Nikhazy shines again, but Ole Miss comes up short
OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss dropped the series-deciding game at Swayze Field vs. the LSU Tigers on Friday by a score of 7-2.
Despite another terrific start from Doug Nikhazy, the Rebels simply couldn’t muster the timely hits while their counterparts did, tattering the Rebel bullpen for five runs on six hits. The Rebel starter worked six complete today, striking out 11 and allowing just one earned run. Ole Miss’ second weekend arm has been excellent throughout SEC play, and today marks the first time all season that the Rebels lost a game in which Nikhazy started.
Nikhazy set the tone early and often and held the Tigers scoreless through each of the game’s first five frames. The Rebel starter racked up eight strikeouts through five complete, but unfortunately for Nikhazy, the Tigers frequently took him deep into counts and racked up his pitch count into the 90s heading to the sixth.
Through five complete, the Rebels mustered just five hits, but far too often stranded runners in scoring position to cut down on valuable opportunities. Through four complete, Ole Miss was 1-for-5 with runners on base, just 0-and-4 with runners in scoring position.Ole Miss led off with a dominant start to the fourth inning after singles from Peyton Chatagnier and Kevin Graham but quickly fizzled out after an infield pop out and a 6-4-3 double play to take a scoreless game through four.
Nikhazy worked a scoreless fifth but ran into trouble for the first time all night in the sixth. The first four batters in the inning all reached safely, on a double, single, fielder’s choice and error, respectively, which gave LSU its first lead of the night and another bases-loaded opportunity. Nikhazy, however, minimized the damage well with back-to-back strikeouts and an out on the base path to close the inning with just two Tiger runs scored.The sixth would be Nikhazy’s last after 107 pitches thrown, just two runs allowed (only one earned), and 11 strikeouts.
He would hand the ball over to reliever Wes Burton to handle the first relief duty.
Graham cut into the Tiger lead in the bottom half with a two-out solo shot to dead center over the batter’s eye on a home run that traveled 438 ft., the farthest Rebel homer at Swayze Field all season.
The Rebels would threaten once again in the seventh after a two-out single from TJ McCants, but a flyout from Ben Van Cleve would leave him stranded in scoring position.Burton, meanwhile, was doing an excellent job holding the score as it stood. Even as LSU’s Dylan Crews stood on second with nobody out in the seventh, Burton worked two strikeouts and a pop out and left him stranded there.
In the eighth, Burton added one more strikeout and worked a clean inning to hold the deficit at one.Burton re-emerged for the ninth, but after a leadoff single, would hand the ball off to Jackson Kimbrell. Kimbrell’s outing did not exactly go according to plan as the Tigers promptly loaded the bases on an intentional walk and error, before Gavin Dugas brought them all home on a grand slam.
The added insurance proved to be all she wrote for the Rebels, who fell to the Tigers in game two by a score of 7-2. Ole Miss and LSU will wrap up the series tomorrow at Swayze Field with a first pitch set for high noon.
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