Observations: Rebels fall to Hogs, move to Thursday must-win rematch
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OMAHA | Ole Miss loaded the bases in the ninth with no outs but scored only one run to fall to Arkansas, 3-2, Wednesday at Charles Schwab Field. The two teams will meet again Thursday at 3 p.m. with a spot in the national championship on the line.
The winner will face Oklahoma in a two-out-of-three series starting on Saturday.
Down 3-1 entering the inning, Kemp Alderman singled, and Peyton Chatagnier and Hayden Dunhurst were hit on back-to-back at-bats. Pinch hitter Hayden Leatherwood struck out and TJ McCants had a short fly out before Justin Bench brought in a run with an infield single.
Jacob Gonzalez, on a 2-2 count, lined out to left field to end the game and strand the bases loaded.
Here are observations from Omaha on Wednesday.
The ninth-inning was the first time in the tournament that a move from Mike Bianco seemed to go against the situation. With the bases loaded, Leatherwood pinch hit for switch hitter Garrett Wood. Leatherwood is 2 for his last 12 and hasn’t played in Ole Miss’ last five games. He’s hitting .161 with an OPS under .600 against lefties this season, and Arkansas went to lefty Zack Morris as soon as Leatherwood was announced. Leatherwood as 13 strikeouts in 32 at-bats versus lefties.
Wood’s numbers aren’t statistically better, but he’d reached base during the game and has been proficient with taking pitches and executing quality at-bats. He’s reached base four times in two games against Arkansas.
McCants, who said on Sunday his thumb injury is at 80 percent and still affects his offense, entered the game in the seventh after Ben Van Cleve pinch hit for Calvin Harris and struck out. Van Cleve is hitting .276 this season against lefties. Reagan Burford and John Kramer were the only position players left on the bench when McCants came to the plate.
I wouldn’t have hit for Wood, but once Leatherwood was in, I would have pinch hit Burford once they went to the lefty. He’s hitting .303 against lefties. Then, if there were extra innings, I would have put Derek Diamond in right field and figured it out from there.
Gonzalez doesn’t look comfortable. He has three hits in the College World Series, but his stance is altered recently. The line drive in the ninth was good contact, but overall it just doesn’t look like earlier in the season when he was barreling more pitches.
I thought Michael Turner was out at second base. I get why the call stood once it went to replay. It changed the game, obviously.
Ole Miss did such a poor job picking up and recognizing the slider from the Arkansas left-handers. That was the biggest effect on the outcome. If a left-handed slider parts on the outer-half, it’s not going to finish over the plate. The left-handers couldn’t identify and lay off of it, and the right-handers outside of Alderman didn’t hit the fastball to avoid it. Arkansas walked four but overall located better than Monday. However, the pitching was hittable if Ole Miss did a good job with the offspeed stuff. Alderman had three of the team's five hits.
John Gaddis was great on Wednesday. He gave up two home runs but that was it over five innings. Should Ole Miss win tomorrow, Gaddis gives extra confidence that the Rebels can handled the final series despite having to use Dylan DeLucia tomorrow. Gaddis spotted the breaking ball and did plenty to put Ole Miss in position to win.
Jack Washburn hasn’t thrown better in an Ole Miss uniform. He gave up the one run on two hits in two innings. The fastball had life, and it’s the best curve ball on the team. He will be needed in a possible final series, and that’s a great sign for next season, as well.
Jack Dougherty was even better. Three strikeouts in two innings and no runs. He worked out of the traffic and kept Ole Miss in it after Ole Miss walked the bases loaded on purpose after all the infield chaos in the eighth inning. It was the right decision to walk them loaded, and everything played out well for Ole Miss until the stranded runners in the ninth inning.
Ole Miss was 1-for-14 with runners on base. Arkansas was 2-for-15.
Early runs tomorrow are so critical to cleanse some of this. Mike Bianco admitted it’ll take a few hours tonight to get over the loss, and the players were somewhat shellshocked when the game ended. They said all the right things. They talked about being in must-wins for the past weeks and being ready tomorrow. Chatagnier preached faith in his teammates and knowing they would play better, regardless of outcome.
Connor Noland is on short rest for Arkansas, so the Rebels need to get on him early and at least set the tone. Early zeroes from Noland could prolong tonight. Success will remove it from the Rebels’ psyche.
Dylan DeLucia’s slider is likely what will show his ability to throw on short rest. He’ll throw strikes and the fastball should be good enough either way, but it takes a slider with break to get through that lineup. He has it fresh, so that’ll be the early clue on his ability to go on short rest.