Nikhazy tosses shutout as Rebels even series with MSU

Nikhazy tosses shutout as Rebels even series with MSU
SOURCE: Ole Miss Athletics (Source: Ole Miss Athletics)

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Ole Miss baseball dominated the day in front of 13,338 at Dudy Noble Field on Saturday. The Rebels used a complete-game, one-hit shutout from Doug Nikhazy and a 17-hit deluge from the offense in a 9-0 victory. 

Nikhazy was brilliant from start to finish, going a full nine innings with no runs allowed on just one hit and two walks. The left-hander from Windermere, Florida, struck out 12 along the way to tie a career-high. Nikhazy didn’t allow his lone hit until the fifth inning and, at one point, retired 11 straight Bulldog batters. 

The offense was outstanding from the get-go as well, plating runs in each of the first five innings to take command. Every Rebel who stepped to the plate reached base, including 11 different Rebels with a base hit, eight Rebels with a run scored and seven with an RBI. Ole Miss struck first on the afternoon, starting with a quality at-bat from leadoff hitter Jacob Gonzalez, who fell behind 0-2 but earned his way on with a walk on a nine-pitch battle.

The Rebel shortstop advanced to second on a fielder’s choice and scored on an RBI double down the right-field line by Hayden Dunhurst, making it 1-0, Rebels. After a scoreless first from Nikhazy, the Ole Miss offense tacked on another thanks to a leadoff triple by TJ McCants. The freshman center fielder came home on an RBI double by Cael Baker to the warning track in center to give Ole Miss a 2-0 lead. 

The Rebels tacked on one more in the third when Graham and Dunhurst notched back-to-back singles to start the inning. Graham came across on an RBI fielder’s choice by Justin Bench. After scoring one in each of the first three innings, the Rebels added three in the fourth.

Hayden Leatherwood started it with a solo home run to lead off the inning. After a hit by pitch issued to Baker and a base hit from Calvin Harris, MSU went to the bullpen, pulling Will Bednar in favor of left-hander Cam Tullar, but the Rebels kept hitting as Baker scored on a Gonzalez sac fly and Harris touched home after a Peyton Chatagnier base hit to make it 6-0, Rebels. Bench and McCants opened the sixth with back-to-back base hits to set up an RBI single by Baker.

Then Ben Van Cleve entered the game in the DH slot and quickly did damage, smashing a double off the wall in right field to plate another run and make it 8-0, Ole Miss. The Rebels added one more for good measure when Van Cleve knocked a one-out single to right field in the seventh.

Cade Sammons came on to pinch run for Van Cleve, but he wasn’t on the basepaths long, as Gonzalez rocked a first-pitch double to right-center, sending the speedy Sammons home from first. From there, Nikhazy brought the Rebels home. The Rebel left-hander walked one in the first before retiring 11 straight, taking a no-hitter into the fifth. Nikhazy walked Rowdey Jordan with one out in the sixth, the only real trouble he faced on the day. He kept rolling on into the ninth and struck out the final two hitters to increase his total to 12 and secure a Game 2 victory. 

Ole Miss and Mississippi State will decide the series at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday.

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