FAYETTEVILLE — The official assigning of Saturday starting the best two out of three Super Regional at Baum-Walker Stadium between the Arkansas Razorbacks and Ole Miss Rebels seems to insure ace pitcher Isaiah Campbell opening for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas, the undefeated winner of last weekend’s Fayetteville Regional at Baum-Walker, and Ole Miss, the undefeated team of the Oxford Regional the Rebels hosted in Oxford, Mississippi, meet at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN, 2 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU and if necessary, 3 p.m. Monday on ESPN2.
The eight Super Regionals, whose winners advance as the Elite Eight playing for the national championship at the College World Series in Omaha, begin either Friday or Saturday.
Since Campbell pitched his eight innings logging a 3-1 winner’s bracket victory over TCU last Saturday night, he’ll now have his customary week’s rest between starts.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn started freshman Connor Noland in Friday’s 11-5 victory over fourth-seeded Central Connecticut and saved Campbell for Saturday’s higher seeded matchup against third-seeded TCU or California, the second seed to the No. 1 Fayetteville Regional Razorbacks but consecutively vanquished 13-2 and 7-4 by TCU and Central Connecticut.
After Sunday’s late night 6-0 clinching victory over TCU was achieved by winning starter Patrick Wicklander and relievers Cody Scroggins and Jacob Kostyshock, Van Horn was asked about the pitching rotation against Ole Miss.
“I can’t tell you 100 percent right now,” Van Horn said. “I want to sit down with the other coaches. But I would probably say if Isaiah is ready to go then he’ll go first.”
Barring something unforeseen, it seems the Saturday opening date insures the 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander, 11-1 with a 2.27 ERA and 108 strikeouts versus just 19 walks in 103 innings, will start.
Whatever game Campbell starts against Ole Miss seems bound to be his last at Baum-Walker.
Junior center fielder Dominic Fletcher and fourth-year junior Campbell were Competitive Round B (between the second and third rounds in the Major League draft) Monday by Arizona Diamond Backs and Seattle Mariners respectively.
Arkansas junior All-American closer Matt Cronin was drafted in Tuesday’s fourth round by the Washington Nationals.
Like Arkansas never playing second-seeded California at the Fayetteville, coach Mike Bianco’s top-seeded Oxford Regional Rebels never faced the second seed of their regional.
Second-seed Illinois fell 8-4 to third-seed Clemson then got ambushed, 7-5 by fourth-seed Jacksonville State.
Ole Miss beat Clemson, 6-1, in Saturday’s winner’s bracket then got rematched for a 19-4 Sunday night romp over Jacksonville State, the surprise winner over Clemson in Sunday afternoon’s loser’s bracket.
Playing SEC West rival Ole Miss in the Super Regional marks Arkansas second consecutive year playing a SEC rival in a Super Regional at Baum-Walker.
Last year’s Razorbacks won two out of three over South Carolina, 9-3, losing 8-5 then winning 14-4, before advancing to Omaha and national runner-up at the College World Series.
Though nationally seeded 12th to Arkansas’ fifth, and 16-14 in the SEC compared to Arkansas’s 20-10 sharing the SEC West crown with Mississippi State, the Rebels of the SEC West are the only team to win two out of three this season from Arkansas at Baum-Walker and hold a 3-2 edge over Arkansas in 2019 as Arkansas in its first-round SEC Tournament beat the Rebels but when then were eliminated by Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament loser’s bracket in Hoover, Alabama.
Asked Sunday night about the Rebels, Van Horn said, “They're really talented and they're a team with older players, They kept some guys from signing last year and they've got a freshman (left-hander Doug Nikhazy (8-3, 2.98 ERA) who, to me, is the best freshman pitcher in the league this year. He pitches second.”
What about their position players?
“They have power and a few guys who can run and a shortstop (Grae Kessinger, grandson of Ole Miss legend and former Major League shortstop and manager Don Kessinger) who can flat out play. They have some guys who are going to play in the big leagues. They're played all the way through the conference tournament championship (losing the final to SEC regular-season overall champion Vanderbilt) and now they've smoked everybody in their regional is what it sounds like to me.”