Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Ole Miss packing a wallop
Ole Miss first baseman Sikes Orvis (24) celebrates a solo home run off Arkansas starter Trey Killian Friday, March 15, 2013, during the fourth inning of play at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas has not been swept in its past 24 SEC series, dating to an 0-for-3 weekend at LSU that ended April 1, 2012.
That streak, during which Arkansas has a 39-32 record, could be in jeopardy this weekend as the Razorbacks travel to Oxford, Miss., to face the hottest-hitting team in the conference.
No. 11 Ole Miss (33-13, 13-8 SEC) is coming off a three game SEC sweep against Kentucky during which the Rebels outscored the Wildcats 39-15 while piling up a school-record run total for a conference series.
“They can hit,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “They went up to Kentucky last week and the wind was blowing out one way or another. Kentucky is supposed to have the best hitting team in the league, and they went up there and just got after them.”
Arkansas (29-18, 10-11) has split all seven of its SEC series this season and has been above .500 in conference play once, when it was 4-3 after winning the series opener at Mississippi State on March 29.
The Razorbacks have scored 10 or more runs only once in an SEC game this season - a 10-4 victory at LSU - and would have to go back 10 conference games to account for as many runs (41) as the Rebels scored last weekend, when they hit six home runs and were led by national hitter of the week Auston Bousfield, who batted .714 in four games.
“I heard they can really hit,” said Arkansas right hander Trey Killian (2-7, 2.30 ERA), who will face 6-5 right hander Chris Ellis (6-0, 1.81) in today’s 6:30 p.m. opener at Swayze Field.
“They’re a good offense,” Arkansas outfielder Tyler Spoon said. “We’ve got good pitching too, though, so it’s going to be a good match up.”
Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC with a .308 batting average. The Rebels have three of the top 13 hitters in the SEC, with Bousfield (.369) second, catcher Will Allen (.360) fourth and third baseman Austin Anderson (.344) 13th. Three other regulars - Sikes Orvis (.321, 11 home runs), J.B. Woodman (.319) and Brantley Bell (.307) - are batting .300 or better.
Ole Miss has scored 116 runs in 17 games, an average of 6.8 runs per game, since suffering a sweep at Alabama on March 30. The Rebels also have the fourth-best earned run average in the SEC at 2.48.
“They’ve got really good starting pitching, and if they’re putting runs up they’re going to be tough to beat,” said Arkansas second baseman Brian Anderson, who has a hit in 21 of the past 23 games.
The Rebels are considered to be among the pack of teams that could host an NCAA regional, which made their 7-6 home loss to Southern Miss on Wednesday frustrating. Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco used 10 pitchers in the game.
“It’s got to be the most pitchers I’ve ever thrown in a game, and just disappointing,” Bianco said. “Someone has to get them out besides the guys that pitch on the weekend all the time.”
The Razorbacks’ pitching staff ranks ninth nationally, and second in the SEC, with a 2.28 ERA. Arkansas’ bullpen has been outstanding in recent weeks, allowing 2 earned runs in its past 40 1/3 innings for a 0.45 ERA covering the past 11 games.
The Razorbacks are coming off a 4-1 victory at Missouri State on Tuesday.
“We’re not much worrying about what the other guys do,” shortstop Michael Bernal said. “We stick to our game plan and go out and work every day for us.”
Arkansas left-hander Jalen Beeks (2-2, 2.14 ERA) is scheduled to face left-hander Christian Trent (6-0, 2.25) in Saturday’s 2:15 p.m. game. Right-hander Chris Oliver (4-2, 3.38), who was roughed up by Auburn in his last start, is scheduled to oppose Rebels right-hander Sam Smith (5-3, 2.78) at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
TODAY’S GAME Arkansas at Mississippi
WHEN 6:30 p.m. Central WHERE Swayze Field, Oxford, Miss.
RECORDS Arkansas 29-18, 10-11 SEC; Ole Miss 33-13, 13-8 RANKINGS Ole Miss is ranked No. 11 by Baseball America and No. 10 by Collegiate Baseball SERIES Arkansas leads 40-34 RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
PITCHING MATCHUP Arkansas: Trey Killian (RHP, 2-7, 2.30 ERA); Ole Miss: Chris Ellis (RHP, 6-0, 1.81).
SHORT HOPS The Rebels have swept three SEC series (Missouri, Auburn and Kentucky) and have been swept by Alabama. … Arkansas closer Michael Gunn has a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings and is 7 for 7 in save opportunities. … Hogs shortstop Brett McAfee (lower back) will not make the trip to Oxford. … Arkansas ranks 12th in SEC hitting (.263), second in pitching (2.28 ERA) and ninth in fielding (.971). … The Rebels are second in SEC hitting (.308), fourth in pitching (2.48 ERA) and tied for fourth in fielding (.973). … Ole Miss outfielder Auston Bousfield is the National College Baseball Writers Association’s reigning national player of the week after hitting .714 with 4 doubles, 1 home run, 8 runs and 7 RBI. … The Rebels outscored Kentucky 39-15 during their sweep last weekend. THE WEEK AHEAD
TODAY at Ole Miss, 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY at Ole Miss, 2:15 p.m.
SUNDAY at Ole Miss, 1:30 p.m.
THURSDAY’S GAME Kentucky 15, Tennessee 1
TODAY’S GAMES Kentucky at Tennessee, 6 p.m.
Mississippi St. at Auburn, 6 p.m.
South Carolina at Georgia, 6 p.m.
Vanderbilt at Missouri, 6 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi, 6:30 p.m.
LSU at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m.
Florida at Alabama, 6:35 p.m.
SATURDAY’S GAMES Kentucky at Tennessee, 11 a.m.
LSU at Texas A&M, noon South Carolina at Georgia, noon Vanderbilt at Missouri, 2 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi, 2:15 p.m.
Florida at Alabama, 3 p.m.
Mississippi St. at Auburn, 6 p.m.
SUNDAY’S GAMES South Carolina at Georgia, noon LSU at Texas A&M, noon Mississippi St. at Auburn, noon Vanderbilt at Missouri, noon Arkansas at Mississippi, 12:30 p.m.
Florida at Alabama, 1:05 p.m.
Sports, Pages 23 on 05/02/2014