FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ stay at the SEC Tournament appeared to be over after the Razorbacks fell into a six-run deficit against Ole Miss.
But Arkansas got to send the Rebels home after an improbable win Friday night.
Junior Joe Serrano scored the go-ahead run after leading off the ninth inning with a controversial double, then closer Jacob Stone recorded the final three outs to help the Razorbacks wrap up an 8-7 win in Hoover, Ala.
Arkansas’ victory was its second against Ole Miss (41-18) in three days, eliminating the Rebels. It also pushed the Razorbacks (38-22) into a semifinal rematch against LSU (42-14-1) today at noon. The game will be televised by ESPNews.
“Sometimes things go your way, and I think that’s what happened here,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn told the media in Hoover after the win.
The Razorbacks, who fell into Friday’s elimination game after a 7-2 loss to LSU on Thursday night, struggled early against the Rebels. Ole Miss, one of the SEC’s top offenses, built a 6-0 lead by roughing up Arkansas starter Dominic Taccolini.
Arkansas managed to settle down and slowly chipped away at the lead, getting key contributions from a handful of unlikely sources Friday.
The most impressive effort came from relief pitcher James Teague, who was pressed into duty because of Arkansas’ thinning staff over the course of the tournament.
The freshman replaced Taccolini in the second inning and kept Arkansas in the game. Teague, who hadn’t faced an SEC opponent and had only thrown 11 innings in six appearances this season, allowed two runs on three hits in 4 2/3 innings.
The game was tied 6-6 when Teague left the mound.
Arkansas also got big performances from infielder Josh Alberius and outfielder Krisjon Wilkerson. Both entered the game in the early innings in place of third baseman Bobby Wernes and center fielder Andrew Benintendi, respectively.
Wilkerson went 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. His double in the fifth inning helped Arkansas close the gap to 6-4, then scored the game-tying run a few batters later on first baseman Eric Fisher’s single.
Alberius went 1-for-3 with one run and 2 RBIs, driving in the game-tying run in the eighth after Ole Miss had regained a 7-6 lead with a run in the bottom of the seventh.
“We needed our bench to step up, and they went out and stepped up,” Van Horn said. “We had guys come in that only had six or seven at bats all season. Krisjon Wilkerson hadn’t played in a long time.”
It set up the game-winning inning. Serrano led off the ninth with a base hit off Ole Miss reliever Josh Laxer and attempted to stretch the single into a double. Serrano appeared to be out on a play at second base, but was ruled safe. Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco disputed the call, but the Hogs had the go-ahead run in scoring position.
Wilkerson laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Serrano to third base, then second baseman Brian Anderson drove him in with a sacrifice fly. Stone replaced reliever Michael Gunn (4-2) for the ninth inning and struck out Will Allen to end the game.
“They have one of the toughest line-ups to pitch against,” Van Horn said. “They showed up that first inning, but hats off to our team for hanging in there.”
Arkansas improved to 3-2 against Ole Miss this season and will now face LSU for the 10th time in the past two seasons. It’s also a rematch of last year’s SEC Tournament semifinal, when the Tigers beat the Razorbacks en route to the championship.
Arkansas will start reliever Zach Jackson (2-1, 1.70 ERA), who threw three scoreless innings in the SEC Tournament opener. It will be Jackson’s first start.
LSU, meanwhile, will start Kyle Bouman (4-2, 2.44 ERA). The left-hander was the starting pitcher in Arkansas’ 10-4 win in the series finale at LSU last month.
Information from radio and television broadcasts contributed to this report.