BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
OMAHA, NE. (KNWA) – Arkansas is now within one win of playing for the national championship.
The Razorbacks got a brilliant pitching start from from freshman Hagen Smith and Chris Lanzilli and Brady Slavens both homered to lift Arkansas to a 3-2 win over Ole Miss on Wednesday night at Charles Schwab Field.
Michael Turner’s RBI single added an insurance run in the eighth for Arkansas, who had eight hits and was facing elimination with a loss.
Instead the Razorbacks and Rebels will meet Thursday at 3 p.m. with the winner moving on to play Oklahoma Saturday in the best two of there championship series.
“Just a great win for our team obviously,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. Back against the wall and a lot of drama there at the end.”
Smith, whose last two appearances were out of the bullpen as a closer, was solid in his start on the mound.
He went five innings, allowing one run on two hits while working around four walks, in part with fanning nine in his outing, and threw 90 pitches, 56 for strikes before exiting.
“My mental approach today was just throw the ball over the plate, just throw strikes because I know I’ve got to throw strikes to give us a chance, Smith said. ” If I walk people, I won’t go long, deep in the game and help our team.”
Van Horn thought it was a gutsy effort by Smith.
“He’s had some really good outings, but it’s been at the end of the game for the most part.,” Van Horn said.” As far as starting, he had a little bit of a roller coaster down the stretch. He has great stuff. Obviously I thought he was outstanding.”
“…They fought him pretty good, got his pitch count up a little bit. For the most part, really proud of Hagen. He hadn’t been feeling good, sore throat, tested him for strep throat and a lot of things the last week, but he didn’t have it. You could even hear him talking a little different. So just a really good job.”
Evan Taylor took over and pitched up until the ninth while allowing one hit on a night when the Rebels, who beat the Razorbacks 13-5 on Monday night, had just five hits.
Brady Tygart came in, but didn’t last long, hitting two batters and loading the bases.
However Zack Morris finished the game off, only allowing one run from the Rebels to make it 3-2.
“You have just got to forget about it,” Morris said. “Obviously the start I had against these guys the second game we played here was not how I wanted it to go. That made me mad and I just wanted to come out and do better for these guys, for these seniors. I didn’t want to be the guy that kept these guys from ever getting to put on this jersey again.
“So I just wanted to go out there and compete. I was just hungry for the ball again. Right after that start, I texted Coach Van Horn and said ‘I want the ball again. I didn’t get it because Will McEntire threw a gem. But I just wanted the ball again.”
That was music to Van Horn’s ears.
“There wasn’t a lot of navigating there, just holding on, it looked like to me,” Van Horn said. “Morris did a tremendous job. He talked to me last night after the game and said, ‘I want the ball again.’ And I said, ‘Just be ready.’ I appreciated him talking to me a little bit about it.
“When he came in, I just said, ‘Hey, man, can you do this?’ And he said, ‘Yes, sir.’ And I just said, ‘Okay, here you go. Go get it.'”
Van Horn thought Morris handled the adversity well.
“He had a little different look to him tonight than he looked like last night, so I was proud of him,” Van Horn said. “Sometimes you don’t know until you experience it, and you have to get knocked down a little bit to have success, and I think he really genuinely wanted the ball tonight.”
It was Ole Miss’ first loss in eight games in the NCAA Tournament while Arkansas is now 7-2.
Arkansas’ Braydon Webb started the game with a double, his fourth lead off hit in as many games, but was unable to advance.
Lanzilli took care of the foot traffic around the bases himself in the second inning by launching a solo shot to put Arkansas up 1-0.
It was his 11th homer of the season, his third of the CWS and the 53rd of his college career, which was spent at Wake Forest until this season.
Ole Miss Kemp Alderman tied it 1-1 when he led off the bottom of the second with a solo blast off Smith.
Slavens, dropped from second to eighth in the order by Van Horn on Tuesday, soon broke up that deadlock with a mammoth home run in the fifth inning.
He drove a pitch from Auburn starting pitcher Josh Gaddis over the center field fence, a majestic 436-foot shot that was measured as the longest of the College World Series this year.
It is also the longest ever in the history of Charles Schwab Stadium, which opened in 2011.