HOOVER, Ala. — Like he has all season, Chris Ellis gave Ole Miss a chance. But Chris Oliver was better.
Oliver limited the Southeastern Conference’s top-hitting offense to four hits over 6.1 innings, and Arkansas sent No. 10 Ole Miss to the loser’s bracket of the SEC Tournament with a 2-1 win Wednesday afternoon at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
The Rebels (40-17) had their chances, putting the leadoff man on in six innings, including doubles from Will Allen and Errol Robinson to start the second and third. But Ole Miss went just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and plated its only run on Colby Bortles’ pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh.
“I thought it was one of those typical Friday nights in the Southeastern Conference,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “It just comes down to a timely hit and executing offensively. We didn’t have many opportunities, but we blew some opportunities early. Obviously a couple pick-offs and not getting guys in from third base, and they’re just magnified.”
Ole Miss’ last threat came in the the eighth with a runner on second with two outs for Allen, the SEC’s leading hitter. But right-hander Jake Stone, who threw the final 1.2 innings for the save, got Allen looking to preserve the one-run lead.
The Rebels will play Vanderbilt in an elimination game Thursday morning at 9:30. The Commodores lost to LSU 11-1 in seven innings earlier in the day.
It didn’t take long for Arkansas (37-21) to get to Ellis, who suffered his first loss of the season. The Rebels’ ace ran into immediate trouble in the first when the Razorbacks loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a hit batsmen, though the right-hander was able to limit the damage to one run on Brian Anderson’s sac fly.
Ellis settled in with four consecutive shutout innings and had a chance to strand Eric Fisher at third with two outs in the sixth, but a wild pitch allowed Fisher to trot home to push Arkansas’ lead to 2-0. Ellis (9-1) scattered seven hits, struck out two and walked one in 6.1 innings before being lifted for Scott Weathersby, who kept the Rebels close with 2.2 scoreless frames.
But Oliver (8-4) shut down the Rebels’ offense for the second time this season with a four-pitch arsenal highlighted by a mid-90s fastball, surrendering just one run and fanning one while walking two in the win. Oliver, who also beat Ole Miss in Arkansas’ 11-1 win on May 4 in Oxford, allowed just nine hits in 13.1 innings against the Rebels this season.
“He’s a stud,” Allen said of Oliver. “He has a great arm. He can run it up there, 94, 95, 96, but he just really worked all of his pitches. He was throwing it in the strike zone and kind of keeping all of us off balanced.”
Robinson went 2-for-2, the only Rebel to finish with multiple hits. Clark Eagan and Andrew Benintendi each went 2-for-4 for Arkansas while Anderson and Alex Gosser had a double apiece.
See Thursday’s edition of the EAGLE for complete coverage from Wednesday’s game. (May 21, 2014)