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Weekend Wrap-Up: Ole Miss drops game three as Tigers take the series

Weekend Wrap-Up: Ole Miss drops game three as Tigers take the series

COLUMBIA, Mo. — For the first time this season, Ole Miss hit the road for an SEC series as the Rebels travelled to Columbia to take on Missouri. 

This marked the first time Ole Miss visited the Tigers since May, 2015. The Rebels entered the series 16-6 overall and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Tigers opened the series at 13-8 and 0-3 in league play.  

Game 1: Ole Miss 1, Missouri 2

(Click here for box score.)

Much like the opening weekend of SEC play against Alabama, runs would be at a premium. Starter Will Ethridge threw 5 ⅔ innings, allowing just a single earned run and two runs overall. The junior also struck out five and walked two.

In relief, Austin Miller held the Tigers scoreless over 2 ⅓ innings. 

“(I’m) proud of the way they competed,” head coach Mike Bianco said of Ethridge and Miller. 

Typically, holding an offense to just two runs would be more than adequate for the high-powered Rebel line-up. On Friday night, however, that was not the case. 

In the bottom half of the opening inning, Ethridge notched back-to-back strikeouts, but the Tigers rallied with consecutive base hits and ultimately scored one on a fielding error to take a 1-0 lead.

Ole Miss scored its lone run in the fifth inning when designated hitter Knox Loposer singled home first baseman Cole Zabowski who led off the inning with a single. 

Unfortunately, Missouri answered in the bottom half with base hits up the left and right field lines to make it a 2-1 game—which was the final score of the night.

“It was a tough night,” Bianco said afterward. “We just didn’t score enough runs.” 

Game 2: Ole Miss 3, Missouri 0

(Click here for box score.)

In a change to the weekend rotation, Coach Bianco would hand the ball to freshman Doug Nikhazy who would be making the first weekend start of his career. 

In his two midweek starts, Nikhazy faced nationally ranked opponents in East Carolina and Louisville. During those two starts, the Windermere, Florida native struck out 12 in the 11 innings pitched.

On Saturday, Nikhazy looked spectacular, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning and keeping Missouri scoreless throughout his 7 ⅔ innings on the mound.  

“(I) had really great command of the fastball,” Nikhazy said. “I had a great defense behind me,” he added. 

“He kept Missouri off balance,” Coach Bianco commented. “The fastball was there . . . on both sides of the plate.”  

Nikhazy didn’t allow a hit until the seventh inning and then got out of the inning with a nice double play. 

In the eighth, Nikhazy recorded the first two outs before giving up a base hit to left that brought on Parker Caracci out of the bullpen. 

The redshirt junior answered the call brilliantly, striking out the first batter and ending the inning. In the ninth, the Jackson native sandwiched two strikeouts around a routine groundout to seal the deal in the shutout win.

“He was terrific, as we know he can be,” Coach Bianco said of Caracci. “His stuff was even better in the 9th (inning).”

Nikhazy (2-2) earned the win, and Caracci picked up his fourth save of the season.

In a shift from what is the norm in the SEC, Missouri pitched its ace, T.J. Sikkema, on Saturday rather than the more-typical Friday night. 

Offensively, Ole Miss made Missouri pay for two, 2-out walks to Tyler Keenan and Thomas Dillard in the third inning when Ryan Olenek scored Keenan on a double to left field.

In the fourth inning, the Rebels took advantage of two fielding errors by the Tigers. Cooper Johnson scored after the Missouri left fielder mishandled a ball that then rolled to the wall. Later in the inning, Tim Elko reached base on an error by the Mizzou shortstop that scored Knox Loposer.

Credit where credit is due

When an opponent is credited with the No. 1 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10, it’s noteworthy.  In the top of the eighth with two outs, Ole Miss catcher Cooper Johnson stroked a line-drive headed toward the Tiger’s bullpen.

Just as the ball was about to make its way over the fence, Missouri left fielder Josh Holt, Jr. timed his jump perfectly, and with his glove over the top of the fence he slammed into the wall but somehow managed to hold onto the ball and rob Johnson of what would’ve been his third homer of the season.

Game 3: Ole Miss 5, Missouri 8

(Click here for box score.)

Having split the first two games for the second weekend in a row, Ole Miss would look to Sunday’s game to earn the series victory.

The Rebels took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, courtesy of Tyler Keenan and Thomas Dillard. Keenan got things started with a two-out triple off the top of the wall in centerfield. He subsequently scored on a Missouri wild pitch.  

Dillard then crushed a home run to right field.  It was his team-high ninth home run of the year.

Unfortunately, Missouri struck back in the second inning, scoring three and taking a 3-2 lead. 

The Rebels tied the game at 3-3 in the third when the Tiger catcher overthrew third base as he tried to record a strike ‘em, throw ‘em double play that ended up allowing Jacob Adams to score.

The Missouri half of the fourth involved three Ole Miss pitchers, an approximately 45-minute long lightning delay, and, ultimately, four runs from the Tigers that gave Mizzou a 7-3 lead. 

Ole Miss would go on to score single runs in the fifth and sixth, but the Rebels could never cut the lead to less than three. 

Connor Green took the loss for the Rebels and dropped to 3-2 for the year.

Quick Hits

  • Ole Miss fell to 17-8 overall and 3-3 in SEC play.
  • The Rebels suffered their first series loss of the season.
  • Tyler Keenan recorded his first career triple and the fourth of the year for the Rebels. He joined Dillard, Kevin Graham and Tim Elko as the four Rebels who have hit for the cycle over the course of the season.
  • Thomas Dillard hit his ninth home run of the season.
  • Keenan notched his seventh multi-hit game of the season, while Dillard recorded his eighth.
  • Houston Roth turned in a strong relief outing, pitching the final two innings for Ole Miss, allowing no runs on just one hit and two walks, striking out three.
  • Aside from a solo home run, Max Cioffi was strong in relief, giving up just one run on one hit with one walk and three strikeouts over 2.2 innings of work.
  • Seven of the Rebels’ eight losses this season have come by three runs or fewer. All defeats have come within four runs.

(“Quick Hits” are courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics.)

Next Up:

The road trip for the Rebels (17-8, 3-3 SEC) continues on Tuesday with a visit to AutoZone Park in Memphis to face the Memphis Tigers at 6 p.m. 

The next league action is also away from Swayze Field as Ole Miss visits Arkansas. First pitch is set for 8:00 p.m. on Friday, 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.  

Hotty Toddy!

Chris Muller
Chris Muller

Chris is our Director of Baseball Content and Senior Baseball Writer. Muller is a 1995 Graduate of Ole Miss. He is a collegiate recreational sports professional currently residing in Arlington Texas with his wife of 25 years, Amber, and German Shorthaired Pointer, Sophie. Chris is an avid Ole Miss Baseball and Football fan. His hobbies include watching college football and baseball and playing poker with his friends.

About The Author

Chris Muller

Chris is our Director of Baseball Content and Senior Baseball Writer. Muller is a 1995 Graduate of Ole Miss. He is a collegiate recreational sports professional currently residing in Arlington Texas with his wife of 25 years, Amber, and German Shorthaired Pointer, Sophie. Chris is an avid Ole Miss Baseball and Football fan. His hobbies include watching college football and baseball and playing poker with his friends.

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