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Baseball Weekend Wrap-Up: Ole Miss sweeps No. 6 Texas A&M in key SEC series

Baseball Weekend Wrap-Up: Ole Miss sweeps No. 6 Texas A&M in key SEC series

OXFORD, Miss. —  Double Decker weekend in Oxford saw the visiting Texas A&M Aggies come to town for a showdown of two top-20 teams. Ole Miss baseball entered the weekend sporting a record of 27-15, 10-8 (SEC), while the No. 6 Aggies owned a 30-12-1 (11-6-1 SEC) record. 

Game One: Ole Miss 5, A&M 4

(Click here for box score.)

Rain in Oxford for most of Thursday forced Game One of the series to be moved back two hours to an 8 p.m. start. For six innings, the heralded Rebel offense was kept off the scoreboard. Ole Miss had its scoring opportunities but left seven runners on base in those first six innings. 

Meanwhile, the Aggies got off to a 3-0 lead on Rebel ace Will Ethridge. A&M’s scoring came from hit by pitches, singles and Ole Miss errors. Nothing fancy—but three big runs, nonetheless.

The Rebels manufactured a run in the seventh inning when pinch runner Carl Gindl, in for pinch hitter Michael Fitzsimmons, scored after the Aggie catcher made a throwing error as Gindl stole third. Gindl had advanced to second on a Ryan Olenek ground-out.

In the eighth, the Rebels tied the game at 3-3. Tyler Keenan led off the inning with a walk, followed by a single from Thomas Dillard. Wanting to move Keenan and Dillard into scoring position, Ole Miss called on catcher Cooper Johnson to sacrifice bunt.

Johnson was successful in laying down the bunt and it was mishandled by the A&M reliever. That resulted in a throwing error that allowed Keenan to score, Dillard to advance to third and Johnson to move to second.

Dillard subsequently scored on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly from Kevin Graham.

Having gone a career-high, eight strong innings with seven strikeouts, Ethridge was lifted for Rebel closer Parker Caracci in the ninth. 

Caracci pitched very well, going 1-2-3 in both the ninth and 10th innings.

In the 11th, the Aggies got a run off Caracci when the A&M leadoff hitter walked, then advanced to second on a groundout off a Rebel glove that prevented the Rebels from getting the lead run out.  The Aggie runner advanced to third on another groundout and scored on a wild pitch.

With the midnight hour fast approaching, and finding themselves down a run in the bottom of the 11th, the Rebels needed one to extend the game and two to win.

Ryan Olenek, still hurting from a hip injury, and Grae Kessinger notched back-to-back, one-out singles. The Kessinger single showed baseball truly is a game of inches, as his up-the-middle shot was just close enough for the A&M second baseman to knock down and attempt to make the play at second. However, the fielder was unsuccessful and Olenek was safe. 

Tyler Keenan then worked a 3-1 walk to load the bases. With a full count, Thomas Dillard singled up the middle to score Olenek and Kessinger, securing the 5-4 victory for the Red and Blue that could ultimately prove to be a turning point in the Rebels’ season.

Even when we were down 3-0, it felt like we were going to win. We knew we had it in us. So we just went out there and kept fighting…and ended up scratching one out.

Thomas Dillard on the Rebels’ win

Bianco praised the Oxford Junior, “Not a better guy in the country in that spot.  We were waiting for one of those exciting Dillard moments and we got it.”

Game Two: Ole Miss 13, A&M 3

(Click here for box score.)

Ole Miss took an early 1-0 lead in game two of the series when Anthony Servideo led off the third inning with a home run into the right field student section.

“He’s a sensational player. He was terrific tonight,” Coach Bianco said of Servideo. The sophomore went 3-for-4, scored twice, had two RBI and also notched a double and the home run, his second of the season. 

In the top of the fourth, the Aggies evened things up before then taking a 2-1 lead in the sixth. 

The Rebels loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the sixth when Cooper Johnson walked, Michael Fitzsimmons was hit by pitch, and Servideo walked.

Johnson then scored on a Kevin Graham pinch-hit sacrifice fly. Carl Gindl, who pinch ran for Ftizsimmons, was singled home by Ryan Olenek. 

Grae Kessinger then plated Servideo with a single of his own. The big blast of the inning came off the bat of third baseman Tyler Keenan who sent the 1-0 pitch to left field for an opposite field, three-run home run that gave the Rebels a 7-2 lead.

Not to be out done by their efforts in the sixth, the Rebels scored an additional six runs in seventh inning to take a commanding 13-2 lead. 

Johnson walked again to lead off the inning, followed by a Cole Zabowski double. Johnson then scored on an infield single down the first base line off the bat of Servideo.

Zabowski and Servideo scored when Ryan Olenek reached base via error. Grae Kessinger continued the inning with an infield hit deep in the hole to shortstop. 

Keenan got on base via a hit by pitch to load the bags for the Rebels. Dillard then singled home Olenek and Kessinger to complete the Rebel scoring for the seventh and the game.

The win secured the number three spot on the all-time SEC wins list (739) for Coach Bianco, who passed South Carolina’s Ryan Tanner with the victory.

A recap of the game is not possible without including the outstanding performance on the mound from freshman Doug Nikhazy who dazzled in seven innings of work. He allowed just a single earned run, struck out a career-high 10 Aggie batters, and walked none.

“Doug kept it close and gave us a shot,” said Bianco. “They play with a lot of confidence when Doug’s out there,” he added. 

Coming out of the bullpen, I was able to notice my curveball was really sharp tonight. The changeup was very helpful to keep them off the fastball.

Ole Miss pitcher Doug Nikhazy

Game Three: Ole Miss 3, A&M 2

(Click here for box score.)

Winning the first two games of the weekend clinched the series win for the Rebels and gave them an opportunity to play for their first-ever sweep of Texas A&M. As was the story Thursday and Friday, Ole Miss pitching provided the foundation for success Saturday. Gunnar Hoglund started things off on the mound for the Rebs and pitched six innings. 

Hoglund scattered five hits and allowed no walks in his appearance, which Coach Bianco referred to as Hoglund’s best outing of the year.

“He had great command, great fastball, and breaking ball,” Bianco said. “There was not a lot of traffic on the bases. He pitched well,” he added. 

“We had a great crowd, great series,” Hoglund said. “We wanted to go right at them, not fall behind in the count. Good things happen when you’re early in the count,” he said. 

Austin Miller entered in the seventh and allowed just one hit and one walk but no runs in two innings of shutout relief. Rebel closer Parker Caracci pitched a perfect ninth inning and earned the win to improve to 3-2 on the season. 

“Both Miller and Caracci were terrific today,” Bianco said.

A&M scored first in the top of fourth via a home run from the Aggie center fielder.

An odd fourth inning led to the Rebels’ first run of the game. Grae Kessinger led off the inning with a single that ate up the Aggie shortstop.  It was the 33rd straight game Kessinger reached base safely. 

Kessinger’s attempt to steal second was originally called out; however, upon further video review, he was ruled safe. A wild pitch then led to Kessinger advancing to third before then scoring on a sacrifice fly from Thomas Dillard that tied the game at 1-1. 

In the sixth inning, the Rebels would strike again.  Kessinger scored after drawing a one-out walk. He advanced to second on a Thomas Dillard single and scored on a double from Cole Zabowski. Dillard was originally ruled safe at home in a call that was subsequently overturned.

The Aggies tied the game at 2-2 in the seventh inning.

Kessinger came close to putting the Rebels up two runs in the bottom of the frame but was robbed of a probable home run by an outstanding “Sports Center Top 10” type of catch from the A&M left fielder. 

In the ninth inning with the score tied at two, Ole Miss loaded the bases with one out as Thomas Dillard walked, Zabowski singled (allowing Dillard to advance to third), and Cooper Johnson was intentionally walked. 

The first pitch to Michael Fitzsimmons was wild and went to the backstop at Swayze, allowing Dillard to score the game-winning, series-sweeping run.

Simply put, the sweep could not have come at a better time for Ole Miss. The Rebels now sit at 13-8 in conference play, squarely in the race for first place in the SEC West with three weekends of league action to go. 

Even more importantly, perhaps, is Ole Miss’ 5-3 record against D1Baseball.com‘s top-8 ranked teams (rankings as of 4/22/19) as the Rebs hope to be chosen as a host seed come selection Monday.

What’s Next for Ole Miss?

On the way to Baton Rouge for the upcoming weekend SEC series, the Rebels will stop in Hattiesburg for midweek action against Southern Miss on Wednesday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. 

Play against LSU starts at 7 p.m. Friday and continues at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Hotty Toddy!

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 24 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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