OXFORD, Miss. – In a nutshell, East Carolina threw a two-hitter, while Ole Miss almost rallied in the ninth. The No. 9 Rebels dropped a 3-2 contest to a solid No 18 ECU squad Wednesday afternoon at Swayze.
The Pirates, who came in to the game fresh off a 4-1 loss Tuesday night to Mississippi State, handed the Rebels just their third defeat of the 2019 campaign.
Here are four observations from the loss to East Carolina.
1. Jake Kuchmaner threw one heck of a game
ECU’s Jake Kuchmaner threw a no-no through 9.2 innings against an Ole Miss team with some top-quality hitters. It would have been a perfect outing if not for hitting Ryan Olenek in the fifth inning, walking Michael Fitzsimmons with two outs in the ninth, and giving Thomas Dillard the Rebels’ first hit of the game—which did not come until Ole Miss had two outs in the ninth. You have to tip your hat to one heck of a game for Kuchmaner.
2. Nikhazy’s *nearly* perfect game
Doug Nikhazy pitched very well for the Rebels Wednesday—and may have shown enough to earn a spot in the weekend rotation.
Despite having one breaking-ball backfire on him in the fourth inning—to the tune of a three-run homer—Nikhazy showed real confidence on the mound and had his fastball enter the low-to-90 mph range while he threw a career high seven strikeouts.
Having now pitched a total of 10 innings in his five appearances, Nikhazy is averaging just over one strikeout per inning while issuing a total of just three walks in the same amount of time.
Assuming Nikhazy continues to improve throughout his first season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him takeover a weekend role.
3. Miller and Green continue to dominate out of the pen
Austin Miller came out of the pen for the Rebels in the fifth inning and worked around a single walk before going on to pitch a hitless 3.0 innings. He tossed three strikeouts and walked only one batter. Following his fifth appearance of the season, he holds one of the best team ERAs at 0.68 over 13.1 innings pitched, and we definitely look for Miller to be a huge part of the Rebel bullpen moving forward toward SEC play.
Likewise, Conner Green took the mound for Ole Miss in the ninth and continued his hot streak. He faced just four batters, giving up one hit, striking out two and walking none. Green’s ERA sits at 0.00 after 8.2 innings of work.
4. Bats just couldn’t find the holes today
When you are on the wrong side of a two-hitter, not much else needs to be said about your day at the plate. Quality at-bats were tough to come by for Ole Miss, and some well-struck balls found their way into the waiting gloves of just about every Pirate player on the diamond.
ECU carried a no-hitter into the ninth, until Dillard provided the first Ole Miss hit of the day, followed by Tyler Keenan who smacked a two-RBI single that cut the Pirates’ lead to 3-2.
Unfortunately, the Rebels’ comeback attempt came up just short on a fly-out in foul territory.
Ole Miss will return to the diamond this weekend to host the UAB Blazers in a three-game series beginning Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. (CT).