By Adam Brown
The No. 6 Ole Miss Rebels open the 2021 season with a win over No. 10 TCU in the State Farm College Baseball Showdown.
Both starting pitchers set the tone for the game to be a pitchers duel in the first inning as TCU’s Johnny Ray pitched lights out as he struck out the side. The Rebels ace Doug Nikhazy matched the intensity when he took the hill by striking out three batters and only allowing a double.
Ole Miss (1-0) got to Ray in the second as they plated four runs on two hits. The Rebels opened the frame with a walk to Kevin Graham followed by a hit by a pitch to Justin Bench and a walk to Hayden Leatherwood. Ben Van Cleve stepped up to the dish and drove a two-RBI double to the right-center.
“It was a big part of the game,” Van Cleve said. “(Ray) had good velocity and I just tried to jump out there and (hit it) and it worked out for me.”
Hayden Dunhurst followed by delivering an RBI base knock. The fourth run crossed on a double play ground out off the bat of Trey LaFleur.
“Trey LaFleur was outstanding — maybe the difference in the game at first base with some great plays,” head coach Mike Bianco said.
The Horned Frogs quickly cut the led down to a one-run game in the bottom half of the inning. TCU’s Austin Henry hit a leadoff double followed by a walk to Gray Rodgers. Nikhazy then got a line out and a fly out before giving up a hit and three walks that scored all three runs.
The Rebels southpaw ace was relieved by Jackson Kimbrell in the second. Nikhazy worked 1.2 innings allowed three runs, on three hits, two doubles while striking out three batters, and gave up four walks.
Kimbrell worked 2.1 innings not allowed a run on two hits while he fanned four batters in his outing.
“It’s the first game against the top 10 team,” Bianco said. “(Kimbrell and McDaniel) each had about 25 percent of a season last year. For both of those guys, this was probably their biggest moments here. I thought they were both outstanding tonight.”
Bianco called on the arms of Drew McDaniel and Taylor Broadway to close out the win. McDaniel worked an inning not giving up a run on two hits. Broadway work four complete innings allowed a hit while he struck out Horned Frogs to pick up the win.
“It is what Coach B preaches — just fill it up with your best stuff and compete,” Broadway said. “Your defense is going to play behind you and trust in your stuff and do what you can.”
Neither team could scratch across a run for the next four innings. In the seventh, Ole Miss scored two more runs as Van Cleve had a base knock and John Rhys Plumlee came into run followed by Dunhurst getting on the board by an error on the shortstop. Peyton Chatagnier drove both of them in with a two-RBI double.
In the top of the ninth, Chatagnier drove in his third RBI of the day with a base knock to the left that allowed Dunhurst to come in and score.
The Rebels scored all seven runs on nine hits and had no errors in the game.
Ole Miss has won 17 straight games dating back to Feb. 15, 2020.
Ole Miss returns to the diamond on Sunday at 3 p.m. as they face No. 3 Texas Tech. The Rebels will have Gunnar Hoglund versus Micah Dallas.