By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, on Saturday, got exactly what he wanted with former starter R.J. Hively pitching from the bullpen.
Hively was dominant for 22⁄3 relief innings in a combined 1-0 shutout, a win that secured an SEC series victory for the No. 22-ranked Rebels.
On Sunday, what Bianco hoped would not occur did, as No. 17 Arkansas exploded for 18 hits to avoid a Swayze Field sweep with an 11-3 win before 8,115 fans.
The Razorbacks (28-12) began the day hitting just .148 with two runs against Ole Miss (27-13) pitching but led 7-0 after two innings and never looked back.
Arkansas’ victory leaves the Rebels and Razorbacks tied for second place at 9-9 in the Western Division standings. Ole Miss owns the tie-breaker.
The series victory is the first for the Rebels against a Western Division team with a winning conference record at the time of the series since winning three against LSU in late April 2010.
Sam Smith, the Rebels’ regular Tuesday starter, lasted just an inning and gave up five runs, all earned, on six hits.
Chris Ellis wasn’t sharp behind him, and while there were some bullpen bright spots later in the day, the damage had been done.
Bianco said the outcome had more to do with the Razorbacks than with Smith.
“There were times he could have made some better pitches, but they seemed so locked in, and they were very aggressive,” Bianco said. “They were solid hits. It was a great day for them offensively.”
Ole Miss managed 13 hits against four Arkansas pitchers, three of them from second baseman Alex Yarbrough, who extended his hitting streak to 19 games.
Bianco said during the week he wanted to help the Rebels “figure out” how to close games better. That was certainly accomplished through Hively, who was 3-3 in nine starts before helping add depth to the bullpen.
That left the Sunday starter TBA.
Smith got a lead-off out but gave up hits to five of the last six men he faced.
Hively will remain in the bullpen.
“No doubt. It’s fair to say we probably don’t win that game yesterday without him and his effort,” Bianco said. “ It’s not all woe is us because we have nobody to go on Sunday, everybody we threw got hit. It wasn’t about the choice, it was their day offensively.”