BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
OMAHA, Neb. – The next challenge up for Arkansas at the College World Series is a familiar foe that is on a roll.
Ole Miss isn’t the same team that lost two of three to the Razorbacks in Fayetteville April 29-May 1 while dropping to 24-19 overall and 7-14 in SEC action.
The Rebels, viewed as one of the last teams to make the 64-team field, are 6-0 since the NCAA Tournament began and have outscored their opponents 51-12 while doing so.
“Once we got in, I think the slate’s clean,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “ And what I mean
by that is they were fighting uphill and trying to stay alive in the deep end for such a long time, that once they got in, now everybody’s even.”
Arkansas (44-19), fresh off a 17-2 of Stanford on Saturday, and Ole Miss (38-22) will meet Monday night at 6 p.m in a winner’s bracket game.
The winner will need only one more win to make the best two-of-three championship series beginning Friday while the loser would have to fight off three elimination games to do so.
Arkansas is the home team Monday night as winner of a coin flip with Ole Miss, who has won 14 of its last 17 games.
“Our comment has always been that if they get it going that they are as good as anybody in the country, ” Razorback head coach Dave Van Horn said. “…It’s one through nine. There are no easy outs.”
The Razorbacks are 6-1 in the NCAA Tournament and have a 62-36 favorable run differential in it games.
Arkansas is expected to start either Will McEntire (1-2, 2.81), who has a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings of work in the NCAA Tournament in two games that Arkansas went on to win.
Ole Miss will send out freshman left hander Hunter Elliott (4-3, 2.82), who got a no-decision in his team’s 6-3 loss to Arkansas in Fayetteville on April 30.
“They have a bonafide ace (Dylan DeLucia) and then a really good lefty that is kind of an ace as well that we will be facing,” Van Horn said. “We weren’t sure they were going to get in the tournament. They deserved to get into the tournament on how good they were. They finished strong and they got in and they have been on a roll.”
Elliott allowed three runs with 10 strikeouts in 6 innings in a game where Arkansas won 6-3 on Kendall Diggs’ walk-off three-run homer.
It was one of Elliott’s four outings this season that he went at last six innings, all since that game at Arkansas as he became a regular starter.
Elliott talked about the best way to keep the crowd’s hog calls quiet during a game against Arkansas, who has 16 home runs so far in the tournament.
“Just like any team, they’re pitchable if you can make and execute your pitches,” Elliott said Sunday. “If you have your best stuff, you can beat them…The less home runs you give up, the less runs, the less woo pigs.”
Both teams spent time at No. 1 this season.
“It’s not super surprising because we played so well at the beginning of the year,” Bianco said. “This wasn’t a team that came out of nowhere. This was a team that was ranked No. 1 at some point for a couple of weeks in mid-March, not the beginning of the season, month into the season.
“And a team that kind of lost itself and were able to come back. And I think once they got that new life in them, you can see the confidence in the way they play.”
Ole Miss, who won the Miami regional and the Southern Mississippi, downed Auburn 5-1 on Saturday night in its CWS opener.
Elliott allowed 4 hits, 3 runs, whiffed eight and walked one and while throwing 110 pitches in the aforemetioned start against Arkansas.
He gave up homers to Brady Slavens and Braydon Webb during the contest.
Elliott has made two starts in the NCAA Tournament and allowed just one run on six hits in 12 1/3 innings on six hits with 18 strikeouts and 5 walks while downing Miami and Southern Miss.
He allowed only one base runner in seven innings against Southern Miss.
Arkansas has at least one home run in all seven NCAA Tournament games while Ole Miss had thrived with two outs.
The Rebels are 20 of 66 (.303) with two outs in the NCAA Tournament and a third of their runs have come in those situations.
“It’s just sticking to your approach,” Ole Miss outfielder Kevin Graham said. “But that’s something we’ve emphasized since I got here, is getting that big two-out hits. With two outs, even with nobody on, there’s a lot of inning left.
“And just keep grinding out at-bats and winning pitches. And those two-out runs can be huge. They can be back breakers.”
Arkansas and Ole Miss both have large contingents of fans in Omaha.
“I think we have the best fans in the nation,” Arkansas pitcher Connor Noland said. “We show up here in Omaha, and I think their presence here today was felt. They were loud. I could hear them for sure. And I think the other team could hear them, too.”
Monday’s other CWS game is a 1 p.m. elimination game between Stanford and Auburn.
Oklahoma remained unbeaten with a 6-2 win on Sunday over Notre Dame while Texas A&M sent Texas home with a 10-2 victory.