Postgame Thoughts: Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 4

By: Matt Jones
Published: Thursday, March 29, 2018
Arkansas' Carson Shaddy (20) celebrates his second-inning, two-run home run with teammates Jax Biggers (9) and Jordan McFarland (13) during an NCAA college baseball game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Thursday, March 29, 2018. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP)
Arkansas' Carson Shaddy (20) celebrates his second-inning, two-run home run with teammates Jax Biggers (9) and Jordan McFarland (13) during an NCAA college baseball game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Thursday, March 29, 2018. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP)

Postgame Thoughts

Arkansas is in the driver’s seat for the second consecutive week on the road against a top five team.

The Razorbacks’ 6-4 win over No. 4 Ole Miss on Thursday might have been more impressive than the series-opening 6-3 win at No. 2 Florida last Friday. Consider that this week’s game included a rain delay and a rally by a home team with a more explosive offense.

Blaine Knight did a good job of settling down a couple of times in the fourth and fifth innings when it looked like the game might get away from him. He and Matt Cronin held Ole Miss scoreless for seven of nine innings, likely one of the few times that has happened this year.

Knight’s opening-game stuff continues to put Arkansas in less stressful situations on the weekend. The Razorbacks have won six of the seven games he has pitched this year, and improved to 6-0 in three-game openers when he is on the mound.

Knight’s fastball and curveball looked solid the first two innings as the Razorbacks opened up a 4-0 lead. He and Cronin - who allowed 1 hit and 1 walk, and struck out 5 in a 3-inning save - were especially good against the top of the Ole Miss lineup. The Rebels’ top four hitters were a combined 2-for-15 with seven of the team’s 12 strikeouts.

It appeared Arkansas might run away with the opener because of the way it was hitting Ole Miss starter Ryan Rolison early on.

Rolison allowed four consecutive hits to start the game, part of a two-run first for the Razorbacks. He also gave up a two-run homer to Carson Shaddy with no outs in the second.

The 19-minute rain delay in the second inning gave Rolison some time to refocus. He walked the batter just before the delay, but retired 11 of the first 13 he faced after the delay thanks in large part to a strong change-up pitch. The 14th batter was Jordan McFarland, whose solo homer to right ended Rolison’s outing in the sixth after 108 pitches.

Arkansas hitters had a good scouting report on Rolison, who throws primarily curveballs and fastballs to right handers. The Razorbacks loaded up on that side and there were at last three first-pitch hits from that side.

Shaddy had two of those first-pitch hits and went 3-for-4, following up on a good outing at Memphis two nights ago when he had the game-winning hit in the ninth inning. McFarland, Jax Biggers, Eric Cole and Casey Martin also had multi-hit games. Grant Koch, whose sacrifice fly in the first gave the Razorbacks their second run, was the only player without a hit.

Arkansas was a respectable 6-for-16 with runners in scoring position and had four hits with two outs in an inning.

The question going into tomorrow’s game is whether the Razorbacks can have a solid second game. That has been an issue three of the past four weeks when Southern Cal, Kent State and Florida all sent series to a Game 3 rubber match.

Arkansas has a different pitcher going Saturday than any of those games, though. Left-hander Evan Lee gets a rare weekend start in place of the resting Isaiah Campbell.

Knight's six-inning start and Cronin's three-inning relief appearance ensures there are plenty of arms in the bullpen should Lee run into trouble.

Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 4 - Final

Matt Cronin worked around a leadoff single in the ninth and earned a three-inning save. The Razorbacks improved to 6-0 this year in series openers.

Will Golson's single into the outfield gave Ole Miss the tying run at the plate. Cronin won a long matchup with pinch-hitter Tim Elko, who chased a 2-2 fastball well high of the zone to end a six-pitch at-bat that included three foul balls.

Chase Cockrell grounded into a fielder's choice for the second out and Cronin struck out Jacob Adams for the final out. Cronin struck out five and Arkansas struck out 12 total.

Arkansas outhit Ole Miss 14-8. The Razorbacks stranded nine runners, while the Rebels stranded five.

The teams are scheduled to play again Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Postgame thoughts coming up.

Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 4 - Middle 9th Inning

Arkansas came up swinging in the ninth and hit into three groundballs in four pitches. Matt Cronin faces the bottom of the Ole Miss order in the ninth.

Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 4 - End 8th Inning

Matt Cronin sat the Rebels' 3-4-5 down in order in the eighth, punctuating the ending with strikeouts of Thomas Dillard and Cole Zabowski. That was Dillard's fourth strikeout of the game. The Rebels have struck out 10 times.

Right-hander Greer Holston is replacing Will Ethridge on the mound for Ole Miss in the ninth. He will face Luke Bonfield, Heston Kjerstad and Grant Koch.

Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 4 - Middle 8th Inning

Eric Cole gave Arkansas another two-out hit. The inning ended on Casey Martin's groundout.

The eighth looks to be the hardest inning for Matt Cronin. He will face the Rebels' 3, 4 and 5 hitters - Nick Fortes, Thomas Dillard and Cole Zabowski. They are a combined 2-for-8 tonight.

Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 4 - End 7th Inning

Conway-native Jacob Adams worked a one-out walk, but the following two hitters popped up to Eric Cole in right field on consecutive pitchers, allowing Matt Cronin to get out of the inning in 12 pitches.

Carson Shaddy, who is 3-for-3, with lead off in the eighth.

Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 4 - Middle 7th Inning

Dominic Fletcher singled to left with two outs. The inning ended on Jordan McFarland's long flyout to center.

Arkansas is up to 13 hits, but also has stranded eight runners.

The Razorbacks' closer, Matt Cronin, will pitch the seventh. Blaine Knight's final line: 4 runs - 2 earned - on 7 hits and 1 walk. He struck out 7.

Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 4 - End 6th Inning

Blaine Knight rebounded well when it looked like things might unravel on him in the sixth. He walked Cole Zabowski in four pitches to lead off the inning, but a big called second strike to Will Golsan changed the inning.

It kept Golsan from walking, then Golsan hit a floater into shallow left. Carson Shaddy ran down the ball from his position at second base, but couldn't coral it on a diving effort. The dive caused Zabowski to hesitate, however, and he was easily thrown out at second. In the next at-bat, Jax Biggers began a routine-looking 6-4-3 double play - the Razorbacks' second of the night.

Matt Cronin is warming in the bullpen. Knight's pitch count is 97 through six innings.

Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 4 - Middle 6th Inning

The inning ended and Arkansas stranded two when Luke Bonfield watched strike three on a 2-2 fastball. Ethridge must have some good movement on his fastball because it also locked up Eric Cole for strike three earlier in the inning.

The Razorbacks are outhitting the Rebels 12-7, but there are a number of missed opportunities in this game. Arkansas has stranded seven.

Blaine Knight, with 85 pitches, will come back out for the sixth. It will be interesting to see if he can give the Razorbacks another one or two innings.

Arkansas 6, Ole Miss 4 - Top 6th Inning

Carson Shaddy and Jax Biggers each singled with one out, and Shaddy scored on Casey Martin's two-out single to left. Shaddy, Biggers and Martin each have multiple hits, led by Shaddy's 3-for-3 game.

Arkansas 5, Ole Miss 4 - Top 6th Inning

Jordan McFarland's one-out solo home run to right field has given the Razorbacks the lead again and sent Ole Miss to the bullpen. McFarland's fly ball just barely cleared the wall - and Ryan Olenek's glove. It was his third homer of the year and Arkansas' SEC-leading 49th.

Ryan Rolison leaves in line for the loss after allowing five runs on nine hits. He struck out eight. Right-hander Will Ethridge is the Rebels reliever.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 4 - End 5th Inning

Blaine Knight's curveball has been Thomas Dillard's kryptonite tonight. Dillard struck out for the third time - the second straight when he swung through a curve - and stranded Ryan Olenek at third base to end the fifth inning.

Olenek reached on a one-out double to left field and advanced on a flyball to center. He is the third stranded Rebel tonight.

Knight has had to work around a base runner quite a bit since the third inning. He has seven strikeouts and has given up seven hits. His pitch count is 85.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 4 - Middle 5th Inning

Heston Kjerstad singled off the mound with two outs, but the inning ended when Grant Koch flied out to left on a 3-2 pitch. The Razorbacks have stranded five.

Ole Miss starter Ryan Rolison has thrown 105 pitches. He likely won't throw more than another inning. He has struck out eight and allowed eight hits.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 4 - End 4th Inning

Jax Biggers erased a leadoff single with a 6-3 double play, and Blaine Knight struck out Jacob Adams looking at a 2-2 fastball.

Knight has six strikeouts and has allowed six hits. His pitch count is 68.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 4 - Middle 4th Inning

Carson Shaddy singled to left field with one out and stole second when Jax Biggers struck out at a high fastball, but he was stranded when Eric Cole grounded out.

Shaddy is 2-for-2 tonight and has both of his hit on the first pitch in the at-bat.

Ryan Rolison's pitch count is 82 through four innings. He has allowed seven hits and struck out six.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 4 - End 3rd Inning

Will Golsan tapped a roller in front of Grant Koch to end the inning. Ole Miss stranded runners at the corners.

Blaine Knight is at 54 pitches through three innings. Both pitchers have five strikeouts.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 4 - Bottom 3rd Inning

Cole Zabowski's two-out single has tied the game with two outs in the inning. Blaine Knight is trying to work around runners on the corners and keep the game tied.

Knight had back-to-back strikeouts before Zabowski, who homered in the second, came back to the plate. Knight caught Nick Fortes watching a fastball at the knees and Thomas Dillard swung through a two-strike curveball.

Knight has had to throw a lot of pitches this inning and now is above 50 for the game.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 3 - Bottom 3rd Inning

Blaine Knight has run into trouble in the third. Chase Cockrell and Jacob Adams each singled to start the inning, then Knight committed an error throwing to first on a sac bunt by leadoff hitter Grae Kessinger that scored a run.

Ryan Olenek followed with a single through the left side and Ole Miss has runners at first and second base with no outs.

Adams, a second baseman, is from Conway and verbally committed to Arkansas five years ago. He ended up at Crowder Community College before transferring to Ole Miss.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 1 - Middle 3rd Inning

The rain delay might have given Ryan Rolison a chance to calm down. After a couple of turbulent innings, he retired Arkansas in order in the third, with strikeouts of Heston Kjerstad looking on 0-2 and Grant Koch going around on a 1-2 pitch out of the zone. The inning ended when third baseman Tyler Keenan caught a ball over the wall in foul ground on a popup by Dominic Fletcher.

Rolison has five strikeouts, but is already up to 63 pitches.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 1 - End 2nd Inning

Ole Miss has hit a doubter and a no-doubter in the second. Thomas Dillard just missed on a home run when he sent a breaking ball foul deep down the right field line, a call that was upheld on replay.

But big 6-5, 225-pound, left-handed Cole Zabowski followed with a long home run to right center that put the Rebels on the board. The inning ended with a flyout and a strikeout.

The home run is the only hit Blaine Knight has allowed through two innings. He has three strikeouts.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 0 - Middle 2nd Inning

Luke Bonfield got the ball up into the wind to right field, but Ryan Olenek caught it at the warning track to end the inning. The Razorbacks have stranded three through two innings. Arkansas outhitting Ole Miss 6-0.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 0 - Top 2nd Inning

The rain delay is over. Luke Bonfield is coming to the plate with Casey Martin on first base and two outs. Ryan Rolison is still the Ole Miss pitcher.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 0 - Top 2nd Inning (RAIN DELAY)

The rain wasn't gone after all. It is pouring and the teams are off the field with two outs in the top of the second. Casey Martin is on first after drawing a two-out walk on a high 3-2 pitch in the final at-bat before the delay.

The tarp is on the field.

The radar indicates this should be a short delay. The trailing edge of this band of rain is about 10 miles to the west of Oxford.

Arkansas 4, Ole Miss 0 - Top 2nd Inning

Carson Shaddy's opposite-field home run has given the Razorbacks a nice lead. Shaddy turned on a first-pitch breaking ball from Ryan Rolison and sent it into the bullpen in right field. Jordan McFarland also scored after he reached on a single just past the infield dirt. McFarland beat the throw from the second baseman, who had to slide to make the stop on the wet grass.

Arkansas 2, Ole Miss 0 - End 1st Inning

Blaine Knight was in command in the first with a 93 mph fastball and 83 mph breaking ball. Ole Miss flied out to center, struck out on a check swing and grounded out to shortstop. Knight needed only nine pitches; six were strikes.

Arkansas 2, Ole Miss 0 - Middle 1st Inning

Heston Kjerstad struck out, but Grant Koch got a pitch to hit on a 3-1 count and drove in another run with a sacrifice fly to center field. The inning ended when Dominic Fletcher struck out swinging at a slider at the knees, stranding two runners.

Ole Miss starter Ryan Rolison had to throw 25 pitches that inning.

Arkansas 1, Ole Miss 0 - Top 1st Inning

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco paid Ryan Rolison a mound visit, but it didn't help. Luke Bonfield pulled the next pitch into left field for an RBI single. The bases are still loaded with no outs for Heston Kjerstad.

Arkansas 0, Ole Miss 0 - Top 1st Inning

The Razorbacks could not have asked for a better start. Jax Biggers, Eric Cole and Casey Martin have all singled to load the bases against Ole Miss lefty Ryan Rolison with no outs. Martin squared to bunt twice against Rolison, but fouled one off and watched a pitch go by. He swung on 0-2 and hit it sharply between the shortstop and third baseman.

Pregame

Arkansas and Ole Miss are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at Swayze Field. The rain has moved out of Northwest Mississippi, but there is still a chance for showers tonight.

The Razorbacks have tweaked their batting order tonight, moving Heston Kjerstad to fifth, Grant Koch to sixth and Dominic Fletcher to seventh. Jordan McFarland will start at first tonight to give Arkansas another right-handed bat against Ole Miss lefty Ryan Rolison.

Blaine Knight will start on the mound for Arkansas. He enters tonight's game with four wins and two no-decisions in six starts.

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