OMAHA, Neb. — So they meet again.
Ole Miss baseball will face off against Arkansas for the second time in three days and the fifth time in less than two months on Wednesday (6 p.m., ESPN). The Rebels need a win to eliminate the Razorbacks and move on to the College World Series championship series for the first time in program history. The Razorbacks need a win to stave off elimination and force a winner-takes-all matchup between Ole Miss and Arkansas on Thursday.
Behind an early offensive surge and a dominant pitching performance from starter Hunter Elliott, the Rebels easily took down the Razorbacks Monday. But things could be quite different Wednesday, as the Rebels venture into untested waters with their pitching and Arkansas still has some of its top arms available.
Here is the Clarion Ledger’s scouting report and prediction for Wednesday’s game.
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Ole Miss pitching vs. Arkansas offense
Senior left-hander John Gaddis will make his first start since April 9 on Wednesday. Gaddis has been effective in relief since the start of May, posting a 2.31 ERA.
Given the way Elliott thrived as a left-hander against Arkansas’ lefty-heavy lineup, Bianco is trying to recapture that magic. But behind him, the Rebels should have the full strength of its bullpen available, including hard-throwing right-hander Brandon Johnson, slider-throwing fireman Josh Mallitz and right-hander Jack Dougherty, who hasn’t allowed an earned run since April 30.
Arkansas’ offense put stress on Elliott in the early innings Monday but went cold in the middle of the game, allowing Elliott to settle in. This was the only time anyone has had that kind of success against the Razorbacks lineup in Omaha, where Arkansas scored 17 runs against Stanford and 11 runs against Auburn.
Advantage: Gaddis is a good pitcher, but he struggled starting in SEC play this year. The depth of Ole Miss’ bullpen is a strength, but give the hot-hitting Razorbacks the edge.
Arkansas pitching vs. Ole Miss offense
The good news for Arkansas is it got serious length from Tuesday’s starter Will McEntire, so just about its entire pitching staff should be available. Left-hander Hagen Smith and right-hander Brady Tygart haven’t thrown yet in Omaha. The first three pitchers the Razorbacks used Monday — Zack Morris, Kole Ramage and Evan Taylor — all threw fewer than 25 pitches and should be able to throw an inning or two as well.
The big question will be about the availability of ace Connor Noland. Noland threw 79 pitches in 7 ⅔ innings on Saturday and will be one day short of regular Major League rest. It’s conceivable that he could be used in a pinch.
But like Arkansas’ offense, Ole Miss’ offense is hot. The Rebels already squared up Morris, Ramage and Taylor and won a game against Noland six weeks ago. Ole Miss proved it could score runs against All-America caliber pitchers in the Coral Gables Regional and the Hattiesburg Super Regional and have the added advantage of an extra day off that Arkansas doesn’t have.
Advantage: As long as Ole Miss’ offense stays hot, it’s hard to pick against them. But Arkansas has a lot of arms at its disposal. Hagen and Tygart in particular pitched really well against the Rebels in the regular season and could be tough matchups.
Prediction: Ole Miss wins a slugfest
These offenses are both really good. Sure, Arkansas has a lot of its best relievers available and Ole Miss’ bullpen has been hot all postseason. But by the time teams reach this part of the College World Series, the quality of starting pitching tends to take a dip.
Both teams should be able to score in bunches early. Both teams should be able to pull it out at the end. But by virtue of Ole Miss having the extra off day and the confidence of its seven-game postseason winning streak, it’s hard to pick against the Rebels coming out with the edge.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or email@example.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.