HOOVER, Ala. — For the second straight day, Texas A&M’s starting pitcher carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning only to see the effort end in a loss.
A&M ace John Doxakis threw eight no-hit innings and handed the ball to his bullpen. Ole Miss’ Cole Zabowski then doubled in Thomas Dillard in the top of the ninth, and the Aggie bats couldn’t answer in a 1-0 loss Thursday at the Southeastern Conference tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
A&M suffered its second straight shutout defeat, finishing Thursday’s game with just four hits.
Doxakis did his part, striking out 10 and pitching around four walks and one hit batsman over eight innings. At 99 pitches, he did not come out for the ninth, giving way to reliever Bryce Miller.
“He was at 100 pitches,” A&M head coach Rob Childress said of the decision to pull Doxakis. “He did more than we needed to, asked him to do, just like he has done all year long. He’s going to be on the mound for us in eight days as well, and that’s why the decision was made.”
Doxakis said he understood the move, though would have preferred to stay in the game.
“You always want to go back out and finish the ninth, but in this situation, it just wasn’t the right time,” he said.
Doxakis broke teammate Chris Weber’s SEC tournament record for hitless innings by a single pitcher. Weber’s no-hit bid lasted 7 1/3 innings against Georgia on Wednesday before the Bulldogs’ Randon Jernigan singled in the eighth to end it.
Miller (4-2) took the loss. He gave up a leadoff single to Dillard in the top of the ninth then got Grae Kessinger to foul out. Left-hander Chandler Jozwiak then took over on the mound, beginning his outing with a balk that pushed Dillard to second. Two batters later, Zabowski doubled to right field, driving in the lone run of the game.
In his 14 previous starts, Doxakis threw at least 100 pitches seven times, including in his previous four starts before Thursday.
“Dox is as competitive of a guy as I’ve coached in a long, long time,” Childress said. “He leads from the front and sets the tone week in and week out, and it was a hard decision to make, but it was the right decision for our team moving forward.”
After whizzing through the first seven innings, allowing just one runner past first base, Doxakis struggled a bit in the eighth. Ryan Olenek drew a leadoff walk and stole second, but Doxakis struck out the next two batters. He intentionally walked Michael Fitzsimmons then struck out Jacob Adams to end the inning.
A&M got a runner to third base twice but couldn’t push him across in either situation.
Aggie second baseman Bryce Blaum ended up stranded on third in the bottom of the fourth. He drew a one-out walk and took third on a single by Cam Blake. Ole Miss starter Doug Nikhazy got first baseman Hunter Coleman to pop-up to first and catcher Mikey Hoehner to ground out to second to strand Blaum at third.
In the bottom of the eighth, Will Frizzell singled with one out and came out for pinch runner Allonte Wingate. Wingate took second on a wild pitch and third on Ty Coleman’s ground out but advanced no further as the Aggies went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and just 1 for 11 with runners on base. That put A&M at 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position and 2 for 21 with runners on base over its final two SEC tournament games.
Nikhazy (7-3) picked up the win, allowing three hits and four walks over eight innings. He struck out two. Rebel closer Parker Caracci pitched the ninth, breaking his streak of allowing at least one run over four appearances to earn his ninth save. He gave up one hit and struck out one.
The Aggies must wait until Sunday evening to learn if they will host an NCAA tournament regional, a goal that seemed easily obtainable after winning its final series of the regular season over Arkansas. A&M entered the SEC tournament ranked 14th in RPI but dropped to 16th after losing Thursday.
“Our hope is that we host,” Childress said. “When you look at our metrics, our RPI, our strength of schedule, the things that we’ve done, we’ve felt like we’ve done enough, but that’s not our decision. We’re going to take what the committee gives us and play our very best. If that’s at home next week at Blue Bell Park, if that’s on the road, it doesn’t matter, but we would certainly love to be at home and feel like we’ve done enough to do that.”
The NCAA will announce the full tournament field at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.
NOTES — A&M fell to 12-9 all time in the SEC tournament. ... Ole Miss’ win was the first lower seed to claim a victory in the 2019 SEC tournament. ... With 11 strikeouts Thursday, the Aggie staff pushed its school-record total this season to 631.