No. 12 Ole Miss drops series to LSU in third-straight SEC loss

Published 10:28 pm Friday, April 23, 2021

April continues to not be kind to the Ole Miss baseball team.

The No. 12 Rebels fell to LSU 7-2 at Oxford-University Stadium on Friday as the Tigers clinched the series. Ole Miss has lost four-straight Southeastern Conference series for the first time since the 2002 season.

Once again the offense went missing for the Rebels (27-12, 9-8 SEC) and was compounded with some leaky bunt defense. The Tigers broke the game open with five runs in the ninth inning.

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Similar to the series opener on Thursday, the Rebels were unable to do anything at the plate with runners on base or in scoring position. On Friday, they went 3-for-14 with runners on base and 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Through the first two games of the series, the Rebels have gone 7-for-35 with runners on base.

The offense came from Kevin Graham with a solo home run in the sixth inning, to cut LSU’s two-run lead in half at the time, and from an RBI-single by Calvin Harris in the ninth inning.

LSU starter AJ Labas pitched his second complete game of his career.

“Tonight (Labas) was just really good,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “We didn’t have many opportunities to score. We didn’t have many opportunities with runners on. (On Thursday) we hit three homers and still left 14 guys on. If we had just got another hit or two in the right time, the timely hit we talk about. Tonight I don’t think that was really the effect. We just didn’t have enough runners. We just didn’t have enough good at-bats.”

The infield defense was an issue at times for the Rebels, with LSU (24-14, 6-11) having success with sacrifice bunts in the sixth and ninth innings, leading  Peyton Chatagnier and Justin Bench each recorded an error when trying to get a runner out at first off a bunt.

Coming off his complete-game one-hit performance against Mississippi State last Saturday, Doug Nikhazy took the mound and worked through trouble to give the Rebels six innings.

Nikhazy helped keep it a one-run deficit, holding the Tigers to only two runs in the sixth after loading the bases with zero outs. He finished with seven hits for two runs, one earned, 11 strikeouts and walked three batters.

West Burton pitched 2-plus innings of scoreless relief, keeping the Rebels within reach. Jackson Kimbrell came in the ninth inning and lasted only 0.1 if the inning, giving up four runs off three hits. A grand slam by LSU’s Gavin Dugas sealed the game for the Tigers.

“On nights like this you tip your hat and hope you can keep it close on the other side,” Bianco said. “Fortunately for us, Doug really competed well. …I thought Burton kept it close. The disappointing thing was we don’t give ourselves an opportunity in the ninth. We just let the inning blow up on us.”

Ole Miss will look to avoid their first sweep in an SEC series this season on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for noon CT and will air on the SEC Network+.