That’s why when he threw a wild pitch that allowed an Arkansas runner to score from third base for a 2-1 Razorback win, it was a moment Denny will learn from, according to his head coach.
“You grow up. The game is very unfair, and it will beat you down if you let it,” Mike Bianco said. “You have to grow up in a hurry. Matt’s been terrific for us all year. It’s a tough situation, but it was the situation we had. He got the big strikeout of (Jacob) Mahan, and he just tried to overthrow a slider and it got away from Stu (Turner).”
Indeed Denny has been reliable this year and will be important in remaining games as the Rebels move on in this tournament and on to a NCAA Regional next week.
“Like I just told him he’ll be in that situation again, either sometime this weekend or next weekend in a Regional,” Bianco said. “Those type of situations will make you grow up. Next time maybe he’ll be one pitch better and get out of it.”
Sam Smith, the Rebel starter, went six innings and allowed just one run on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
“It helps a lot when I can fill the zone up with all my pitches,” Smith said. “I was able to locate my slider well and keep them off balance. And my defense helped me a lot.”
Aaron Greenwood was the first in after Smith. He went 3.1 innings and allowed one run on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
“Greenwood was terrific and it’s nice to have him back,” Bianco said. “The way he pitched today is the way he pitched most of the year. The bullpen took a lot of flak the last few weeks and probably deservingly so. It was nice to see him pitch so well back to back weekends.”
Bianco said both starters – Barrett Astin and Smith - were at the top of their games as indicated by the low score.
“Both guys were outstanding today,” he said. “Sam has really located well and kept the ball down. He’s got enough fastball to beat you with that. But much like Mike Mayers yesterday, he worked both sides of the plate with his fast ball. Today his slider was outstanding and his changeup was good.
“He picked up a blister against LSU and couldn’t go anymore today. We need to get that better for next week. But just a great outing. He gave us all he could.”
Tanner Mathis led off the first with a single. Stuart Turner got him home with a single he tried to stretch into a double but was thrown out at second base to end the inning.
Tyler Spoon with a two-out RBI single tied the game in the bottom of the first. And things stayed that way for a long, long time.
In the third, the Razorbacks got runners on first and second with no outs but failed to score.
Austin Anderson had a one-out single in the fourth. But a Stuart Turner double play ball ended things still tied 1-1.
Arkansas had runners at the corners with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Brian Anderson walked to load the bases, and Dominic Ficociello was up. Smith got him to strike out.
Anderson got something going for Ole Miss in the seventh with a one-out double to the right corner. The Hogs then chose to intentionally walk Turner. Auston Bousfield then hit into a second base unassisted to first base double play to end the Rebel threat.
Will Jamison got aboard with two outs in the eighth. A wild pitch got Jamison from first to third. But Will Allen lined out to first to end the threat.
Brian Anderson had a one-out single to right center in the eighth for the Hogs. Ficoiello singled to right to put Razorbacks at the corners. Spoon then lined out to Christian Helsel at second base, but Jacob Mahan was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Eric Fisher then hit one that might have scored at least one run, but it hit Mahan heading to second base and the inning ended right there.
With one out in the top of the ninth, Andrew Mistone reached after his ball up the middle bounded off the pitcher, bounced up, and he was able to get to first with ease. Anderson reached on a fielder’s choice as Mistone was called out at second. Turner then reached on a throwing error by Arkansas third baseman Mahan. Bousfield struck out to end the top of the ninth.
In the bottom of the tenth, the Hogs had bases loaded with one out. Mahan struck out. Eric Fisher was at bat when Denny threw the wild pitch that got past Turner, and the run from third came home for the Arkansas win.
Arkansas outhit Ole Miss 11-6 and left nine runners stranded to the Rebels’ four.
“It was a very well-played game,” said Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn. “Both pitchers and bullpens did a tremendous job. We play a lot of tight games. It’s almost like it’s normal now.”
Bianco said he wasn’t certain about pulling Preston Overbey heading into the sixth inning at second base and inserting Christian Helsel.
“It was something I wasn’t sure about going in,” he said. “Preston’s been so hot. Astin’s so tough on right-handed hitters. Defensively Preston is just hobbled and can’t get to balls. There are balls hit to the right side he just can’t get to. We just felt we had to go with another defensive lineup.”
Freshman right-hander Jacob Waguespack will go for the Rebels on the mound Thursday, likely against Alabama which trails LSU. He’s made five appearances, mainly because he was injured earlier, allowing three runs in nine innings of work.