of his last three starts including last week at Mississippi State.
“He reminded me of how he was at the beginning of the year,” Smith said.
Smith got the Rebels (34-14, 15-8 SEC) on the board with a two-run home run in the first against Arkansas right-hander D.J. Baxendale, who was making his first start. Alex Yarbrough doubled and scored ahead of Smith.
Smith had an RBI single in the second and was 3 for 4 on the night.
Baxendale lasted only 12⁄3 innings, but right-handed reliever T.J. Forrest kept the Rebels scoreless for 4 1-3 innings. While Forrest kept the Razorbacks (36-11, 15-8) in the game, however, Barrett kept them at bay.
After Cox’s home run Barrett retired the next five batters he faced, then ended the sixth with a swinging strikeout of five-hole hitter Andy Wilkins after giving up a single and a walk with two outs.
Arkansas’ best chance to get Barrett came in the seventh when it had runners at the corners with one out. Barrett, though, snagged a come-backer from nine-hole hitter Tim Carver. He threw home, and Travis Sample was tagged out by catcher Taylor Hightower in a rundown. Hightower then turned and threw to shortstop Kevin Mort, who raced to cover third as James McCann tried to swipe an extra base in the confusion.
“That was a huge momentum swing for us,” Smith said.
And Barrett capitalized on the swing. He set down the top of the Arkansas order in the eighth, ending it with a swinging strikeout of Cox, who fouled off four two-strike pitches before going down.
Brett Huber gave up a solo home run with two outs in the ninth but got Sample on a ground ball to end the game. It’s the eighth save of the season for Huber, his third in eight days.
“Aaron has great command of his fastball, and that might be the reason he’s struggled some in the last few weeks,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “He was as sharp tonight as I’ve seen him. That might be the best game he’s had all year.”
Click viewslide link under picture above for photos from NEMS Daily Journal photographer Deste Lee.