Rebels romp past Hogs, now one win away from CWS championship series
Published 10:31 pm Monday, June 20, 2022
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Tim Elko and Calvin Harris homered, Hunter Elliott pitched effectively into the seventh inning, and Ole Miss defeated Arkansas 13-5 on Monday night to move within one win of the College World Series finals.
The Rebels (39-22) have won seven straight in the NCAA Tournament after being the final team awarded an at-large bid.
“Getting hot is real,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “As a coach, you just let them go.”
Ole Miss will play Arkansas (45-20) again Wednesday at 6 p.m. Arkansas beat Auburn 11-1 in an elimination game Tuesday night. Three of the four teams remaining — Ole Miss and Arkansas in Bracket 2, and Texas A&M in Bracket 1 — are from the SEC West.
The Rebels, in the CWS for the sixth time but only second this century, would have to lose Wednesday and again Thursday to not reach their first finals.
“We’re a great team and we knew that from the start,” leadoff batter Justin Bench said. “We had a rough patch in middle of the season where we were 7-14. I don’t know how many games in a row we’ve won now, but with the leadership of Tim Elko we stuck together and won games.”
Elko put Ole Miss up 4-1 in the second inning when he launched Evan Taylor’s high fastball 416 feet into the left-field seats for his 23rd homer of the season.
Harris, the Rebels’ No. 9 batter, hit a two-run double in the third inning and his two-run homer in a four-run fifth. It was Harris’ second homer of the season and first since March 29. Harris went 3-for-4 and is hitting .476 (10-of-21) in the NCAA Tournament.
Justin Bench was 4-for-6 with two RBIs as the Rebels finished with 13 hits against seven pitchers. Arkansas starter Zack Morris (6-1) faced seven batters and got only two outs.
“They played better than us and we need to move on,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “You can’t look at the big picture right now. You have to figure out how to play well tomorrow. Get a win tomorrow and have a chance to get to the next day.”
Elliott (5-3) had given up one earned run in 12 1/3 tournament innings leading into his start on a humid, 93-degree night in Omaha. The freshman left-hander settled down after Arkansas scored three runs, two unearned, over the first two innings.
“Unfortunately for him, we didn’t play great defense early,” Bianco said. “Not taking anything away from Arkansas, but he shouldn’t have given up a run today.”
Elliott walked Cayden Wallace to start the third and then picked him off. He worked around trouble in the fourth and set the Razorbacks down in order in the fifth and sixth. He allowed six hits, walked two and struck out four before Mason Nichols took over with one out and a man on base in the seventh.
“Pitching with a lead is huge, and these guys have been able to do that for me lately,” Elliott said. “It’s easy to pitch with the lead and not having to make every pitch perfect. It lets you flood the strike zone and let whatever happens happen.”
Arkansas scored its first run after Ole Miss left fielder Kevin Graham lost Michael Turner’s flyball in the sun. Graham froze momentarily and appeared to have no idea where the ball was until it landed near him. Braydon Webb, who had led off with a single, scored from first and Turner pulled into second with a double.
The Hogs added two runs in the second but didn’t score again until Peyton Stovall homered in the ninth.
Arkansas won two of three at home against Ole Miss in the regular season, but that also marked the start of a remarkable late-season surge by the Rebels. Ole Miss has won 15 of 18 games since then.
“It’s all about perspective,” Webb said. “We’re blessed to still be here and have the opportunity to go out and compete tomorrow. Just play our brand of baseball, have some fun. Tomorrow’s a new day.”