By Adam Brown
No. 19 Ole Miss took the series from No. 13 South Carolina with a 7-3 win in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday.
Ole Miss (30-12, 12-8 SEC) used the long ball and had a strong performance on the bump by southpaw Doug Nikhazy against the Gamecocks.
The Rebels offense had three home runs off the barrels of Justin Bench, Hayden Dunhurst and Jacob Gonzalez.
South Carolina’s first run came in the second as catcher Colin Burgess lifted a ball into the bullpen in left field.
Nikhazy (5-2) made it difficult for the USC sluggers as after the home run he retired eight straight before a base knock. He tossed seven innings surrendered three runs on six hits and punched out five batters on strikeouts.
The Rebels’ third baseman, Bench responded to USC’s home run with a solo shot of his own in the second to knot the game at 1-1. Ole Miss tacked on an additional run in the frame as Cael Baker scored on a bases-loaded walk to Gonzalez.
In the fifth, Ole Miss’ offense hung two more runs on the board as Gonzalez got on base with a hit and driven in on a two-run shot by Dunhurst. 4-1 Ole Miss.
The Rebels weren’t done at that point. In the sixth, the Rebels brought in three more runs. TJ McCants led off with a double and scored on a base knock by Hayden Leatherwood.
Leatherwood scored on a smash by Gonzalez with a shot to the bullpen in right to make it 7-1 OM.
Gonzalez went 2-for-4 at the plate with a home run and three RBIs in the game.
South Carolina brought in two runs in the seventh, on a double by shortstop George Callil to left field that cut the game to 7-3.
Head coach Mike Bianco made the call to the bullpen in the eighth and brought in Tyler Myers. Myers worked an inning plus allowed one hit and struck out two batters. After a base knock, Bianco brought in Taylor Broadway to close the door on SC’s comeback.
The Gamecocks struck out seven times in the afternoon.
The Rebels go for the sweep against South Carolina at 6 p.m. on SEC Network.