Rebels take control of Regional with 6-1 victory over Clemson

by - Senior Writer -
Clark couldn't find his control in the loss to Ole MIss
Clark couldn't find his control in the loss to Ole MIss

OXFORD, MS – Clemson baseball faces a familiar situation Sunday, needing to win three games in a span of 30 hours if they want to advance to the program’s first Super Regional for the first time since 2010.

Ole Miss hit starter Mat Clark early and received a superlative effort from starter Doug Nikhazy in defeating Clemson 5-0 in game four of the NCAA Oxford Regional late Saturday. Clemson falls to 35-25 with the loss while Ole Miss improves to 39-25 with the win.

Clemson shortstop Logan Davidson's 56-game on-base streak came to an end.

The Sunday elimination game will be Sunday at 3 pm between Clemson and Jacksonville St. The Gamecocks eliminated Illinois 7-5 earlier Saturday. The winner of that game advances to the nightcap, which will start at 9 pm. Ole Miss only has to win one game to win the regional – if the team with one loss wins the night game, the deciding game would be played Monday.

Clemson has won the opening game of an NCAA Regional four consecutive seasons but has also lost the second game in four consecutive years. Losing the second game is almost always lethal for teams that don’t have deep pitching staffs.

The Tigers managed just four hits against Nikhazy, who walked three and struck out nine in his eight innings of work. Clemson used four pitchers who threw a whopping 194 total pitches, just 107 for strikes. Tiger pitchers walked eight.

It didn’t take the Rebels long to get on the board. Cole Zabowski hit a 2-2 pitch over the wall in right to lead off the second inning for a quick 1-0 lead. One batter later, Cooper Johnson worked a 3-2 count before homering deep into right-center for a 2-0 lead. Two walks, a sacrifice bunt, and a groundout later the Rebels had a 3-0 lead and Clark on the ropes.

Clark made it into the fourth before being pulled. He took a shot off his pitching arm to lead off the inning, and a one-out single ended his day. He pitched 3 1/3 innings, giving up five hits, four runs (all earned), while walking three and striking out one. He threw 80 pitches, just 45 for strikes. He was replaced on the bump by Sam Weatherly.

Weatherly got a quick strikeout for the second out, but two wild pitches scored the Rebels’ fourth run.

Weatherly struggled through much of his outing and was taken out after issuing his fifth walk to start the sixth inning. Travis Marr relieved Weatherly and gave up a single and a sacrifice fly, and Ole Miss led 5-0. Weatherly was credited with 1 2/3 innings pitched, giving up one run (earned) while walking five and striking out four.

The Tigers finally put a dent in the scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh. Grayson Byrd doubled into the right-field corner and moved to third on Kyle Wilkie’s single to center. That brought up Bryar Hawkins, whose hard grounder to short was turned into a double play. Byrd scored on the play and Ole Miss led 5-1 after seven.

The Rebels got the run right back after Kevin Graham homered to lead off the eighth.

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