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Baseball Weekend Wrap-Up: Ole Miss wins 19-15 rubber game over LSU to win first series in Baton Rouge since 1982

Baseball Weekend Wrap-Up: Ole Miss wins 19-15 rubber game over LSU to win first series in Baton Rouge since 1982

BATON ROUGE, La. — Flash back to 1982….Michael Jackson released his “Thriller” Album that year. EPCOT opened at Disney. And, Ole Miss baseball won a series in Baton Rouge—the last time the Rebels traveled to LSU and emerged with a series victory. 

For almost four decades — 37 years to be exact — the story was the same. Ole Miss couldn’t quite beat LSU in Baton Rouge. The Rebels came close many times but just couldn’t manage that elusive series win. 

No. 13 Ole Miss entered the weekend with a 30-16 (13-8 SEC) record, while the No. 9 Tigers sat at 29-16 (13-8 SEC). The similarities in records would be indicative of the ensuing highly competitive series that ultimately wouldn’t be settled until Sunday evening in extra innings of game three. 

Game One: Ole Miss 3, LSU 8

(Click here for box score.)

Ole Miss struck first when Kevin Graham scored in the second inning on an RBI-groundout from Jacob Adams. However, the Rebels’ lead was short-lived as LSU tied the game in the bottom of the inning and plated two more in the third to take a 3-1 advantage over Ole Miss.

Rebel batters were held off the base paths in the third and fourth innings, but the visitors to Alex Box Stadium were able to push a run across in the fifth after Anthony Servideo led off with a single and subsequently scored on a double play hit from Ryan Olenek. 

After LSU extended its lead to 4-2 in the sixth, junior catcher Cooper Johnson led off the 7th with a “no-doubter” home run to left-field. 

Although Ole Miss cut the LSU lead to 4-3 in the seventh, that would be all the Rebels would score. In the LSU eighth, the game got away from Ole Miss when the bullpen allowed four LSU runs, including two home runs as the Tigers secured the 8-3 win.

“They made the big pitch; we just didn’t get the big hit,” third baseman Tyler Keenan said after the Rebels stranded 10 runners in the loss.

Starter Will Ethridge (5-4), who was lifted after seven innings, was tagged with the loss. The junior tallied four strikeouts, allowed no walks and was charged with three earned runs. “Ethridge was really tough tonight,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “He really gutted it out.”

“We obviously didn’t play great. We played with nerves, that happens in this place,” Bianco said. “When you got ‘em on and you got ‘em in scoring position, you gotta score ‘em, especially in the SEC and we didn’t do that tonight,” he added. 

Game Two: Ole Miss 5, LSU 1

(Click here for box score.)

After dropping game one, the pressure was on the Rebels to win game two. Ole Miss starting pitcher Doug Nikhazy was up to the task. 

The freshman was outstanding through 6 ⅓ innings pitched, holding the Tigers to one run. He struck out four and allowed just a single walk on five hits, earning the win and improving his season record to 6-3. 

“It was a ton of fun just being in this environment and trying to embrace it,” Nikhazy said. 

Out of the bullpen, Austin Miller and Parker Caracci combined to pitch the last 2 ⅔ innings, throwing shutout, no-hit baseball to close out the Tigers.

“We needed that bridge,” Bianco said of Miller’s work on the mound. “He made it look pretty easy tonight.”

Offensively, Thomas Dillard led off the second inning with a home run to right field. It was Dillard’s 10th homer of the year and it gave Ole Miss a 1-0 lead.

“It was a great day offensively,” Dillard said. “It’s good to win at a place like this.”

The big blast for Ole Miss occurred in the fourth inning. With Ryan Olenek on second after a one-out single and Cooper Johnson at first after walking, first baseman Kevin Graham sent an 0-2 offering over the right field wall at Tiger Stadium that gave Ole Miss a 4-0 lead.

The Rebels added a run in the fifth inning when Anthony Servideo, who led off with a double, scored on an error by the LSU shortstop, giving Ole Miss a 5-0 lead. The Tigers would score one in the bottom half of the fifth, but nothing else for the remainder of the game and the Rebs would go on to win, 5-1 to even the series.

Game Three: Ole Miss 19, LSU 15

(Click here for box score.)

After splitting the first two games, LSU and Ole Miss would play a rubber game that proved to be one of the wildest this writer has ever witnessed.  While the Rebels never trailed, LSU never gave up–and the two teams would combine to put up 34 runs on 45 hits.

Through the first 4 ½ innings, Ole Miss owned a solid 10-1 lead.

The Rebels scored four runs in the second as Cooper Johnson singled home Cole Zabowski; Jacob Adams scored Johnson on an RBI bunt base hit; and Grae Kessinger notched a two-RBI double that scored Kevin Graham and Adams. The double by Kessinger extended his on-base streak to 37.

In the third, another Johnson single plated Ryan Olenek and Zabowski. Johnson then scored off the bat of Adams to give the Rebels a 7-0 lead after three complete. 

Ole Miss scored three additional runs in the fifth when Zabowski led off the inning with a home run and Graham notched a homer to right field that scored Johnson and gave the Rebels a 10-1 lead.

LSU would answer with three runs of its own in the bottom of the fifth, making it a 10-4 Ole Miss lead. 

In the sixth, the Cooper Johnson hitting show continued when he doubled to left field and scored Zabowski, giving the Rebels an 11-4 lead.

LSU tacked on two more in the bottom of the sixth, however, cutting the Ole Miss lead to 11-6. 

In the seventh inning, Thomas Dillard was issued a bases loaded walk and Olenek contributed a sacrifice fly that allowed the Rebels to score two more to take a 13-6 lead. 

In the bottom of the inning, the Tigers would fight back, scoring three runs to cut the Rebels’ advantage to 13-9.

Ole Miss added two insurance runs in the ninth to go up 15-9, and, boy, would they need those! Usually, 15 runs over nine innings would be more than enough to win a baseball game–but that was not the case this Sunday. LSU kept fighting and scored six runs off back-to-back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 15. 

After watching a six-run lead evaporate in the ninth inning, the Rebels could have folded up and gone home, continuing the losing streak in Baton Rouge. 

But they didn’t. They answered the challenge Coach Bianco issued to them before the tenth inning.

Do you believe you can win? Can you score a run and hold them from scoring? Can you do that? I challenged them to do that.

Coach Bianco on what he told his team at the end of the ninth

His team responded in the tenth, putting four runs on the board. In his first at-bat of the game, Josh Hall scored Johnson and Graham with a no-out single to right field. 

I can’t really describe the feeling. It was awesome. It felt good knowing everyone believed in me in the moment.

Josh Hall on his two-RBI single in the 10th

Grae Kessinger soon singled to left and scored Hall, while Anthony Servideo scored on a double play ball to put the Rebels up four, 19-15. 

Houston Roth took the mound in the 10th inning and closed the game out, allowing no runs on two hits.

The Rebel offense notched some impressive numbers in the win:

Grae Kessinger: 3-for-7, 3 RBI
Tyler Keenan: 3-for-6
Cole Zabowski: 4-for-6, 1 HR, 4 runs scored
Cooper Johnson: 4-for-5, 4 RBI, 4 runs scored
Jacob Adams: 4-for-5

This game is crazy. Baseball is crazy. We will never see another one like this again.

Coach Mike Bianco

Ole Miss leaves Baton Rouge with a much-needed series win that puts the Rebels in a tie for second place in the SEC West with Mississippi State.

“I think we were all shocked when we came in after giving up the six runs,” Cooper Johnson said of the ninth inning barrage by the Tigers.

We flushed it. We realized we out-competed them today. We knew we were going to score runs. It was our game to win. We played to win and deserved that.

Ole Miss catcher Cooper Johnson

Collectively when you walk away from here and look at it like, ‘Wow. We haven’t won here since 1982.’ There is a reason for that. It is a tough place to play and a tough place to win. Sometimes this kind of stuff happens. You have to be able to handle it. Our guys did. We didn’t think it was going to be easy.

Coach Bianco

Next Up for Ole Miss: 

Finals bring a break in mid-week action this coming week. The Rebels (32-17, 15-9 SEC) will return to the diamond Friday against another Top Ten opponent in Mississippi State. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday night, and play continues at 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Noon Sunday.

Hotty Toddy!

About The Author

Chris Muller

Chris Muller is a 1995 Graduate of Ole Miss. He is a collegiate recreational sports professional currently residing in Arlington Texas with his wife of 19 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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