Jun. 6—OXFORD — Holding the ace never looked so good.
Junior left-hander Doug Nikhazy tied a school record with 16 strikeouts, and 1 seed Ole Miss advanced to the championship round of the Oxford Regional with a 4-3 win over 3 seed Florida State before 10,830 fans at Swayze Field Saturday night.
The Rebels (43-19) will face the Southern Miss-Florida State winner Sunday at 5.
Nikhazy started the first game of the Rebels’ last two series after projected first-round pick Gunnar Hoglund was lost for the season with torn elbow ligaments.
He started the SEC Tournament opener last week as well.
However, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco announced earlier this week that he would start sophomore Derek Diamond in the Rebels’ regional opener against Southeast Missouri State.
The strategy worked as Nikhazy threw four shutout innings then got some help from his offense in the seventh after wavering in the fifth.
He finished with four hits, three runs — two earned — one walk and 16 strikeouts on 119 pitches in seven innings.
“That’s Doug. When the game’s on the line he can take it to another gear. He can throw 110, 115, 120 pitches — not that you want to do that every week — but some guys hit a wall at 90. He can always reach back and get a little something extra,” Bianco said. “We needed all of that tonight.”
Taylor Broadway got the last six outs for his second save of the regional.
Both teams had just four hits with Kevin Graham getting half of the Rebels’.
The Seminoles (31-23) had no answer for Nikhazy early, but he weakened in the fifth when FSU scored all its runs to take a 3-2 lead.
Nikhazy got the first out of the inning and was ahead 0-2 on nine-hole hitter Isaiah Perry when he left a fastball over the plate, and Perry pulled it to left field for a home run.
That brought the top of the order to the plate, and Tyler Martin hit a smash — it was ruled an error — to shortstop Jacob Gonzalez and was on base to score as Logan Lacey homered in a 3-2 count to put FSU ahead.
While Nikhazy sparkled so did Florida State left-hander Bryce Hubbart who allowed only three hits and gave up two runs, one unearned, in the first.
Hubbart was out of the game when FSU shortstop Nander De Sedas threw high to first on a routine two-out ground ball from Tim Elko.
Jacob Gonzalez and pinch-runner Cade Sammons scored on the play.
Nikhazy, with a fresh lead, struck out the side in order in the seventh.
Broadway earned his 15th save as he retired all six batters he faced striking out three.
He got the final out when pinch-hitter Nico Baldor struck out, but Dunhurst didn’t catch the ball requiring a throw to first.
Baldor dived into the bag and was called out, but the real celebration didn’t take place until the call was upheld on review.
Nikhazy refocused in the fifth with a big-picture perspective.
“It’s moments like that in the postseason when you start to think about how many chances you’ll get to wear this jersey again. You kind of flip a switch and start looking at things differently,” he said.