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Nikhazy throws six hitless innings, offense blast five home runs in 15-0 win over Princeton

Photo credit — Petre Thomas: Ole Miss Athletics 

OXFORD —Doug Nikhazy’s final tuneup before SEC play went precisely as scripted in Ole Miss’ 15-0 drubbing of Princeton at Swayze Field on Friday evening.

Nikhazy hurled six no-hit innings with 12 strikeouts and three walks on 97 pitches. The sophomore left-hander has allowed two runs on four hits with 26 strikeouts over his last three outings, spanning 17.2 innings.

“I tried to bring a different kind of energy to the ballpark,” Nikhazy said. “I wanted to bring my own energy. It enhanced the fastball and the other stuff played along with it too.”

The 12 punch outs were a career high.

Ole Miss dismantled Princeton at the plate, an occurrence that was brewing in the early frames and was personified by an eight-run sixth inning after the Tigers went to the bullpen. Connor Uzell relieved starter Andrew Gnazzo to begin the frame and misfortune struck quickly for the right-hander. He allowed a leadoff single to Tim Elko, was the victim of a throwing error and then walked Anthony Servideo after a sacrifice bunt. Peyton Chatagnier laced a 2-RBI single through the left side and Tyler Keenan followed that with a towering, opposite-field three-run shot into the left field bullpen to balloon the lead to 7-0.

Keenan was 3-4 with 5 RBIs. The performance followed a seven-hit weekend in his home state of North Carolina a week ago. Chatagnier went 3-5 with a home run.

“Tonight, we were somewhat efficient in the first five innings scoring runs, we just missed that big hit,” Bianco said. “Then, I think it was the bottom of the sixth when Elko had a great at bat, like nine or ten pitches and gets the hit to center field. Then, he has a home run in the same inning.”

Hayden Leatherwood and Elko (in his second at bat of the frame) tagged Uzell for two more home runs after that. Elko went 3-4 with a pair of RBIs. His blast sailed out to dead center field on a chilly night with no wind. Ole Miss blasted five long balls in this game. The team now leads the sport with 26 home runs though 13 games. Nine Rebels have recorded at least two home runs on the year. They are on pace to shatter the program record of 98 set in 1998. This offense looks different than any other in Mike Bianco’s tenure. The Rebels are walking, hitting home runs and striking out a lot. The 26 home runs camouflages a lot of other blemishes.

“We just have a lot of guys that have power,” Elko said. “When we get ahold of one, it is probably going out. This is not surprising at all. We swung it well in the fall and are continuing to swing it well now.”

Just ask Nikhazy about that claim. He had the task of extinguishing this offense the fall.

“There is no better way to prepare for other lineups than facing this one,” Nikhazy said. “They are ridiculously difficult to pitch to and when you think you aren’t doing well, it is just facing a good lineup. I knew we were going to to do this.”

Ole Miss has four remaining games before SEC play begins next weekend with LSU coming to Oxford. Mike Bianco is trying to solidify the remaining loose impediments on this roster, whether it be the outfield or the bullpen, and this test day went as well as it possibly could.

Game two of this series is slated for Saturday at 1:30 P.M. Gunnar Hoglund will start for the Rebels.

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