Rick Fires is a reporter and columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Hogs rip Rebels to end SEC skid
Mississippi starting pitcher Sam Smith tries to regain his composure after giving up a lead-off triple in the second inning against Arkansas during Sunday’s game in Oxford, Miss. Smith gave up five runs on six hits in 1-plus innings of work. Arkansas won 11-3.
OXFORD, Miss. Arkansas broke out of its slump in a big way Sunday afternoon.
Arkansas accumulated a season-high 18 hits and built a seven-run lead after two innings to defeat Ole Miss 11-3 before 8,115 fans at Oxford-University Stadium.
Dominic Ficociello, Tim Carver, and Jake Wise each had three hits for the Razorbacks, who ended a four game losing streak in SEC games.
The victory moved Arkansas (28-12, 9-9) into a second-place tie with Ole Miss (27-13, 9-9) in the SEC West after the Rebels took the first two games of the series against the Razorbacks.
“I’m really proud of our team. They responded extremely well,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “I knew we’d come out and play hard. We played hard (Saturday) but we just didn’t get the big hit. I was proud of the guys for bouncing back in a tough place to play.”
Arkansas scored more runs in the first inning Sunday than in two games on Saturday, when the Razorbacks lost 8-2 and 2-1 to the Rebels. Arkansas scored four runs on five hits, including RBI doubles by Ficociello and Derrick Bleeker. Sam Bates and Bo Bigham added RBI singles in the inning before Jacob Morris started a three-run rally with a lead off triple in the second inning.
Arkansas came out aggressively at the plate after the Razorbacks were held to nine hits while losing two games to Ole Miss on Saturday.
“Good teams come back and respond and we needed to respond,” said Wise, who contributed 3 hits and 2 RBI while batting ninth for the Razorbacks. “We knew we had to have a win because there was no way we were going to come in here and get swept. We wanted to come out and be aggressive and we did that with four runs in the first.”
Ficociello had two doubles and four RBI to lead an Arkansas lineup where all nine starters had at least one hit. Ole Miss finished with 13 hits but scored only three runs against four Arkansas pitchers. Alex Yarbrough had three hits to lead the Rebels.
“I just thought Arkansas was terrific today,” Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said.“Even though Arkansas’ team batting average wasn’t great coming into the series, they’re good. They score a lot of runs. We were able to hold them down for two runs but they were locked in today. They had good swings throughout the lineup.”
Cade Lynch (2-1) got the victory in relief of DJ Baxendale, who appeared upset after being pulled with a 8-1 lead with two outs and two out in the fourth. Baxendale threw his glove down and glared back at Van Horn after being taken out and disappeared for a while down a hallway behind the Arkansas dugout. Baxendale reemerged a short time later and watched with his teammates while the Razorbacks completed an 11-3 victory.
Van Horn said he didn’t see Baxendale’s reaction but wasn’t surprised that Baxendale was upset after being taken out with a big lead.
“That’s OK,” Van Horn said. “When I was a player, I was upset when somebody took me out. He’s a competitor but he understands it’s for the team. He didn’t have his best stuff.”
Baxendale’s statistics are down after he posted a 10-2 record last season, but the preseason All-American (6-2, 3.88 ERA coming into Sunday) was coming off a strong performance last week when he lost 2-1 to Kentucky. Baxendale pitched eight innings in that game and lost when Cameron Flynn hit a two run home run in the fourth inning for the Wildcats.
Lynch, who struck out Tanner Mathis to end the fourth, allowed one run in three innings before he was replaced by Colby Suggs. Suggs pitched 11/3 innings before Nolan Sanburn finished up in the ninth inning for the Razorbacks.
“Cade Lynch did a great job from coming on and getting that big strikeout in the fourth,” Van Horn said. “We came in with Suggs and he did a great job as well. I was proud of them and they pitched like it was a tight game.”
Arkansas did not stop after piling up seven runs in the first two innings. The Razorbacks added single runs in the fourth and sixth innings before scoring two more in the seventh to lead 11-1.
“We wanted to get the bats moving and be aggressive,” Ficociello said. “When we swing the bats, a lot of good things happen.”
Arkansas turned two double plays while holding Ole Miss to single runs in the third, seventh, and ninth innings.
The Rebels stranded 14 runners while Arkansas left eight men on base.
Arkansas will host Oral Roberts at Baum Stadium on Tuesday before returning to SEC play in a three-game series at Florida beginning Friday.
ORAL ROBERTS AT ARKANSAS
WHEN Tuesday, 6:35 p.m.
WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville TV Cox Sports Television ABOUT ORAL ROBERTS Oral Roberts defeated Western Illinois 16-6 Sunday to complete a four-game sweep over the Leathernecks. Arkansas has won four consecutive games over Oral Roberts to increase its series lead to 64-35 over the Eagles.
RADIO RSP statewide radio network, which includes KQSM-FM, 92.1 in Fayetteville; KURM-AM, 790, in Bentonville-Rogers; KASR-FM, 92.7, in Conway; KHGG-FM, 103.1, in Fort Smith; KABZFM, 103.7, in Little Rock; KELD-FM, 106.5, in El Dorado; and KOMT-FM, 107.5, in Mountain Home. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com (go to Razorvision link).
SHORT HOPS Arkansas had 18 hits on Sunday against Mississippi to surpass its previous high of 17 hits against Villanova and Stephen F. Austin. ... Alex Yarbrough had a single in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to 18 consecutive games for Ole Miss. ... Arkansas leads the series with Ole Miss 38-31 and the Razorbacks are 19-14 in games played at Oxford, Miss.
THE WEEK AHEAD
TUESDAY Oral Roberts, 6:35 p.m.
FRIDAY at Florida, 6 p.m.
SATURDAY at Florida, 6 p.m.
SUNDAY at Florida, 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY’S GAMES Arkansas 11, Mississippi 3 Kentucky 7, LSU 6 South Carolina 11, Auburn 7 Vanderbilt 9, Alabama 7 Florida 6, Georgia 3
Sports, Pages 13 on 04/23/2012