FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas made several big plays on defense, including Matt Vinson’s diving catch in left field in extra innings.
They got some timely hits like the two-out, two-run single by designated hitter Joe Serrano to take the lead against Ole Miss. They even got some solid pitching from relievers Jalen Beeks and Brandon Moore against the Rebels’ strong lineup.
But Vinson said it was easy to see why Arkansas suffered a 6-4 loss in 13 innings to Ole Miss in front of an announced crowd of 3,011 in Baum Stadium on Sunday.
“It’s really hard to win a baseball game with five errors,” Vinson said. “Let alone an SEC game. Especially one that tight. It lost us the game. Our errors lost us the game.”
Arkansas (14-7, 11-2 Southeastern Conference) recorded a season-high five errors, which played a part in four unearned runs, to lose the weekend series to Ole Miss (20-2, 2-1). Two of the mistakes came on throwing errors in the steady rain after Ole Miss bunts in the decisive 13th inning, helping the Rebels finally break through for the deciding win.
Catcher Jake Wise made the first mistake on a sacrifice bunt by center fielder Auston Bousfield, who tried to move Tanner Mathis to second base. Wise fielded the bunt cleanly and gripped the ball with no problem, but lost his footing when he planted.
“I threw a change-up. It never made it there,” said Wise, who was charged with the first error of his career.
Mathis scored the go-ahead run after another bunt by Austin Anderson, which was thrown away by reliever Moore for a 5-4 lead. Ole Miss scored again off a sacrifice fly by catcher Stuart Turner to open up a two-run lead.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said the mistakes wouldn’t have happened if the field wasn’t soaked because of a heavy rain that began to fall in extra innings Sunday. But Wise said the blame still fell on the Razorbacks for the loss.
“They played in it, too,” Wise said. “They had zero errors. We had five. You can’t blame it on the weather because both teams play in it. The conditions are the same for both teams. But we had opportunities early that we didn’t really capitalize on.”
Arkansas felt good about its position heading into the series finale after collecting a 10-1 victory Saturday. The Razorbacks had junior Ryne Stanek, who was moved from his Friday night role to Sunday, on the mound with a chance to win the series.
Stanek allowed three runs on four hits in 4 2/3 innings. But the junior didn’t get much help from a defense that committed two errors during Ole Miss’ two-run fourth inning or from an offense that started slow against Ole Miss’ Sam Smith.
The Razorbacks did finally break through off Ole Miss reliever Aaron Greenwood in the seventh inning, scoring three runs to take the lead. The rally began with a bases loaded single by Jacob Morris to cut Ole Miss’ lead to 3-2. Arkansas took the lead three batters later on Serrano’s single just over shortstop Anderson’s glove.
It was short-lived, though. Ole Miss tied the game in the eighth after loading the bases with one out off reliever Barrett Astin. Van Horn brought Beeks out of the bullpen, but the left-hander walked pinch hitter Lance Wilson to make it 4-4.
The game remained tied through the ninth thanks to solid pitching efforts by Moore (1-2) and the Rebels’ Tanner Bailey. Moore kept Ole Miss off the scoreboard for three innings and allowed one hit and three walks in his relief appearance. Bailey, a Little Rock native, was even better in allowing five hits with nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
Ole Miss closer Brett Huber (2-0) then threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Bailey to earn the win.
“I’m proud of the way our pitchers pitched (Sunday),” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “It was a tough day to pitch with the weather, the footing and the wet balls. Defensively we were sensational and made some plays. Arkansas made some great plays, but they also opened the door for us a couple of times.”
Arkansas did have one more chance after the errors in the 13th inning. Outfielder Tyler Spoon led off the 13th by trying to lay down another bunt on the wet field, but was ruled out after the ball bounced off his leg as he exited the batter’s box.
Van Horn argued the call, but to no avail. Huber retired Brian Anderson and Vinson on fly balls to close out the game. It was the longest Arkansas has been part of since a 16-inning loss to Southwest Missouri State on April 6, 2004.
“It was a tough game,” Van Horn said. “I thought both teams played extremely hard and wanted to win and didn’t want to give it up at the end. We had our chances. They had their chances. Nobody could really get the big hit. It’s disappointing losing the game with a leadoff walk there and then a sac bunt. The catcher has got the runner at second and then he slipped.
“The field was probably too wet to play on the last inning or two but we had to finish it because of where we were.”
Arkansas surrendered four unearned runs in Sunday’s loss. The Razorbacks have committed 33 errors and have allowed 15 unearned runs through 21 games.
The five errors were the most committed by Arkansas in a game since March 5, 2011, when they had six in a 13-9 win against Milwaukee-Wisconsin.
Van Horn said the Hogs will “try to get things straightened out” as they prepare for their next series at South Carolina beginning Friday night. Wise believes the Razorbacks will be fine despite dropping their first SEC series at home.
“We’re a tough team,” Wise said. “We bounce back after losing four in Arizona. We came back and won four straight. I don’t doubt the toughness of the team. We lost a close game (Sunday) that could’ve gone either way. … You just kind of forget about it and move on, get ready for South Carolina and make sure we win there.”