No. 1 Arkansas got some great relief pitching from Heston Tole and Connor Noland as well as a start by Caleb Bolden and great hitting by Cullen Smith and Jalen Battles to take a 3-2 win over Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
Noland worked 3.0 innings, walked one, struck out four, faced nine hitters, threw 30 pitches and 21 were strikes to earn his first save of season. Tole (1-0) got the win. Jackson Kimbrell (5-1) took the loss. Arkansas (46-10) and Tennessee will play for the SEC Tournament championship Sunday at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
It didn’t take the Razorbacks long to get the offense going on Saturday. Cayden Wallace hit a one-out double to left center field. Smith, filling in at first base for the injured Brady Slavens, hit a Cody Adcock, who is from Arkansas High in Texarkana, pitch over the fence in right field for a 2-0 lead.
Bolden gave up a one-out single and walk in the bottom of the first. It appeared Ole Miss had a rally going, but Bolden got cleanup hitter Kevin Graham to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
In the top of the second, Arkansas threatened again. Battles hit a two-out single and then Matt Goodheart followed with another single that got Battles to third. But Adcock then recorded a strikeout to get out of the inning.
Christian Franklin got a one-out triple in the top of the third and it appeared the Hogs were in line to possibly add to their lead. But a pop up to shortstop and a groundout to third ended the threat and left Franklin stranded.
Ole Miss started the bottom of the fourth off with a bang. The first two hitters got singles. But then Bolden struck out the next hitter and on the same play the Ole Miss runners tried a double steal. Casey Opitz gunned the runner out at third. A fly out to Ethan Bates in right field ended the threat.
Van Horn opted to bring in Zebulon Vermillion to start the bottom of the fifth. He allowed a leadoff single. Van Horn then went to Caden Monke. Two walks off Monke and then a double allowed Ole Miss to tie the game at 2. An intentional walk then loaded the bases with one out. Van Horn went to the bullpen and brought in Tole. He struck out the first hitter he faced then got a ground out thus holding Ole Miss to only two runs and stranding three.
The game wasn’t tied long though. Charlie Welch led off the inning with a walk. He advanced to second on a ground out by Bates. Then, with two outs, Battles hit a shot to left field to plate Welch giving the Hogs a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth.
Ole Miss had a rally in the bottom half of the sixth. With one out, Tole walked a hitter. Then he struck out the next batter for the second out. Ole Miss’ TJ McCants then singled to right field advancing Hayden Leatherwood to third. McCants tried to go to second on Bates’ throw to third. Wallace alertly saw McCants breaking for second and threw to Robert Moore at second who applied the tag to end the inning.
Bolden was outstanding for the Hogs. He worked 4.0 innings, allowed no runs, walked three, struck out three and gave up three hits. He faced 16 hitters, threw 77 pitches with 47 going for strikes. One of the Ole Miss runs in the fifth was credited to Vermillion and the other to Monke. Tole was amazing working 1.2 innings, allowing one hit, walked one, struck out two, faced six hitters, 27 pitches and 17 strikes. Noland came in to pitch for the Hogs in the bottom of the seventh.