The Rebels will roll into their double-header Friday at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville firing on all cylinders, after commanding an impressive 9-1 victory over the No. 14 Razorbacks on Thursday night.
Until the eighth inning, Arkansas ace and starter Blaine Knight sent most every Rebel batter back to the dugout, with the exception of Tim Rowe. Rowe hit a two-run shot in the top of the second inning to score the first runs of the game.
For the Rebels, James McArthur pitched no-hit shutout baseball game until the bottom of the fifth inning, when leadoff batter Jared Gates sent a hanging curve ball over the wall in right-center field. After the home run, McArthur shut down the Razorbacks again until Will Ethridge relieved him in the ninth inning. McArthur’s final line tallied one hit, one earned run and six strikeouts.
The Rebel bats were quiet until the top of the eighth. In the top half of the inning, Will Golsan singled to short, and Colby Bortles followed it by jumping on a high fastball and sneaking it over the left field wall.
After a Ryan Olenek double down the left field line, Blaine Knight’s night ended before he was able to give up another hit to Rowe.
Josh Alberius came in to relieve Knight, but Rowe hit a single into right field to knock in his third RBI of the night.
The top of the ninth saw the Rebel bats get even hotter. Tate Blackman hit a two-run shot to right-center field on a mistake pitch by Alberius; the ball was thrown inside and belted high while the catcher set up low and away. In the next at-bat, Colby Bortles smoked his second dinger in as many innings to right field, extending the lead to eight.
Will Ethridge stepped up to close out the game in the ninth inning. Ethridge let up a double off the wall to Chad Spanberger but recovered by quickly completing the final two outs.
James McArthur was one inning away from throwing Ole Miss its the first shutout in two seasons, yet his 114 pitches were too many for him to finish the ninth.
Utilizing just two pitchers in the first game of the series was key for the Rebels. It will allow head coach Mike Bianco some freedom with his pitching staff over the rest of the weekend’s matchups.
Switching Nick Fortes to first base in order to keep his hot bat in the lineup and putting Cooper Johnson’s cannon behind the plate again seem to be paying off. Although only hitting a measly .181, Johnson has posted three hits in two games this week and looks to be improving his approach little by little.
Attempting to replicate the sweep Ole Miss had over ranked Arkansas last year, the Rebels have jumped out to a good start. Coach Bianco has options for almost any scenario. The current lineup is beginning to find its groove, and the pitchers are continuing the dominance they have shown all season.