Despite not earning a hit in the first eight innings, No. 21 Ole Miss' first baseman Cole Zabowski hit an RBI double to take the 1-0 lead in the ninth, ultimately eliminating No. 15 Texas A&M in the third round of the SEC Tournament Thursday at the Hoover Met.
A&M starting left-handed pitcher John Doxakis excelled through the eight innings he pitched, not allowing a single hit and striking out 10 Rebel hitters in the process.
“Just getting ahead early,” Doxakis said on what worked for him during the game. “If you get deep in the count against Ole Miss they’re going to hit your mistakes or the strikes you throw. You gotta get ahead early so you can bounce the breaking ball.”
The Aggies are the first double elimination team to be knocked out of the tournament after losing 2-0 to No. 6 Georgia on Wednesday.
After walking two batters in the top of the eighth and hitting the 100-pitch mark, A&M head coach Rob Childress made the call to replace Doxakis on the mound for right-handed reliever Bryce Miller in the ninth.
“You know you never want to give the ball away in a game like that,” Doxakis said. “But it was right for the team, we trust our bullpen. They’re so good, they’ve been good all year and it just didn’t go our way today. You always want to go and finish the ninth but it wasn’t the right time.”
Miller would not reciprocate Doxakis’ success on the mound, and allowed leadoff hitter Thomas Dillard to hit a single into left field in the first at-bat. Childress then replaced Miller with Chandler Jozwiak, but it wasn't enough. Zabowski was next up to bat and hit a double down the right field line that allowed Dillard to cross home plate.
“[Jozwiak] had a good fastball, a good breaking ball,” Zabowski said. “After watching [Tyler] Keenan’s at bat, he threw him a lot of breaking balls, I was just trying to see him up in the zone.”
Despite a double from pinch hitter Hunter Coleman, A&M wouldn’t be able to match the Rebels' run.
Ole Miss starting left-handed pitcher Doug Nikhazy lead his defense, holding A&M to three hits through eight innings pitched.
Overall, the Aggies struggled on offense, going 4-of-29 and leaving six runners on base throughout the game.
“[Nikhazy] did a lot of things right today,” A&M catcher Mikey Hoehner said. “He did what John [Doxakis] did as well, he got ahead early. He mixed his pitches well and caught us off balance most of the game, unfortunately we couldn’t square him up as well as we’d like to.”
The Aggies will head back to College Station and wait for the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, May 27 to see if hosting a NCAA Tournament regional is in their future.
“Our hope is that we host,” Childress said. “When you look at our metrics, our RPI, our strength of schedule, things that we’ve done, we feel like we’ve done enough. But that’s not our decision, we’re gonna take what the committee gives us and play our very best.”