Ole Miss baseball is on a hot streak. The Rebels dropped their first game of the season but haven’t looked back since and now sit at 6-1 on the year after a three game sweep of Xavier.
On the heels of a season-opening series win over top-ranked Louisville and a walk-off midweek winner, Oxford played host to the Musketeers over the weekend. Facing far inferior competition out of the Big East, Ole Miss made a statement that was led by the pitching, and supported by the bats.
Let’s take a look at the weekend:
Doug Day was naughty.
Opening Day wasn’t an on-paper gem for Doug Nikhazy. Though the first five innings were solid, a difficult sixth inning against some of the nation’s top hitters took its toll.
On Friday against Xavier, he was untouchable. Literally.
Nikhazy threw six innings of no-hit ball on 96 pitches, only surrendered two walks, recorded his third scoreless start, and finished with nine strikeouts (six of which came in the first 10 batters). As the Rooster showed a year ago, he won’t light up the radar gun but jams his fastball in the zone and paints the corners with the best of them. His stuff was nastier than mayonnaise sitting out on a patio table in July.
Drew McDaniel replaced Nikhazy and threw two more spotless innings before Jackson Kimbrell came in to close out the combined no-hitter. As part of the top-10 recruiting class a year ago, McDaniel and Kimbrell became the first two pitchers in Ole Miss history to take part in a no-hitter in their collegiate debut— the team’s first nine-inning no-hitter since 1966. The Rebels most recent no-hitter came last season in a seven inning shortened game against a directional Arkansas team.
At the plate, freshman catcher Hayden Dunhurst announced his presence with a single, a home run, and five RBIs, Cade Sammons recorded his first base knock as a Rebel, and Tim Elko scored two runs of his own. After Knox Loposer blasted a three-run bomb in the 8th inning, Ole Miss won 13-0.
Hog Day was full of the future and football.
The line-up on Saturday was intoxicating before the team even took the field. Of the guys in the starting nine, six are in their first season in Oxford, and four were freshmen. The youthful lineup included both two-sport phenoms Jerrion Ealy and John Rhys Plumlee, and saw 13 different batters before the night was done.
Ole Miss’ offense was led by dingers from Cael Baker, Dunhurst (his second in as many days) and the blonde bomber Anthony Servideo, who continued his early tear with a dead centerfield hammer. While the baserunners weren’t as consistent as the night before, the bats proved again that they can get hot at a moment’s notice.
The real story, however, was on the mound once more with Gunnar Hoglund’s career day. As perhaps the best raw arm in the Rebel rotation, he began the day with two strikeouts in the first inning, and struck-out the side in the second.
Hoglund would go on to throw six scoreless innings of two-hit ball, and recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts. Austin Miller and Cole Baker shut the door in three innings of relief, Ole Miss recorded the fewest hits allowed (2) in a two-game span in its history and won 9-0.
Diamond Day was just about all you can ask for.
Xavier got on the board with a solo home run in the 3rd inning, marking its first run of the weekend(!), but Baker’s fourth jack of the year would tie it up in the bottom half.
Outside of the lone fastball that got away, Derek Diamond was as advertised. He threw five innings with six strikeouts, three hits and no walks, which is a line you want from the Friday night ace.
The doors blew wide open offensively in the 5th. Here’s a rundown of the carnage: Tyler Keenan shook off his stagnant start and got the party started with a double up the middle that scored two. Dunhurst knocked him home with a sac fly. Peyton Chatagnier wiggled his first career home run over the left field wall. Kevin Graham hit in Hayden Leatherwood. Cale Sammons brought in Graham. It was a revolving door of an inning capped off by another dead-center dinger from Servideo.
Greer Holston continues to struggle with his yips and allowed two runs in the 7th, but he worked out of the inning. Max Cioffi posted another solid relief outing, and the Rebels rolled to a 13-3 win as Leatherwood lofted a two-run home run in the 8th inning, putting the 10-run mercy rule into effect.
Ole Miss will face the ever-pesky Southern Miss Mustard Buzzards at home on Tuesday, and then hit the road to Greenville, S.C. for a weekend jamboree to face High Point on Friday, East Carolina on Saturday, and Indiana on Sunday.