HOOVER, Alabama – A two-run home run by designated hitter Matt Goodheart coupled with a strong performance by the pitching staff wasn’t enough Friday as Ole Miss scored the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat Arkansas, 3-2, and eliminate it from the SEC Tournament.
Much like the other games of the SEC Tournament, runs were hard to come by in Friday’s game between the Razorbacks and Rebels.
It was the third-straight game Arkansas totaled five hits and the 12th game of the tournament decided by two runs or less.
Goodheart, who had just one hit in eight at-bats in the previous two tournament games, broke out for a 2 for 3 game as the only Hog with a multi-hit performance.
He’s also the second Razorback with a multi-hit game in this week’s tournament as his fourth inning home run was the only source of offense for the Hogs.
It was Goodheart’s third home run of the year and second in as many weeks, but it was only the third extra-base hit for Arkansas over the three games this week.
Pitching wise, freshman Connor Noland, making his 16th start of the year was sharp, giving up just one run on two hits over five innings, while walking one and striking out two on 73 pitches.
It was Noland’s fifth outing of five or more innings was one of his more efficient as it was just his second start of five or more innings with two or less hits allowed.
Since his start at Vanderbilt (April 13), which was his shortest of the year, Noland has given up just six earned runs in 34.2 innings (seven outings) and leads the pitching staff with a 1.56 ERA, while holding opponents to just a .208 batting average.
Arkansas struggled to punch in runs Friday against Ole Miss.
After taking the 2-0 lead in the fourth, the Hogs had the bases loaded with two outs in the fifth as Ole Miss starter struggled with command and hit Martin with a pitch followed by a walk to Goodheart.
Dominic Fletcher popped out to left field, ending the threat.
The Razorbacks were 0 for 6 in the game with runners in scoring position and just 2 for 13 with runners on base.
It was a tough tournament, offensively, as the offense managed just seven hits in 43 at-bats (.163) with runners on base.
Overall, the team hit .160 with just 15 hits and eight runs scored.
On the flip side, the pitching was outstanding, allowing just nine earned runs over 25 innings and held opponents to just a .169 batting average.
After Noland was relieved at the start of the sixth inning, Kevin Kopps, Cody Scroggins and Kole Ramage did a great job out of the bullpen combining for two innings of no-hit ball with just two walks allowed.
Combined this week, that pitching combo had a 2.90 ERA and allowed five hits and four walks.
Zebulon Vermillion followed Ramage at the start of the eighth inning, but struggled to record just one out after walking the lead-off batter and then hitting another.
Junior Matt Cronin was called upon for the second time this week to try for the five-out save, but could not stop the first-pitch single by Thomas Dillard to tie the game.
That was followed by a sacrifice fly by Grae Kessinger to give Ole Miss the final lead of the game.
“I thought both starting pitchers did a good job,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “Both of them had to work out of a couple of jams and for the most part threw a lot of strikes. Kind of left some runners out there again today. Obviously, it came back to get us. We kind of created out own jam there in the eighth, leadoff walk and hit by pitch. That’s not the way we wanted to go there, but they got a couple of big hits.
“Well, they got one big hit anyway. It was a good ballgame. I knew it was going to be close. We were kind of to the point where we were going to bring in a couple of freshmen if it didn’t go real well. If Cronin could have just gotten us through the eighth, I don’t know if we would have brought him back out for the ninth. Time to get ready for that regional.”
“I think we’re a little tired,” Van Horn on the team struggling offensively the last two weeks. “We just need to get back home and regroup a little bit and start scoring some runs. If you look at it, we had some guys that didn’t hit at all. We lost a two-run game and a one-run game, and we didn’t do anything. Our pitching did a pretty good job for the most part, defense was pretty good. We’ll be fine.”
Arkansas will now wait to see where it lands in the NCAA Tournament field, which will be decided at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.
The regional host announcement will come at 7:30 p.m. Sunday on NCAA.com.