For the first time this season, there was no capacity constraint at Foley Field for a Georgia baseball game. Although the seats were not completely filled, they were as full as they have been all season with Georgia playing its final home series of the season against Ole Miss.
The Rebels defeated the Bulldogs by a 2-0 score on Thursday to take the opening matchup of a three-game set. Ole Miss starter Doug Nikhazy dominated the Bulldogs’ offense all night, as he continues his extraordinary season.
“We knew that coming in it was going to be a challenge,” said Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin on Nikhazy. “That guy is going to pitch in the big leagues, he’s ultra-competitive, has really good stuff. The ball has so much life on it, it jumps on the hitters… he’s just really good.”
Nikhazy totaled 13 strikeouts against Georgia hitters while only allowing four hits in seven innings of work. He does not have a crazy high velocity on his pitches, but the movement from them fooled hitters all night.
Georgia made Nikhazy work at times, forcing him to throw well over 100 pitches, but could never quite breakthrough. He moved to 8-2 on the year with the win and lowered his ERA to 1.93.
Georgia’s pitching on the other hand excelled against an Ole Miss lineup that Stricklin described as one of the best in the country. Luke Wagner got the start for Georgia but had to be pulled from the game after taking a line drive off of his shin in the second inning. Remarkably, Wagner still threw the runner out at first before walking off of the field with the trainers.
He was then replaced by sophomore pitcher Michael Polk who delivered one of the best outings of his career. Polk threw a career-high 4.1 innings and added a career-high five strikeouts to go along with that. Ole Miss scored its runs on a single in the fourth inning and a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
“For [Polk] to go four and a third was big time,” said Stricklin. “The pitching staff did their job. They were outstanding and they gave us a chance to win.”
Darryn Pasqua, Collin Caldwell, Will Pearson and Max DeJong all provided scoreless frames out of the Georgia bullpen. Caldwell even worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the top of the eighth innings, aided by a tremendous play by Chaney Rogers to get a double play.
The Bulldogs’ record is now 29-22 (12-16) with two games left in the regular season. Georgia’s mindset coming in was to win the series and that goal is still alive. It will be difficult to do while facing the No. 13 team in the country, but Stricklin made it clear his team still believes.
“We’ve got to do everything we can to win tomorrow, we do that then we’ve got momentum going into game three,” said Stricklin. “All hands on deck tomorrow to try to win it and I know we’ll have a great crowd.”
Georgia will start pitcher Liam Sullivan while Ole Miss is projected to start Derek Diamond on Saturday. The first pitch is set for 7 p.m. again.