The Arkansas-Ole Miss winner will be in the driver’s seat for the championship lap spot
BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
OMAHA, Neb. – The next challenge for Arkansas in the College World Series is a familiar foe who is on a roll.
Ole Miss isn’t the same team that lost two of three to the Razorbacks in Fayetteville from April 29-May 1 while falling to 24-19 overall and 7-14 in SEC action.
The Rebels, considered one of the last teams to make the 64-team roster, are 6-0 since the start of the NCAA Tournament and have beaten opponents 51-12 in doing so.
“Once we got in, I think the slate is clean,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “And what I mean
that is, they were fighting uphill and trying to stay alive in the deep end for so long, that once they got in, now everyone’s off.
Arkansas (44-19), fresh off a 17-2 Stanford Saturday, and Ole Miss (38-22) will face off Monday night at 6 p.m. in a winner’s bracket match.
The winner will need just one more win to clinch the best two-of-three championship series from Friday, while the loser will need to play three playoff games to do so.
Arkansas is the home team Monday night as the winner of a corner flip with Ole Miss, which has won 14 of its last 17 games.
“Our comment has always been that if they’re successful, they’re as good as anybody in the country,” Razorback head coach Dave Van Horn said. “…It’s from one to nine. There is no easy solution. »
The Razorbacks are 6-1 in the NCAA Tournament and have a favorable 62-36 point differential in its games.
Arkansas announced Monday that it will start left-hander Zack Morris (6-0, 1.89), who will start just his second game of the season in 21 appearances.
Morris has thrown 33 1/3 innings this season and allowed just seven earned runs on 26 hits, 25 strikeouts and 17 walks.
He picked up the win in Arkansas CWS’ decisive win over North Carolina while pitching 1/3 innings.
Morris started the regional win over Oklahoma State and went 3 1/3 innings with 4 hits, 3 walks and 3 strikeouts while throwing 62 pitches.
Ole Miss will dispatch freshman left-hander Hunter Elliott (4-3, 2.82), who didn’t make a decision in his team’s 6-3 loss to Arkansas in Fayetteville on April 30.
“They’ve got a bona fide ace (Dylan DeLucia) and then a really good southpaw who’s also kind of an ace that we’ll be up against,” Van Horn said. “We weren’t sure they were going to participate in the tournament. They deserved to enter the tournament how good they were. They finished strong and they came in and they were on a roll.
Elliott allowed three runs with 10 strikeouts in 6 innings in a game where Arkansas won 6-3 on Kendall Diggs’ three-run home run.
It was one of four outings for Elliott this season where he played the last six innings, all since that game at Arkansas when he became a regular starter.
Elliott talked about the best way to keep the crowd’s hog calls quiet during a game against Arkansas, which has 16 homers in the tournament so far.
“Like any team, they can throw if you can make and execute your throws,” Elliott said Sunday. “If you have your best tricks, you can beat them… The fewer home runs you give up, the less you run, the less you woo hogs.”
Both teams have spent time at No. 1 this season.
“It’s not super surprising because we played so well at the start of the year,” said Bianco. “It was not a team that came out of nowhere. It was a team that was ranked No. 1 at some point for a few weeks in mid-March, not at the start of the season, a month into the season.
“And a team that kind of got lost and was able to come back. And I think once they got that new life in them, you can see the confidence in the way they play.
Ole Miss, which won the Miami area and southern Mississippi, beat Auburn 5-1 Saturday night in its CWS home opener.
Elliott allowed 4 hits, 3 runs, felt eight and walked one and while throwing 110 pitches in the aforementioned start against Arkansas.
He gave up home runs to Brady Slavens and Braydon Webb during the contest.
Elliott made two starts in the NCAA Tournament and allowed just one run on six hits in 12 1/3 innings on six hits with 18 strikeouts and 5 walks while beating Miami and Southern Miss .
He allowed just one base runner in seven innings against Southern Miss.
Arkansas has at least one home run in all seven games of the NCAA Tournament while Ole Miss has thrived with two outs.
The Rebels are 20 of 66 (.303) with two outs in the NCAA Tournament and one-third of their points have come in those situations.
“It’s just about sticking to your approach,” Ole Miss outfielder Kevin Graham said. “But that’s something that we’ve been pushing since I got here, getting those big two-out hits. With two outs, even without anyone, there’s a lot of innings left.
“And keep batting and winning pitches. And those two-out runs can be huge. They can be back breakers.
Both Arkansas and Ole Miss have large fan contingents in Omaha.
“I think we have the best fans in the country,” Arkansas pitcher Connor Noland said. “We’re showing up here in Omaha, and I think their presence here today was felt. They were loud. I could hear them for sure. And I think the other team could hear them too.
Monday’s other CWS game is a 1 p.m. playoff game between Stanford and Auburn.
Oklahoma went undefeated with a 6-2 victory Sunday over Notre Dame while Texas A&M sent Texas home with a 10-2 win.