BATON ROUGE, La. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - Outstanding performances by freshmen Doug Nikhazy and Kevin Graham led No. 13 Ole Miss to a 5-1 win over No. 9 LSU Saturday night, evening the series at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
Nikhazy turned in another terrific start, going 6.1 innings with just one run allowed on five hits with four strikeouts and one walk to earn his third straight win. On the offensive side, Graham's three-run home run in the fourth inning proved to be the difference in the Rebel victory.
Junior left fielder Thomas Dillard made the first etch onto the scoreboard with a solo home run to right center in the second inning. The first hit of the game for either team gave the Rebels a 1-0 lead.
Graham hit a nearly identical homer in the fourth. Ryan Olenek started the rally with a one-out base hit. Cooper Johnson then drew a two-out walk to bring Graham up with an opportunity to do damage. The freshman fell behind 0-2 but rocketed a three-run bomb over the right-center wall to make it a 4-0 Rebel advantage.
Nikhazy retired the first six batters he faced and kept the LSU offense quiet early. The Tigers threatened in the bottom half of the fourth, loading the bases with two outs, but Nikhazy worked his way out of it, getting Cade Beloso to fly out on a flare to Grae Kessinger in shallow left field.
Ole Miss tacked on one more run in the fifth. Anthony Servideo started the inning with a leadoff double. Kessinger then reached base for the 36th consecutive game on a hit-by-pitch, and Dillard moved the pair into scoring position on a groundout. It appeared as though LSU would escape the jam, but Olenek's two-out ground ball was misplayed by Josh Smith at short, allowing Servideo to come home for the Rebels' fifth run.
LSU got that run back in the bottom half on back-to-back two-out hits by Zach Watson and Antoine Duplantis, but that's all the home team managed on the night.
Nikhazy got back on track in the sixth, working a three-up, three-down frame, capped with his fourth strikeout of the night. The freshman got the first out in the seventh before allowing a double off the bat of Chris Reid.
Austin Miller relieved Nikhazy, and the junior right-hander used a flyout and a groundout to escape the jam unscathed. Miller then mowed down the Tigers in a one-two-three eighth inning to set up for closer Parker Caracci. The All-American struck out Drew Bianco and got Beloso to pop up for two quick outs. Reid made some noise with a two-out line drive to center, but Olenek was there for the diving catch to end the Rebel victory.
Ole Miss will go for its first series win at LSU since 1982 on Sunday. The Rebels and Tigers are set for a 2:30 p.m. CT first pitch on ESPN2.
- Ole Miss improved to 31-17 overall and 14-9 in SEC play.
- Grae Kessinger was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning to extend his reached-base streak to 36 games. The Rebel shortstop had his nine-game hitting streak snapped.
- Thomas Dillard hit his 10th home run of the year, giving him double-digit home runs in consecutive seasons, as well as homers in consecutive series against LSU.
- Kevin Graham hit his sixth home run of the season.
- Doug Nikhazy went 6.1 innings with one run allowed on five hits with four strikeouts and one walk. It was Nikhazy's fourth start with one earned run or fewer allowed, all coming in SEC play.
- After a rough outing Friday night, Austin Miller turned in 1.2 scoreless and hitless innings, allowing just one baserunner on a walk.
- Parker Caracci pitched his second straight perfect ninth inning. His last two outings have been identical: 1.0 innings with no walks or hits allowed and one strikeout. Pitching with a four-run lead, Caracci was unable to pick up his ninth save of the season.