FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. • Doug Nikhazy chatted amicably with young Arkansas fans Sunday before excusing himself and saying, “Alright, time to go beat some Hogs. Here we go.”
And away went the Rebels with Nikhazy as a stabilizing force in the early innings.
After starting pitching failed the Rebels in Game 1, Nikhazy held down the runs while his teammates punished wild Arkansas pitching, and the Rebels won 13-5 before 11,029 fans at Baum-Walker Stadium tying the Fayetteville Super Regional at one win each.
The winner of today’s 3 p.m. matchup advances to Omaha for the College World Series.
Nikhazy chatted with the fans during Ole Miss batting practice.
“There were some kids having a good time, playing around. They were giving me a hard time,” he said.
Boosting Nikhazy was an offense that had four home runs by four different players, one of them Tyler Keenan, who also had a three-run triple in a five-run second inning.
It was the Rebels’ most home runs since defeating another Arkansas school, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 25-0 on March 20.
Keenan had four RBIs to run his team-leading total to 66.
Cole Zabowski had a three-run home run in the first, Cooper Johnson a solo shot in the second as Ole Miss scored four runs off Arkansas starter Connor Noland.
Reliever Kole Ramage walked six batters in 2 2/3 innings, and Arkansas (45-17) relievers would walk two more.
“You can’t walk them eight times. They’re too good. We got what we deserved, and they whipped us,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
Nikhazy gave up five runs, all earned, over five innings. He absorbed 10 hits and walked one. He struck out eight, setting the school’s freshman record for strikeouts along the way.
Once ahead 8-2, the Rebels saw their lead shrink to 8-5 when Arkansas got its timing down against Nikhazy and scored three runs off three-straight two-out doubles to make it 8-5 in the fourth.
The Rebels pushed the lead back to six in a three-run sixth.
Keenan homered deep over the right field bullpen, and the Rebels (41-26) weren’t finished.
With the bases loaded with two outs, Anthony Servideo laced a hard hit to first base. As the play developed Servideo beat pitcher Kevin Kopps to the bag, and Kevin Graham scored all the way from second. The safe call at first was upheld on review, and Ole Miss led 11-5.
“I’m proud of my guys, the way we bounced back from yesterday’s game that was so one-sided,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “It was maybe not Doug’s sharpest day with all his pitches, but a really gutsy performance. He was able to make a pitch and get off the field.”