Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Hogs' offensive approach good in opener
Arkansas first baseman Trevor Ezell connects Saturday, June 8, 2019, for a double during the first inning against Ole Miss in the NCAA Super Regional game at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Trevor Ezell opened Arkansas' half of the first inning Saturday in perfect lead-off fashion.
Ezell worked an eight-pitch at-bat against Ole Miss starter Will Ethridge that resulted in a double to the opposite field, down the left field line. Casey Martin singled three pitches later to give the Razorbacks runners on the corners with no outs.
With one out, center fielder Dominic Fletcher replicated Ezell's at-bat, fouling off several pitches and running the count full. On the eighth pitch, Fletcher hopped a single over the head of first baseman Cole Zabowski to score Ezell and tie the game 1-1.
"That was big for us right there after giving up a run in the first," Van Horn said. "You know, they got pretty excited about it and for us to come in and score, that was big. It kind of slowed it down a little bit.
"As far as Fletcher, he doesn't really have long at-bats, but that was a really good at-bat. That was good to see. It felt like he was seeing the ball good. He took some good swings, laid off some breaking balls in the dirt and fouled off some pitches he was right on."
The Razorbacks' crooked innings in an 11-2 victory over Ole Miss were partly due to the way Arkansas' hitters dug in at the plate, and the Rebels' inability to get them out in full counts.
Facing a 3-2 count, Arkansas reached base four times.
"We fell behind and didn't make some pitches early in the count," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "We pitched in some disadvantage counts for our pitchers. Some of the pitches were good pitches, just pitches that they hit. I think they made some adjustments.
"Much has been said that we had played them five times and I thought they made some adjustments to how we pitched them. I thought they had a really good approach offensively."
Will Ethridge, the Ole Miss junior right-handed starter, failed to record an out in any of the four full counts he faced. In addition to Ezell and Fletcher, Casey Opitz drew a full-count walk following Jack Kenley's three-run home run in the first inning, and Ethridge hit Christian Franklin with a 3-2 pitch to give the Razorbacks their first base runner during the three-run fourth.
An out in any of those situations might have prolonged Ethrige's outing, but instead he lasted only 3 1/3 innings.
It was the second short start this season for Ethridge against the Razorbacks. He threw 99 pitches in a 5-inning start on March 29 when Arkansas scored 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits and 2 walks.
On Saturday, Ethridge allowed 8 runs (6 earned) on 6 hits and 2 walks. He threw 45 of his 87 pitches in the first when the Razorbacks fouled off 15 pitches.
"We battled (Ethridge) real good the last time pretty good, got his pitch count up," Van Horn said. "The first inning, his count was way up before Kenley hit the three-run homer. He almost got out of it, but we still had him the 30s, and then Kenley hit the home run and we saw a few more pitches. You know as a coach, whether it's your pitcher or the opponent's pitcher that your starter is probably not going to go very far in this game when they have to stand out there and throw (so many pitches).
"It was just a super job by our offense and fighting to get to a better pitch."
Arkansas reached base in four of six full-count at-bats, and would have had a fifth if not for Ryan Olenek's leaping grab to rob Ezell of a home run in the seventh inning.
Ten Arkansas batters took a count to three balls and eight reached base.
"The umpire established the strike zone early, so we knew we were going to have a good, tight zone," said Ezell, who finished 3-for-5 with two doubles and a home run. "We were able to take some pitches and then fight the ones off that we needed to. That was kind of the theme up and down the lineup; we were able to fight pitches off until we got one we could handle."
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