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John Doxakis Outduels Casey Mize At SEC Tournament

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HOOVER, Ala.—John Doxakis on Thursday walked off the mound in the middle of the seventh inning and looked up into the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium stands. Two children holding a sign that said “no-hitter” caught his eye.

Doxakis to that point had thrown seven hitless innings for Texas A&M in its Southeastern Conference Tournament game against Auburn and ace Casey Mize, the projected top overall pick in the draft. The lefthander was well aware he was throwing a no-hitter, but no one else had mentioned it to him before the sign in the crowd.

“it was kind of like, ‘Well, there it is, I know everyone else knows now,’” Doxakis said. “I was thinking about it, but you can’t do anything about it.”

Doxakis no-hit bid was broken up the next inning when Jay Estes beat out an infield single. His night ended later that inning and he finished with 10 strikeouts in 7.1 innings and held Auburn to one run on two hits and no walks. With Doxakis leading the way, Texas A&M defeated Auburn, 4-2, to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.

Doxakis, a sophomore who figures to be a high-round pick in next year’s draft, improved to 7-5, 2.89 with 80 strikeouts and 27 walks in 87.1 innings. He said he felt good Thursday.

“I was just going out there giving everything I had, emptying the tank,” he said. “Fastball command was there, slider was there and it went pretty well.”

Doxakis stole the show Thursday. All eyes were on Mize as he made his second to last start before the draft. The righthander scuffled, however. He struck out seven batters and walked none in 7.2 innings, but he gave up four runs on eight hits in the loss.

Mize said he felt good Thursday before the game, but he wasn’t able to get much going against the Aggies.

“Fastball command was terrible, splitter was terrible,” he said. “Just not a good night for me.”

Mize on Thursday ran his fastball up to 97 mph and regularly threw it in the mid-90s. He liberally mixed in his cutter but relied on it a bit less than he has at times this season. The Aggies were ready for Mize’s fastball and had success hunting the pitch.

Mize has lost his last three starts and has surrendered 14 runs on 23 hits and three walks during that stretch. He is still averaging more than a strikeout an inning in those starts but hasn’t had the same success he did early this spring. Overall, he is 9-5, 3.07 with 140 strikeouts and 10 walks in 102.2 innings.

“He's given up four runs and everyone thinks the sky’s falling,” coach Butch Thompson said. “I want him to win and that was the goal tonight, just to get a little rhythm going. Casey really wanted to stay in the ballgame to get it going a little bit.”

Even though he wasn’t at his best Thursday, Mize showed all the attributes that make him such a highly valued prospect. And Texas A&M coach Rob Childress, who has now seen Mize face his team twice this year, said he could see the righthander making quick work of the minor leagues.

“If the right team takes him and feels like they want to put him in the big leagues at the end of the summer, he’s ready to do that,” Childress said. “He can land the slider and the split anytime he wants in hitter counts. He’s got great presence, great competitive spirit. If they wanted to call him up in September, he could fit right in.”

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On Thursday, however, it was Doxakis that got the best of the matchup. His fastball sat in the upper 80s, touching a tick higher and he mixed in a sharp slider and a changeup. His fastball-slider pairing in particular kept Auburn off balance all night and Thompson said he thought Doxakis did a good job of tunneling the two pitches.

With Doxakis turning in one of his best starts and Mize battling to keep his team in the game, Thursday’s nightcap produced the kind of pitchers’ duel that so often transpires at the SEC Tournament.

“I was just proud of the way those two went at it,” Childress said. “It was a great performance by both those guys. I’m a pitching guy at heart and it was fun to watch those two go at it.”

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