A lack of offense early in games has had Dave Van Horn scratching his head all year and when Arkansas finally got it Sunday they nearly blew it.
There’s not a lot of other ways to put it after the Razorbacks saw an 11-0 lead midway through the third inning vanish pretty quickly.
That lead was nearly cut in half (11-5) by the end of the third. By the end of the seventh it was completely gone and the game was tied, 14-14.
“I tried to remember during the game if I’d been involved in a game like this and maybe figure out how to handle it a little bit,” Van Horn said later after getting an 18-14 win. “I just tried to stay calm and be positive.”
It wasn’t from a lack of effort. The Hogs were still managing to score runs.
“Our guys were fighting,” he said. “I don’t remember being in one like this. Maybe one that I had a seven or nine-run lead and they came back and tied it where we don’t score. But we scored a few more runs.
“We didn’t just sit on 11. We had 14 and the next thing you know it’s 14-14. It was crazy.”
Ole Miss’ pitchers helped all of that, basically issuing 17 walks and hitting a couple of other Razorback batters. That was 19 free passes to first base.
“They walked us and we mixed in a few hits,” Van Horn said. “No lead was safe today.”
The Hogs got the final lead with three in the eighth and an insurance run in the ninth, shored up the defense and held on for the win.
Van Horn, who has built maybe the most consistent program in the country, kept his cool while Rebels coach Mike Bianco either finally had his fill of some umpire decisions and blew a gasket in the fifth inning and got thrown out or was trying to provide a spark.
“I can’t remember a day we were that bad on the mound,” Bianco said later. “Our guys competed for nine innings. For that I’m proud. We were just too bad on the mound to give us a chance to win the game.”
Kevin Kopps helped. Again.
After appearing in the first game of the series Saturday in relief, he came on in the seventh and finished the game, throwing 47 pitches (two more than any of the other four on the mound).
“Great job by Kevin Kopps coming in and giving us some hope at the end and then finishing it up,” Van Horn said in what was probably an understatement.
The bottom line is the Hogs won the series in front of the biggest crowd they’ve seen this year.
The folks in Oxford are apparently done worrying about covid restrictions and they packed Swayze Field with over 33,000 announced for the series. Most weren’t bothered by a mask, either.
Now they come back home for a pair of games Tuesday and Wednesday with Arkansas-Pine Bluff followed by a weekend series with Texas A&M.
Van Horn said Caleb Bolden would be the starter on the hill Tuesday with Kole Ramage the Wednesday starter.
They need to go deep into the game. A lack of production the last three games has put a strain on the bullpen and the Hogs are concerned about the starters getting in trouble early.
“It’s not giving us enough innings,” Van Horn said. “We’re having to get into our bullpen way too early. We’re gonna wear them out.
“The guys you saw coming out of the bullpen the last two days won’t throw all week until Friday or Saturday. We’ve got to have some starters give us some time.”