OMAHA, Neb. — Arkansas’ second opponent in the College World Series will be Ole Miss — a team the Hogs know fairly well.
The Razorbacks took two of three games over the Rebels in late April when Arkansas outscored them 12-10 across the three-game series in Fayetteville.
In Game 2 of the series, the Hogs emerged victorious 6-3 and tagged Ole Miss starter Hunter Elliott — who will start Monday’s game — for three runs. Razorbacks outfielder Braydon Webb said it’s advantageous seeing a guy for the second time.
“It helps just building that scouting report and just seeing how the pitches move,” Webb said Sunday. “Every game is different. We’ve got to come out with a good game plan, which we will and just continue to play with that edge that we have.”
Arkansas’ game plan worked to perfection in Saturday’s 17-2 win over Stanford that put the Hogs in the winners bracket in Omaha. Ole Miss downed SEC West foe Auburn 5-1 Saturday night to set up a rematch with the Razorbacks.
The Rebels have not lost a game since the regionals started, and they have outscored opponents 51-12 across that six-game span. It is safe to say Arkansas will see a different Ole Miss team than the one they faced in late April.
“We weren’t sure they were going to get in the tournament,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “They deserved to get in the tournament by how good they were. They finished strong, and they got in, and they’ve been on a roll.”
Elliott is a freshman left-hander who has surrendered just one run in two postseason starts. In his last start against Southern Miss in the super regionals, Elliott threw 7 ⅓ scoreless innings and struck out 10 batters.
“He can spot it up with the best of them,” Van Horn said. “He’s a strike-thrower, he’s mature, strong for his age. He has been really good.”
On top of having a confident starter, the Rebels saved plenty of bullpen arms with a quality start from ace Dylan DeLucia, who threw 7 ⅔ innings of one-run ball in Saturday night’s win over Auburn.
Righty Brandon Johnson will be one of the go-to arms out of the pen for Ole Miss. He has 11 saves, a 4.08 ERA, 21 walks and 66 strikeouts in 39 ⅔ innings pitched.
Freshman right-hander Josh Mallitz threw just 1 ⅓ innings in the win over Auburn, so he would be good to go against the Hogs. Mallitz has been lights out this year with a 1.24 ERA in 29 innings pitched.
The Rebels’ lineup has been hot as of late and it all starts with the powerful first baseman Tim Elko, who is hitting with a .455 average, 10 RBIs and three homers this postseason. Elko was 1-4 with two strikeouts against Auburn on Saturday.
Left fielder Kevin Graham found success at the plate against the Tigers, going 3-5 with two runs scored. Designated hitter Kemp Alderman drove in two of the Rebels’ five runs with a two-RBI single in the first inning.
“I think about Graham more than any of them; he really got that lineup going again,” Van Horn said. “It’s one through nine, there aren’t any easy outs there.”
Ole Miss, unlike Arkansas, has not slugged a ton of longballs to score the majority of its runs. The Rebels are a team that does a good job of manufacturing runs with base hits and keeping pressure on opposing pitchers.
Five of the usual nine starts for Ole Miss are hitting with a sub .300 average this postseason, so the key for Arkansas will be to limit the amount of runners on base. As soon as Ole Miss puts runners on, it usually capitalizes.
“Our comment has always been that if they get it going, they’re as good as anyone in the country,” Van Horn said. “I mean, this team was preseason ranked really high, top-five.”
Arkansas and Ole Miss will get things going at 6 p.m. at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha. You can watch the game on ESPN.