By Adam Brown
Ole Miss evens the Super Regional with the Arizona Wildcats with a 12-3 win on Saturday night — behind a masterful performance on the mound by junior Doug Nikhazy.
Ole Miss’s (45-21) offense matched their aces outing as it jumped on the Wildcats pitching with home runs by Jacob Gonzalez and Peyton Chatagnier along with two doubles. The Rebels’ 12 runs on the night came on 16 hits (a Super Regional record).
Nikhazy dominated the high-powered top of the lineup for the Wildcats in the first two innings. The southpaw faced eight sluggers and struck out six batters.
“He is Doug,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “After the second inning, I think he had 54 pitches. He was striking people out, but they were having some tough at-bats with a lot of foul balls. The big inning (fourth) when they got two and he gets punch out, punch out. Doug is terrific.”
In those two innings, Nikhazy had his pitch count go up as the Arizona hitters battled at the plate.
“Tons of credit to their hitters,” Nikhazy said. “They continued to battle.”
Gonzalez led the bottom of the first with a solo home run off of Arizona’s left-hander Garrett Irvin.
In the second inning, the Rebels opened the game up with a six-run frame. Ole Miss sent 11 batters to the plate as Gonzalez delivered his first double, which was capped off by Chatagnier’s home run.
Irvin worked 1.1 against the Rebels and surrendered seven runs on seven hits with two strikeouts and a walk.
“We always go out there and attack the fastball as much as we can,” Chatagnier said. “(Irvine) is a really good pitcher he spotted up well and our bats were hot today.”
Arizona got on the board in the fourth with two runs against Nikhazy. The Wildcats’ Branden Boissere led the frame off with a base knock, and Kobe Kato got on by a hit by pitch. Arizona drove them both in with back-to-back hits from Tony Bullard and Ryan Holgate — 7-2 Ole Miss.
The Rebels responded with three runs in the fourth as Kevin Graham and Tim Elko delivered base hits. TJ McCants walked with one out. Ole Miss first baseman, Cael Baker drove in Graham and Hayden Dunhurst followed by knocking in Elko.
The Rebels shortstop Gonzalez finished the game at the dish going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, a walk and three RBI.
“He has had an outstanding year,” Bianco said. “He is as good as we have had.”
Ole Miss got production all throughout the lineup as Dunhurst got on base four times with 3-singles, two RBIs and a run.
“(Hayden) was our player of the game and the guy who won the shirt,” Bianco said. “He was terrific with three hits. (John Rhys) Plumlee with a runner at third had a huge at-bat with an infield hit ground ball and beat it out.”
Nikhazy (12-2) worked 5.1 innings, surrendered two runs on six hits and retired 10 Wildcat hitters by strikeout. He allowed three walks and a hit by pitch.
Bianco brought in Austin Miller in the sixth to finish the game. Miller allowed one run in 3.2 innings on four hits and six strikeouts.
“Thought Miller might be a good match,” Bianco said. “Got a strikeout and caught stealing to get us off the field in the sixth. Then he filled up the strike zone.”
Arizona’s third run was in the seventh on a solo home run off the bat of Donta Williams.
Nikhazy and Miller combined for a total of 16 strikeouts against the Wildcats.
The Rebels and the Wildcats will return to the park tonight and play in a winner-take-all game. The first pitch is set for 8 p.m. CT on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.