Ole Miss, clinging to Regional Host hopes, dropped a midweek matchup to UT-Martin before traveling to Athens for the weekend. After winning the first 2 games in Athens, Game 3 was a disastrous way to end the regular season.
Josh Mallitz started the midweek matchup for Ole Miss on Tuesday. He got roughed up and allowed 3 runs in 1.1 innings of work. Cody Adcock took over and also gave up 3 runs. Adcock, however, managed to record 6 outs before giving another arm an opportunity. Brandon Johnson looked strong in his 2.2 innings of work. Johnson struck out 5 of the 10 batters he faced.
Tyler Myers was solid in the 7th, but after putting 2 guys on and recording just 1 out in the 8th, he was pulled for Austin Miller. Miller let up a 3-run bomb to the first guy he faced before settling in and getting the next 3 batters out. That homer broke a 6-6 tie and left Myers on the hook for the loss unless the Rebel bats could make a comeback.
The offense sprayed plenty of hits, but they could not stack them. Despite not leaving the bases loaded at all, they still left runners on in 5 of their 9 innings at bat. The freshman tag team at the top of the lineup, TJ McCants and Jacob Gonzalez, went 4-10 with Gonzalez picking up 2 RBI as well. Tim Elko got in on the fun with a pinch hit single as he continues to prove that 2 whole ACLs aren’t necessary to be a star athlete.
After losing the midweek game, the final series of the season became that much more important. Georgia is not a powerhouse baseball team this year, but Ole Miss lost a series on the road to Texas A&M just 2 weeks ago. Game 1 was Doug Day and everybody knows what that means.
Doug Nikhazy went 7 strong shutout frames before turning it over to the closer, Taylor Broadway. Doug struck out 13 batters (including 4 in the opening frame) and allowed 4 hits. Broadway struck out 2 batters and allowed just 1 hit. Nikhazy improved his record to 8-2 on the season while Broadway notched his 11th save in the 2-0 Ole Miss victory. Nikhazy and Broadway staying strong and keeping the Bulldogs off the scoreboard was absolutely necessary because the Rebs managed to leave 9 guys on base in the final 6 frames.
The only scoring in this game was an RBI single for Justin Bench in the 4th and a sac fly for Kevin Graham in the 6th. After being completely blanked the first time through the lineup, Ole Miss got going and picked up 7 hits the rest of the way. TJ McCants went 2-4 and came around to score both of the Ole Miss runs. Elko was finally given an opportunity back in the starting lineup and managed to go 1-3 from the DH spot.
With Doug being used in Game 1 and Gunnar Hoglund out for the season, the Rebels needed to see some depth from the pitching rotation in order secure the series win. Former Sunday starter, Derek Diamond, was given his opportunity to secure the Rebels’ 18th conference win.
Diamond earned 4 runs in 5.1 innings of work. Jackson Kimbrell took over for him in the 6th and allowed another quick run before settling in. With the Rebs down 5-1 after 6 innings it looked like this would be another series dropped. The pitching tried to grind through a few more innings and hoped the offense would finally breakthrough.
After steadying his outing, Kimbrell pushed into the 8th where he gave way to Brandon Johnson. Johnson was able to keep the Bulldog bats quiet and bridged the gap all the way to the 11th inning. His 2.2 innings of high leverage pitching was enough to earn him his first win. After the offense jumped on the UGa bullpen in the top of the 11th, Taylor Broadway shut the door in the home half for save number 12.
Gonzalez tried to get the offense jump started early. His 4th inning homerun on the first pitch he saw just was not enough to fire up the Rebs. When Justin Bench singled in the top of the 8th, however, the Rebels were ready to lock in. A single from Gonzalez set up the power hitters with a chance to plate some runs. Kevin Graham seized the opportunity and blasted a 3-run homerun to bring the Rebels within 1. Tim Elko came to the plate with his chance to show again that he is an Ole Miss legend. With just 1 attached ACL in his legs, the Ole Miss Captain launched the game-tying shot to cap off the rally.
Thanks to bullpen’s clutch work to keep the score where it was, Ole Miss got their chance to seal the victory in the 11th. With 2 outs in the inning, the freshmen decided it was bedtime. McCants and Gonzalez each drove in a run with an RBI single before Kevin Graham added 1 more for insurance. The Rebels took an 8-5 lead and allowed Broadway to take over and finish it off.
After clutch performances in the first 2 games of the series, Ole Miss fell flat in the regular season finale. The entire pitching staff was smacked around and the hitting wasn’t any better. Drew McDaniel was chased after 3 innings (5 earned), Austin Miller earned 3 while working through the 4th, Jack Dougherty worked a scoreless 5th before allowing Georgia to tack on 2 more in the 6th, finally, Cody Adcock and Cole Baker allowed 3 runs in the 7th and 8th while sandwiching in a flawless 0.2 innings from Braden Forsyth. Ole Miss used 6 pitchers in 8 innings while Georgia managed 7 innings out of their starter.
Ole Miss only managed 5 hits. That certainly would never be enough to eclipse the 17 hits the pitching staff allowed. Kevin Graham’s RBI single in the 1st and a Peyton Chatagnier solo shot in the 2nd led some Rebel fans to believe this would be another one of those Game 3 shootouts that Ole Miss has gotten into this year. That did not turn out to be the case. The Bulldog arms settled in and shut the Rebels down on Senior Day in Athens.
Hosting status is not set in stone for the Rebels, but they do still control their own destiny. They were put in the top 20 potential host sites and picked up an SEC series win this weekend. They still need a decent showing in the SEC tournament to solidify their spot, or a couple of the other top 20 potential hosts to look bad. Ole Miss does have a winning record against the Top 25 and against the Top 10 which could be huge resume boosters. When this team is locked in, they are one of the best in the country. Unfortunately, not every day can be Doug Day and not every day can the offense catch fire.
Rebels will be back in action Tuesday in the first round of the SEC Tournament. The first round is single elimination, Ole Miss needs to win to move onto the double elimination portion of the tournament. Ole Miss probably needs at least 2 or 3 wins in the tournament to lock down a hosting bid, getting bounced on day 1 could be enough for the committee to finally give up on them.