Thu April 04, 2024

By Lance Hawley

Hogs Set to Host Ole Miss for Three Games
By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE -- No. 1 Arkansas continues SEC play with a three-game series against Ole Miss at Baum-Walker Stadium this weekend.

Arkansas (24-3, 8-1) has a commanding lead in the SEC West. Ole Miss (18-12, 3-6) has struggled at times this season. They are 4-5 on the road and the Hogs are 20-1 at Baum-Walker Stadium. Not a good combination if you are an Ole Miss fan.

Dave Van Horn's team is on a roll coming off a sweep over LSU and then a 13-0 run-rule win over Arkansas State Tuesday night. Arkansas State beat Ole Miss 4-2 earlier in the season. Van Horn has a lot of respect for Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco.

"Yeah I mean, I don’t know," Van Horn said. "I don’t look at it any differently than any other SEC games. It’s just that we’ve run into each other a lot in postseason it seems like. I mean, our relationship I think is probably better than ever. I have a lot of respect for him and his program, what he’s done there. The games seem to be very interesting usually and the series are really competitive.

"We know each other a little bit as far as maybe the way we think. Again, I don’t get all caught up in who we’re playing as much as it’s an SEC game. Obviously maybe the fans do a little more. I truly believe at the end of 30, you’ve played 30 and they all count the same. But you know a lot of respect for Mike. He’s done a great job there. Yeah. And here we go again."

Ole Miss was swept at home by Kentucky last weekend. Van Horn still expects to get their best shot this weekend.

"Oh they have good players," Van Horn said. "It can turn around real quick. I don’t know, haven’t played them yet. I can probably tell you more after we play the three games. We just see a little bit here and there and watch some video and try to figure out how to get them out and how to him them. But I can’t really comment on them."

One issue for Ole Miss is its pitchers walk a lot of hitters. Van Horn was asked if patience at the plate will be a key this weekend?

"I think we’ve had a really good approach, obviously, like you said, it’s patient," Van Horn said. "But there’s just a lot of fouling off pitches and fighting at the plate. Sometimes it’s not necessarily that they’re four- and five-pitch walks. They’re six- and seven- and eight-pitch walks with a lot of fighting going on, fouling pitches off. That’s how you can score in this league. Like I say all the time, it’s hard to get three hits in one inning against the pitchers of this level. So if we can take a walk or get hit by a pitch, it gives you a little opportunity to score and we’ve done that."

With Arkansas and Ole Miss heading in different directions, does Van Horn have to warn his team not to overlook them?

"Well, I feel like so far they don’t," Van Horn said. "There’s no looking at the record and saying, ‘Oh, they’re this or they’re that, we should be fine.’ If you do that, you’re going to find yourself behind real quick. You hope the mindset is, ‘This is another SEC series, let’s go find a way to win Game 1.’ Because if you don’t start thinking that immediately and wait until gameday or after the first pitch or two, sometimes that’s too late. But so far so good on that. I feel like they show up and know what they need to do. They need to play well, pitch well and field. If you do that, you’ve got a chance."

Van Horn said the rotation will be Hagen Smith Thursday, Mason Molina on Friday and Brady Tygart Saturday. Ole Miss pitcher Riley Maddox is the ace of the staff. He is 2-2 and has an ERA of 4.02 in 31.1 innings. He has recorded 25 strikeouts.

"Just trying to look at as much as we can," Van Horn said. "He’s good. His numbers in league play are really good. So, yeah, I don’t want to say a whole lot, but he’s a really talented pitcher. Obviously, he gives them a chance, that’s for sure. They have a chance to win every time he’s on the mound."

Ole Miss has hit 45 home runs this season. Third baseman Andrew Fischer has 11 to lead the team. Left fielder Ethan Lege has eight and Jackson Ross seven.

“They can hurt you real quick," Van Horn said. "If you give them free passes, they can hit the ball over your head a lot. And they have a couple guys that can run real well. They’ve got some options on the bench if they want to pinch hit or bring a lefty to hit. They’re hitting almost .280 as a team. It’s week to week. You just have to go do what you can do as a team. It’s nice to know what the other team is doing, but we just focus on what we can do.”

Ole Miss has 37 stolen bases in 41 attempts. Van Horn doesn't feel that is something overly worrisome for the Hogs.

“You look at the numbers and we haven’t run a whole lot, maybe tried 30 times, so they have only run maybe 15 to 20 more times than we have,” Van Horn said. “So it’s not like it is a huge part of their game, what they do is they just pick and choose and if you fall asleep on them or you are not paying attention, they are going to take a base on you and they have the ability to do that.

“If they had 80 steals in 85 attempts, then that would be a major, major concern. If it is definitely a concern. We do have some left-handed pitchers that can slow that down. Tygart has got a really good move and he is fairly quick to the plate and our catchers throw accurate.

“So it is something that we talk about and we actually go over those and already have looked that those numbers these morning. So that is just another weapon that you have on offense if you can steal a base when you need one.”

Thursday's first pitch is set for 6 p.m. and televised on the SEC Network. Friday is 6:30 and then Saturday at 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday's games can be streamed on the SEC Network+.