OXFORD, Miss. - The No. 13 Ole Miss Rebels were able to make things interesting late in the bottom of the ninth, but stellar pitching all day from No. 25 ECU's Jake Kuchmaner helped ensure that the Pirates were able to slip out of Oxford with a win.
The Rebels didn't record their first hit until there were two outs in the ninth, on a Thomas Dillard single. That hit broke up Kuchmaner's no-hitter and started a two-run rally, but Ole Miss fell just short in the 3-2 defeat, dropping to 9-3 on the year. The ECU lefty had allowed just three baserunners coming into the final frame, on a walk, hit by pitch and a dropped third strike, and racked up nine strikeouts over his 8.2 innings pitched.
The Ole Miss arms were able to match Kuchmaner's outing stride by stride, save for one pitch, a three-run homer that accounted for the Pirates' only runs. The Rebels actually recorded more strikeouts than ECU, with a combined 12 from the arms of Doug Nikhazy, Austin Miller and Connor Green, and only allowed five hits on the day.
It was the misfortune of one fateful inning that allowed the Pirates to take the edge in an otherwise stellar pitching duel. After a pair of singles against Nikhazy led off the top of the fourth, ECU's Spencer Brickhouse knocked a three-run home run into the right field bullpen, in what would the Pirates first and only runs of the game.
Nikhazy was still able to fend off the opposing bats for most of his career-long 5.0 innings off the start. He rang up a career-best seven and allowed just one walk and four hits, three of which came in the top of the fourth.
Miller stepped in for the freshman to lead off the sixth inning. Miller was equally impressive, carrying the Rebels to the ninth inning with 3.0 flawless innings pitched without a hit or run allowed. Green took over in the final inning and continued his dominant season with a scoreless ninth inning, making sure that the senior's ERA stayed at a sterling 0.00.
On offense, Rebel production was a different story. The first Ole Miss baserunner didn't make on board until Ryan Olenek took his team-high sixth HBP of the year to represent the Rebels' first shot at something positive at the plate. Grae Kessinger would reach an inning later on a third-strike wild pitch, but both runners were stranded after minimal contest in the batters' box.
Ole Miss started its comeback bid with some late action at the plate that came in the form of a two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth rally. After two quick outs, Michael Fitzsimmons worked to a walk before Dillard spoiled Kuchmaner's no-hitter with a single to right-center.
Tyler Keenan brought two runs home on an RBI single to left, bringing the score within one, but three batters later, the Pirates were able to squeak out a victory on a bases-loaded Cooper Johnson pop-out in foul territory.
The Rebels will be back in action with a weekend series against the UAB Blazers. Ole Miss will host the Blazers to wrap up their nine-game home stand, with Friday's first pitch set for 6:30 p.m. CT.
- Ole Miss falls to 9-3 on the year.
- Freshman Doug Nihazy recorded new career bests in innings pitched (5.0), and strikeouts (7) today in his first career start in a Rebel uniform.
- Austin Miller has been the most called upon arm out of the Rebel bullpen today, with a team-high 13.1 innings pitched in relief, including 3.0 scoreless innings today. He lowered his ERA down to 0.55 on the season with a dominant relief performance this afternoon.
- Senior Connor Green has been perfect in five relief appearances this year. He is still yet to allow a run in his 8.2 innings of action, including a scoreless ninth inning today versus ECU.
- Thomas Dillard increased his hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the ninth, which leads the team and dates back to the 2018 season.