Decisions turned the early innings before Arkansas took over to rout Rebs
FAYETTEVILLE | Super regionals magnify decisions and microcosms, placing mini-moments into focus since two or three days decide seasons.
Mike Bianco and Dave Van Horn had similar scenarios play out in the early innings on Monday, and while other variables factored into the finished product of a blowout, the differences in decision-making were potentially the catalysts that sent Arkansas easily to Omaha and Ole Miss to its offseason following the 14-1 Razorbacks win.
Ole Miss scored a run and left two on base in the first inning against Arkansas starter Patrick Wicklander, who picked up the first two outs in the second inning. But after a hit by pitch, walk and wild pitch put two in scoring position, Van Horn replaced Wicklander mid-count in favor of Cody Scroggins. The reliever struck out Ryan Olenek and escaped what would have been considerable damage.
“Cody getting that third out was huge because if they get three there we’re in trouble,” Van Horn said.
After a 3-up, 3-down first inning for Ole Miss starter Gunnar Hoglund, the freshman right-hander gave up a double, hit by pitch and single consecutively with one out in the second inning. Josh Nesbit, the eight-hole hitter, doubled the next at-bat, and Arkansas took a 2-1 lead.
Ole Miss reliever Austin Miller was in the bullpen warming up, and Hoglund did strike out nine-hole hitter Christian Franklin for the second out. However, as the lineup turned over, the trouble wasn’t finished.
Instead of going to Miller, Trevor Ezell hit a two-run single to extend the lead to three runs. The first two batters reached in the following inning before Bianco came out to end Hoglund’s day.
It wasn’t a long leash in general, but it was considering the must-win situation — and considering Hoglund’s odd splits. The first time through the order this season Hoglund has a 1.59 ERA and .225 batting average against. The second time through the order: 9.28 ERA and .625 batting average against.
“To be honest we needed some length to get through the game,” Bianco said. “We had (Austin) Miller and (Parker) Caracci but we needed some length and were hopeful. Those two at-bats (Nesbit and Ezell) turned the game. We pitched tentatively and they were so good offensively.”
Austin Miller — and later Parker Caracci — were ineffective anyway and didn’t stop Arkansas’ momentum and a couple other plays in the competitive innings changed the trajectory. Thomas Dillard could have caught a second-inning sinking liner that would have conceivably ended the inning prior to Ezell’s two-run single, and Ole Miss left four runners on in the first two innings in what was going to need to be an offensive day.
Meanwhile, Arkansas got 4.1 scoreless innings from Scroggins to keep Ole Miss down while Arkansas added on. One team simply played better on the seasons’ biggest day to date. With the wind blustering out to right field . and balls carrying to all fields, the Rebels went dormant at the plate and never mounted any semblance of a charge.
A game with a 13-run differential doesn’t come down to one play or one decision. It was a cumulative snowball on Monday throughout the afternoon and early evening.
But while it was still a game, there were two key moments — one for each side. And while Van Horn’s quick hook led to shutdown innings, Ole Miss’ patience went against the numbers and perhaps those two choices altered what was to come.