FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ comeback kids were beset with coming back from losing an 11-0 lead but did so Sunday in Oxford, Mis.. to wrest best in the SEC West from the Ole Miss Rebels.
Scoring the game’ first 11 runs then replying to Ole Miss six runs with a 3-run sixth inning to lead, 14-6, the Razorbacks had to break a 14-14 tie with three eighth-inning runs and added a ninth-inning insurance run winning 18-14 the final game of the 3-game SEC West series to claim 2 of 3 at Ole Miss’ Swayze Field.
“ Just glad we punched in that last field goal and got that lead up there a little bit,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn quipped of Sunday’s 3-run eighth breaking the 14-14 football type score. “I’m telling you it’s crazy. Just a great win for our team.”
Arkansas and Ole Miss split Saturday’s doubleheader with Arkansas wining the opener, 7-3 and losing Saturday’s second game 13-6.
Winning 2 of 3 puts Van Horn’s 26-5 overall Razorbacks and first place alone at 9-3 in the SEC West with Ole Miss dropped to an 8-4 second-place tie with Mississippi State.
“It’s good feeling,” Van Horn said of exiting Oxford standing best in the SEC West. “Gosh, you don’t want to play a 4-hour, 25-minute game and lose and come all the way home on a bus. It’s going to make that trip a lot better.”
Brady Slavens, previously 0 for 5 and the only Razorbacks hitter not to reach base, broke the tie with a 2-out 2-run eighth inning double and was singled home by Christian Franklin.
“You get a guy like Brady Slavens, 0-for-5 on the game and left a lot of runners out there, he gets the biggest hit of the game,” Van Horn said. “ We don’t win the game without that hit.”
Jacob Nesbit, pinch-hit singling leading off Sunday’s ninth, scored the insurance run when reliever Tyler Myers threw wildly after bobbling a sacrifice bunt.
Kevin Kopps, throwing 41 pitches for a final three scoreless innings, in Saturday’s 7-3 victory he saved for reliever Ryan Costeiu, was summoned in Sunday’s seventh inning after Ole Miss leadoff singles off versus reliever Jaxon Wiggins.
Wiggins, upon inheriting runners relieving reliever Caden Monke had been hammered in Ole Miss’ 5-run sixth by Peyton Chatagnier’s 3-run double and Kenny Graham’s 2-run home run.
Kopps opened like he was affected by Friday’s labors.
RBI singles by Ben Van Cleave and Hayden Leatherwood and Calvin Harris’s RBI fielder’s choice at second tied it 14-14 before Kopps struck out Jacob Gonzalez and got Chatagnier to ground to short.
Kopps limited Ole Miss to an infield single in the eighth and after a walk and a single to start the ninth, in succession struck out Harris, Gonzalez and Chatagnier completing in 47 pitches his second 3-inning stint in two days and striking out five while upping his record to 5-0 after Saturday recording his fourth save.
“Great job by Kevin Kopps coming in and giving us some hope at the end and then finishing it up,” Van Horn said.
Offensively Arkansas whacked 13 hits and by nine Ole Miss pitchers were gifted with 17 walks.
Cullen Smith, Jalen Battles and Braydon Webb, plus Nesbit in his one at bat pinch-hitting for Smith, went a combined 7 for 9.
Smith, 3 for 3 and scoring three runs, hit a 3-run home run glancing off the top and over the center field fence followed by Webb, 1 for 2 with three walks, hitting a 2-run home run for a 5-run second inning.
Battles went 3 for 4 with two RBI with one RBI hit during the 6-run third.
“Early in the game that’s where all the production was coming from,” Van Horn said of Arkansas’ bottoms up production. “They got us going.”
The top and meat of the order would do their parts, too.
No. 3 hole hitter Cayden Wallace, the freshman right fielder from Greenbrier, hit a 3-run home run in the third.
Nos. 1 and 2 hitters Robert Moore and Matt Goodheart accounted for two RBI each, No. 5 hitter Franklin singled home Slavens in the eighth and robbed Ole Miss’ Leatherwood of a home run with a great catch in center.
Cleanup hitter Slavens’ accounted posted among the most noteworthy 1 for 6 games in Razorbacks’ lore.
Arkansas needed it mustered. Ole Miss chased starter Lael Lockhart in the third inning and whacked 14 hits including home runs by Graham and Justin Bench.
In Saturday’s second game, Friday’s rainout forced Saturday’s doubleheader that required Arkansas rebounding from a 3-0 deficit to prevail in the first game, Ole Miss avenged with an 18-hit attack. The Rebels jumped 5-0 early and then with a 5-run eighth blunted an Arkansas comeback that had closed to down 8-6.
“They have an outstanding offense and obviously our pitching struggled,” Van Horn said. “But there was no quit in our dugout. We’ve played a lot of games in our division (9-3 against SEC West foes Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn and Ole Miss) and we’ve done pretty well.”
The Razorbacks next play the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 6:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. nonconference games at Baum-Walker Stadium before hosting SEC West rival Texas A&M at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.