Rebels sweep doubleheader with South Carolina
OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss (31-12, 13-8 SEC) outshined South Carolina (26-15, 11-10 SEC) at Swayze Field in an all-day doubleheader on Saturday, taking a 7-3 win in Game 1 and a 6-4 victory in Game 2 to secure the series sweep.
Ole Miss earned its third SEC sweep of the season (Alabama and Auburn) and earned its highest-ranked series victory of the season over the No. 7 Gamecocks. The Rebels earned their first-ever series sweep over the Gamecocks and had last earned a series win over South Carolina in 2011.
The Rebels took the first game of the doubleheader, 7-3, over the Gamecocks. Ole Miss belted three home runs in the contest.
Both Doug Nikhazy and South Carolina’s Brannon Jordan opened the day without allowing a baserunner in the first inning.
Catcher Colin Burgess opened up the scoring by squeezing a solo shot down the left field line in the top of the second. The sophomore Gamecock recorded his fourth home run on the season. Burgess was rested for the opening game of the series on Friday.
The Rebels responded with a solo home run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. On a 1-0 count, Justin Bench blasted a 360-foot homer deep to left field. Bench increased his home run total to four on the season and upped his RBI count to 25. Ole Miss found a rhythm on offense, loading the bases with two outs. Jordan walked Jacob Gonzalez on five pitches to give a 2-1 lead to the Rebels. Cael baker scored from third, crossing the plate for the 16th time this year. Chatangier struck out next to end the inning.
Neither team was able to score in the third and fourth innings. TJ McCants was the only batter to reach base in either inning via a walk.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Hayden Dunhurst went yard. Dunhurst cleared the right field fence, placing the ball into the Ole Miss bullpen, 357 feet from home plate. Gonzalez scored from second base and Dunhurst touched them all to give the Rebels a 4-1 lead. Dunhurst hit his fifth HR of the season and added his 31st and 32nd RBI. The Rebels held all the momentum heading into the sixth inning.
After Nikhazy held South Carolina scoreless in the top of the sixth, Andrew Peters spelled Jordan for the Gamecocks in the bottom half of the inning. McCants opened the frame with an opposite field double. Baker flied out and Hayden Leatherwood singled to place runners on the corners with one out. Calvin Harris pinched hit for John Rhys Plumlee and brought McCants home on a sacrifice fly. With two outs, Gonzalez stepped to the plate, ferociously swung at the first pitch, and launched a home run into the right field stands. The Rebels extended their lead to six runs, 7-1, on Gonzalez’s sixth home run of the season.
The Gamecocks scored two in the top of the seventh to shave the Ole Miss lead to 7-3. With two outs, South Carolina shortstop George Callil doubled down the left field line to score Burgess and Braylen Wimmer. Nikhazy struck out the following batter, Michael Robinson, to record his fifth strikeout and end the top of the inning.
Tyler Myers replaced Nikhazy on the mound to start the eighth inning. Myers contributed a scoreless eighth and was replaced by Taylor Broadway after one batter in the top of the ninth. With a runner on first, Broadway retired all three South Carolina hitters faced to secure a 7-3 victory for the Rebels. Ole Miss won its 30th game of the season and clinched the series victory over the Gameocks.
Nikhazy improved to 5-2 on the season in nine starts and Jordan fell to 4-3.
Right-hander Drew McDaniel took the mound for the Rebels in the series finale. The Rebels maintained the same defensive lineup at all positions other than pitcher and kept the exact batting order from the first game of the doubleheader. South Carolina chose to start freshman Will Sanders.
After a scoreless first inning, the Gamecocks got ahead 3-0 on a three-run home run by designated hitter Wes Clarke. Clarke hit his 16th homer of the season, leading the Gamecocks (second most in the NCAA).
The Rebels came back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the second. With one out, McCants singled, stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Baker struck out, Hayden Leatherwood drove McCants home with a single. Leatherwood then reached second on a wild pitch, and Plumlee was walked to bring up Gonzalez. Gonzalez singled to shallow right field and Leatherwood scored on a tight play at the plate. Leatherwood was originally called out, but the ruling was overturned to safe after a replay review.
Ole Miss took a 4-3 lead in the third on a two-run opposite-field homer by Kevin Graham. Graham swung at Sanders’ first pitch and sent the ball over the left field wall. Peyton Chatangier scored from first as he had been hit by the previous pitch. The Gamecocks pulled Sanders after relinquishing the lead and replaced him with Brett Kerry.
South Carolina tied the game, 4-4, in the top of the fifth inning on a Brady Allen single. McDaniel was relieved of his duties after 77 pitches and was replaced with by Jack Dougherty with one runner on base and one out. Dougherty did not allow another baserunner in the inning.
The Rebels scored twice in the bottom of the fifth, collecting four hits in the inning. Dunhurst singled home Gonzalez to reclaim the Ole Miss lead, 5-4. McCants singled in Graham to put the Rebels ahead by two. Ole Miss was in threatening position in two outs but left the bases loaded to end the inning.
The score held at 6-4 in favor of the Rebels the rest of the way. Dougherty rolled through the sixth through eighth innings and Broadway closed for the Rebels to earn his ninth save of the season.
Dougherty earned his first career win and Kerry fell to 3-1 on the season.
Senior captain Tim Elko returned to action on Saturday, pinch-hitting in the eighth inning of Game 2. The infielder out of Lutz, Florida, took the plate to a standing ovation and popped out to continued cheers at Swayze Field. Elko tore his ACL on April 6 against North Alabama and missed the last 14 games. Prior to his injury, Elko led the SEC with 36 RBI in 28 games.
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