May 25—HOOVER, Ala. — Ole Miss left-hander Doug Nikhazy didn’t see Auburn during the regular season, but he will Tuesday night at the SEC Tournament.
Rebels coach Mike Bianco will not hold his ace for a possible matchup with 4 seed Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
Auburn won six of its last nine games to earn the No. 12 seed and match up against the fifth-seeded Rebels.
Ole Miss swept the regular season series on the opening weekend of conference play, but the game’s were close — two one-run games then a 19-11 finale in which Ole Miss saw a 14-0 lead cut to 14-9 in the eighth inning.
“Knowing that he’s available it doesn’t make a ton of sense not to throw him when it’s if you lose you go home,” Bianco said. “You might as well throw your ace. We’ve almost always done that here on Day 1 especially in an elimination game.”
The decision to start Nikhazy wasn’t made until he checked out physically since he’ll be starting on five days rest as opposed to the week off between starts in the regular season.
For the same reason Bianco said he would not commit to keeping Derek Diamond as his Game 2 starter and Drew McDaniel as his Game 3 starter.
That’s been the rotation since projected first-round draft pick Gunnar Hoglund went out with a torn elbow ligament earlier this month.
Hoglund and Auburn’s Cody Greenhill both shined in a 1-0 Ole Miss victory on March 19, the opening night of SEC play.
Greenhill is also out.
Auburn will start Jack Owen, a left-handed senior, who went 6 2/3 innings allowing just four hits and two unearned runs in the Tigers’ 15-6 win in the series opener at Missouri last week.
Owen pitched just a third of an inning at Ole Miss in March giving up four hits, two walks and five runs, all earned.
It’s been a mixed back of results for Diamond and McDaniel.
“There have been some outings that they’ve been OK and some starts they’d probably want back throughout the year not just since Gunnar’s been injured,” Bianco said.