HOOVER, Ala. (Ole Miss Athletics) – Ole Miss recorded only two hits against the mighty arms of the Texas A&M pitching staff, but it proved to be enough as Thomas Dillard and Cole Zabowski spoiled a no-hit bid from the Aggies to keep the Rebels alive and moving on to the next round of the SEC Tournament.
John Doxakis of Texas A&M worked a flawless outing, taking a no-hitter through 8.0 IP and stifling the Rebel bats all along the way. The Ole Miss offense just wasn’t making anything happen against the strong lefty from A&M, but when he didn’t come back out for the ninth inning, it was time for the playmakers in the Rebel lineup to step up.
Thomas Dillard finally put an end to the no-hitter in the ninth on a single laced right over the shortstop’s head. Zabowski played hero with two outs in the inning, scoring Dillard from second on an RBI double for the game’s only run.
It proved to be enough, as Parker Caracci returned to form to retire the Aggies in the ninth for the 1-0 win. It wouldn’t all be possible, however, without an incredible performance by the Rebel starter Doug Nikhazy.
The All-SEC freshman turned in a career-long 8.0 IP to pick up his seventh win of the season, allowing just three hits in those eight innings. He shut out the Aggies for his first scoreless outing since March 23 at Missouri, and allowed the fewest hits in one game since allowing two in his first SEC start against the Tigers.
Doxakis may have shut down the Rebel bats, but Nikhazy did everything he could to keep the game within striking distance even when his offense wasn’t quite delivering for him, and ultimately, the Rebel freshman outlasted one of the most dominant arms in the SEC in Doxakis.
Thomas Dillard reached on a leadoff walk for the visiting Rebels in the first, but that was all that Ole Miss could manage to send to the basepaths in the game’s early innings. Tyler Keenan reached on another Doxakis walk in the fourth, but the Rebels were still held hitless through the opening eight frames.
Nikhazy allowed a leadoff single to Braden Shewmake in the first inning, but quickly sent him packing with a forced double play to the next batter. Grae Kessinger again showed off his defensive prowess with a six-unassisted double play to first, for yet another highlight play involving the First Team All-SEC shortstop.
The Rebel starter went toe-to-toe with Doxakis and matched the Aggie hurler’s dominance step-for-step. Each retired nine in a row after allowing baserunners in the first inning, and through 3.0 IP for both starters, Doxakis and Nikhazy both sat at under 40 pitches with over a 65 percent strike rate.
Nikhazy finally ran into some trouble in the bottom of the fourth, after he allowed two to reach on a walk and a single, but he managed to strand both with a groundout and a pop out.
The freshman continued to roll, striking out two in the fifth, and cruising through the sixth with a little help from his All-SEC catcher Cooper Johnson who threw out Bryce Blaum trying to steal second. After 6.0 IP, Nikhazy had allowed just five baserunners to reach, but none to score.
His counterpart in Doxakis, meanwhile, was standing just as strong. From innings two to seven, he faced the absolute minimum of opposing batters, stifling any kind of rally from the Rebels before it could even begin.
For the first time all game, the Rebels threatened in the top of the eighth after a pair of walks were issued to Ryan Olenek and Michael Fitzsimmons, but back-to-back strikeouts to Anthony Servideo and Jacob Adams brought an end to any potential rally from the Rebels.
Nikhazy was working on a 13-straight retired streak when the Aggies landed a base runner in the bottom of the eighth on a single. With two outs, the Rebels decided to intentionally walk Shewmake to face Blaum, and it paid dividends as the Aggie second baseman grounded out to leave the runner stuck on third and carry a scoreless game into the ninth.
Doxakis certainly did his part, carrying a no-hitter through 8.0 IP, but he would not return for the top of the ninth, making way for Bryce Miller after 99 pitches thrown. It turned out to be just what the Rebels needed.
Ole Miss chased Miller after Dillard’s leadoff single, the first Ole Miss hit of the game, but it wouldn’t matter, as Zabowski sent the game’s winning run to the plate against the new arm.
Caracci was the only Rebel reliever needed in the ballgame, and he came out to start the ninth inning after Nikhazy had thrown 107 pitches. He did allow a one-out double but sealed the inning, and the game, with a fly out and a strikeout, giving him his ninth save of the year.
The Rebels advance to play tomorrow at 3 p.m. CT in the first game on Friday in Hoover. Ole Miss will play the loser of Arkansas and Georgia, who play today at 4:30 p.m. CT.
– Ole Miss improves to 35-24 on the year.
– The Rebels beat Texas A&M four times this year, for a complete season sweep over the Aggies.
– Seven of the last eight games between Ole Miss and Texas A&M have been decided by one run.
– Today’s shutout victory was the fourth for the Rebels in SEC Tournament history.
– The win was also the fourth shutout victory of the season for the Rebels.
– Ole Miss will play the loser of Arkansas-Georgia tomorrow at 3 p.m. CT.
– Doug Nikhazy recorded a new career-long in innings pitched at 8.0. It was also Nikhazy’s first shutout start since March 23.
– Parker Caracci brought an end to a skid on the mound with his first save since April 19.
– Caracci has nine saves on the year, one short of the ten he had in 2018.
– Thomas Dillard has now broken two no-hitters in the ninth inning this season.