Arkansas vs. Ole Miss Advance

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas has played one big SEC West road baseball series two weekends ago sweeping then nationally No. 3 Mississippi State and faces an even bigger SEC West road series this weekend at Ole Miss.
Arkansas, ranked second nationally by the D-1 Baseball and USA Today Coaches poll, while Ole Miss ranks third, clash at 6 tonight on SEC Network television and 4 p.m Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday on SEC+ at the Rebels’ Swayze Field in Oxford, Miss. and all broadcast on the Razorbacks Radio Network.

Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks 22-4 overall, and Coach Mike Bianco’s Rebels, 23-6 overall, share the best in the SEC West, 7-2 league marks going into this series of national attention. “Yeah, we’re really excited to play,”Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens said after his own personal excitement for knocking in five runs during the Razorbacks’ 10-3 victory over the University of Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans Wednesday at Baum-Walker Stadium. “Playing really good teams, get really focused on the road – you’ve got to win on the road if you’re going to win the SEC. So going down there and stealing a couple and playing hard like we did at Mississippi State, that’s all we can do and all we can ask for.Van Horn envisioned a tough series in Oxford since back in February Arlington, Texas when he saw Ole Miss sweep Big 12 powers Texas Tech, Texas and TCU as did his Razorbacks at the 3-day State Farm College Baseball Showdown at the Texas Rangers’ Global Life Stadium.

“We had an opportunity to watch them play three times early this season down there in Arlington and they’ve got a really good team,” Van Horn said. “They really don’t have any weaknesses. They field well, they can run, they can hit for power. They’ve got good starting pitching and a really good bullpen and their deep. You have to play extremely well to beat them.”

The Rebels are down one hot hitter. Ole Miss first baseman Tim Elko, hitting .340 with team leading nine home runs and 36 RBI, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee earlier this week. “I feel terrible for the kid,” Van Horn said. “He was having an incredible year. I just read something where was named March Hitter of the Month.”

Elko swings a big bat but it’s among many big bats for Bianco’s bunch. “They have a good lineup even losing Elko,” Van Horn said. “With him in their line up, it was really deep. There is really not a break. There are a lot of left-hand hitters.” Even without Elko they come well armed.

“Well, they have really good starting pitching number one,” Van Horn said. “Those pitchers are going to give you five plus every time just about. They have got some guys at the back of the bullpen that can get you out. They have a variety of arms out there. They play good defense, they can run, they steal bases. They have a lot of experience. Like I said, they are a good baseball team.”

After excellent relief performances in SEC victories over Mississippi State and Auburn following not surviving the second inning of the SEC season’s opening loss to Alabama, Benton’s Peyton Pallette 1-1 3.25 earned run average returns to Arkansas’ SEC weekend rotation and will start Saturday afternoon’s game.The sophomore right-hander is sandwiched between Razorbacks lefties Patrick Wicklander, 1-1, 2.13, starting against Ole Miss tonight and Lael Lockhart,, 1-1, 3.41, starting Sunday.

Last weekend against Auburn senior reliever Kevin Kopps, 4-0, 0.82 with three saves, worked in all three games compiling five scoreless innings with an inning each the final two games won after throwing blanks the seventh through the ninth in a 2-1 loss.

Could he foresee Kopps pitching in every game again? “You never know,” Van Horn said. “I guess if we thought that’s what we needed to do or the situation is right. Once for sure, could be twice. But three times I think would be every now and then. But you never know.”

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