FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Ole Miss just got beat. Thoroughly, completely beat.
No. 12 Ole Miss lost the first game of the Fayetteville Super Regional 11-2 on Saturday versus Arkansas, putting the Rebels one loss away from elimination. Ole Miss now needs to win two games in a row to earn a trip to the College World Series.
"When you get to this point, everybody's really good and it comes down to playing well," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "And boy did they play well today. Unfortunately we were the opposite. We just didn't have an answer on the mound. Offensively, [Arkansas starter Isaiah] Campbell was too good for us. We didn't get any swings off, couldn't get to his fastball today. He really just ran through us."
After completing at least seven innings in five of his previous six starts, Ole Miss starting pitcher Will Ethridge wasn't able to give the Rebels any distance Saturday. Arkansas bludgeoned him from the beginning, scoring four runs in the first inning alone en route to chasing Ethridge after 3.1 innings pitched. The Razorbacks logged six hits against Ethridge, scoring six earned runs and eight runs total against the Ole Miss ace, who walked two batters and struck out two.
The top four batters in Arkansas' lineup blitzed Ole Miss pitching all game. The quartet or first baseman Trevor Ezell, shortstop Casey Martin, designated hitter Matt Goodheart and center fielder Dominic Fletcher combined to bat 9-for-18 with seven RBIs, seven runs and two home runs. Arkansas second baseman Jack Kenley hit the Razorbacks' first home run of the game, a three-run shot in the bottom of the first inning that gave Arkansas its first lead of the game.
"They just swung it well," Ethridge said of Arkansas' offense. "I think they hit each pitch that I had very well. I wasn't able to locate my pitches very well. It was just not my day today and they took advantage of it."
Ole Miss turned to a large cohort of relief pitchers after Ethridge to try to salvage the game, none of whom fared much better than the starter. Tyler Myers directly followed Ethridge, allowing three earned runs in two innings. Freshman left-hander Kaleb Hill followed, loading the bases and getting just one out before being removed for Max Cioffi. Cioffi stabilized the game a little, throwing 2.1 shutout innings with four strikeouts, stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth and benefiting from a home-run robbery by center fielder Ryan Olenek in the bottom of the seventh.
Arkansas starting pitcher and second-round MLB Draft pick Isaiah Campbell was dominant on Saturday, striking out seven batters and allowing four hits over 8.1 innings. He allowed two runs off solo home runs in the first inning by Ole Miss shortstop Grae Kessinger and in the ninth inning by Thomas Dillard. In between the home runs, Campbell pitched seven shutout innings.
"We knew that every pitch we were going to have to battle," Kessinger said. "Just because I got one out of the yard doesn't mean he was going to give in. From then on he just kept making pitches. In the eighth inning I still think he hit a 95 or 96 [mph pitch] so he competed until the end. Ultimately we just couldn't get enough swings off."
Thanks to Campbell's efficiency, Ole Miss was only able to strand three runners for the game and didn't have an at-bat with runners in scoring position. Two of Ole Miss' four hits ended as singles that were vanquished in double plays, as the Razorbacks ended the third inning with a strikeout-caught stealing double play and ended the fourth inning with a 6-4-3 groundout.
Ole Miss and Arkansas return to action on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Rebels will start freshman left-hander Doug Nikhazy, attempting to keep their season alive.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.