FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Bobby Wahl was appreciative of the run support he got early and often from Ole Miss hitters Friday night. The junior ace finished with seven innings of solid work in the Southeastern Conference opener won by Ole Miss 7-1 over Arkansas.
By: Jeff Roberson, OMSpirit.com
“I’m not too used to that. Usually in the SEC on a Friday night, it’s 2-1 ballgames,, 1-0 ballgames,” said Wahl after the Ole Miss victory on an unseasonably warm mid-March night in northwest Arkansas. “We’ve got a special group of guys on offense, and they can really swing it. They’re just going up there and swinging the bats. They’ve been doing great.”
Those early Rebel runs were important. After the Razorbacks manufactured a run in the bottom of the first, it was a grand slam over the left field wall by junior second baseman Preston Overbey that gave Ole Miss pitchers the cushion they needed.
The Rebels, now 19-1 overall and 1-0 in league play, added three runs in the top of the fourth inning to lead 7-1, including a solo home run by Sikes Orvis. He had earlier in the game almost sent one out of the park that was caught over the shoulder at the warning track by Hogs center fielder Matt Vinson.
And that was it for the scoring.
Orvis, Will Allen, and Overbey accounted for five of the Rebels’ 10 hits. Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said it was good to see production from those players, who are more down the batting order than earlier in the season. On this night they were in the sixth, seventh, and ninth spots respectively.
“We got off to this start (this season) without Sikes and Will (at their best), and the last three games they have swung it much better and got hits tonight.
Obviously a much better tonight with more guys in the lineup (hitting well). We need those guys. We need Sikes and Will in the middle of the order.” If those players step up offensively, the Rebels are a much better team.
Overbey, with his second round-tripper of the year, said he feels good at the plate these days and was ready for the moment.
“Coach (Cliff) Godwin said if he hangs a curve ball, hit it. And that’s what happened,” Overbey said. “I knew I hit it pretty well, and the wind helped me out a little bit.”
But on this night it was pitching and defense that was also key. Arkansas was effective early and had the bases loaded. But pitching and defense was stellar for the Rebels all night, especially after the big lead.
Arkansas got two hits in the first inning and one more the entire game. Wahl said he got more in the groove as the game moved on.
“One of the biggest things was I was getting comfortable. I was letting the ball go a little better. It was coming out of my hand a little better,” Wahl said. “I trusted my defense. They’ve been great all year long.”
Wahl said he needs to eliminate the free passes.
“I walked four or five people, and that’s not very good.” I was pleased with the defensive effort, and offensively we continue to swing it. It’s a special group of guys we have.”
Scott Weathersby finished the final two innings on the mound for the Rebels with no damage, including three strikeouts and a walk.
“Always great to see Scott do well; he’s such a great guy,” Wahl said. “He’s really helped this team, and I couldn’t be happier for Scott and this team.”
Wahl talked about what this game meant, and the approach this team took entering it.
“We’re feeling good. We’re a mature team. We’re an experienced team, and we know things can go bad in a hurry,” Wahl said. “It’s cliché but we’re just taking it one day at a time mindset and one pitch at a time. We’ve been successful so far.”
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said the Rebels are a confident group, and Friday night was more of what he’s seen all season.
“We played like we’ve been playing, and that’s one of the challenges,” he said. “You don’t have to do anything different just because it’S Friday night in the SEC. This is a tough place to play here at Arkansas with the big crowds. They get one run in the first with two great at-bats off Bobby.
“But Bobby handled it, and we’ve done this a lot this year — handled the pressure and seemed relaxed and composed, then put an inning together. Preston’s home run was huge and got us back in the game. I thought we swung the bat throughout the lineup once again — one through nine, different guys in different innings. And then once Bobby got on a roll, right after the third inning, he started to get rhythm and feel good.”
Wahl said he especially enjoyed seeing Orvis finally connect on his first home run of the year after the one earlier in the game fell just short and was caught.
“My roommate’s 415-foot bomb out there, that was pretty cool to see,” he said.
For openers, it was a pretty cool night all the way around for the Rebels.