HOOVER, Ala. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - Thanks to outstanding performances on the mound by Jordan Fowler and Will Ethridge, No. 4 Ole Miss baseball is going to the SEC Tournament Championship Game for the first time since 2008 after a 2-1 win Saturday afternoon over Texas A&M.
Fowler, a freshman out of Union City, Tennessee, went a career-high 6.0 innings, allowing no runs on just six hits and a walk, striking out three to improve to 7-0 on the season. Ethridge, a sophomore from Lilburn, Georgia, was fantastic in relief as well, allowing one unearned run on two hits in three innings to earn his third save of the season. Meanwhile, the Rebel offense manufactured two runs in the fourth inning, which proved the difference.
Fowler allowed one hit in the first before inducing a tailor-made double play for Grae Kessinger and Jacob Adams to retire the Aggies in order.
A strange turn of events took place in the second after a leadoff single by Cole Zabowski. Will Golsan smashed a ball deep to left center that appeared to be caught, but the ball popped out of Texas A&M centerfielder Zach DeLoach’s glove on the diving attempt. Ultimately, Golsan earned a single but was called out for passing Zabowski on the basepath as Zabowski went back to first base, thinking the ball was caught. Tim Rowe grounded into a double play immediately thereafter to end an unlucky inning for the Rebels.
In the bottom half of the second, Logan Foster ripped a triple deep into the right center gap, but a hard ground ball to third on the following play allowed Olenek to peg him at the plate and keep the game scoreless.
Ole Miss pushed across the game’s first runs in the fourth. Nick Fortes opened the inning with a single, followed by a double to right field by Thomas Dillard. Zabowski sent Fortes home with an RBI groundout to break the seal on the shutout. Golsan then came through with a single to left to drive in the game-deciding run.
Fowler fanned two Aggies in the bottom half of the fourth and pitched into a brilliant 5-4-3 double play turn by Olenek and Adams.
The Rebels had scoring chances in the sixth and seventh after a leadoff single by Fortes and double by Golsan, respectively, but were unable to add to the cushion.
Fowler yielded a leadoff single to start the seventh before giving way to Will Ethridge out of the bullpen. Ethridge escaped the jam with two groundouts and a flyout, including two excellent plays by Golsan and Adams.
Ole Miss was unable to capitalize on another run-scoring opportunity in the eighth. Ryan Olenek led off with a single, and Fortes was hit by a pitch, but a well-hit ball by Dillard was snagged by the Aggie third baseman, leading to a double play.
Texas A&M got on the board with a couple of seeing-eye singles, sandwiched around a fielding error, cut the Rebel lead to one. The Aggies loaded the bases on a walk, but Ethridge escaped the jam with a gutsy full-count strikeout to preserve the lead.
While the eighth inning was nerve-wracking, the ninth was smooth. Ethridge threw just eight pitches, retiring the Aggies in order with three easy groundouts to secure the Rebels’ place in the SEC title game.
Ole Miss will play LSU on Sunday in the championship game at 2 p.m. CT.
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