OXFORD, Miss. - It took a masterful performance from Doug Nikhazy, a little luck and a little help, but No. 1 seed Ole Miss baseball edged No. 3 seed Florida State, 4-3, Saturday night to take full command of the NCAA Oxford Regional.
Nikhazy tied Ole Miss' single-game record with 16 strikeouts and moved to fourth all-time on the Rebels' single-season strikeout chart. After 7.0 strong innings, Nikahzy passed the baton to Taylor Broadway, who notched his 15th save of the season with two flawless innings to seal the deal.
It was a tough night offensively against the Seminole arms as Ole Miss notched just four hits, two off the bat of Kevin Graham, who extended his reached-base streak to 55 games with a pair of singles. All four Rebel runs crossed on Florida State errors.
Ole Miss struck first right out of the gates. Jacob Gonzalez started it with a single to left, followed by a walk issued to Tim Elko. Kevin Graham drove them both home when he hit one through the legs of the Florida State second baseman, setting Swayze Field off and giving the Rebels an early 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Doug Nikhazy was on fire early. The First Team All-American struck out two in the first, three in the second, two in the third and two in the fourth to total nine through four innings.
In the fifth, the Seminoles finally got to the Rebel starter. Isaiah Perry and Logan Lacey each homered, solo and two-run shots respectively, to give Florida State a 3-2 lead before Nikhazy bounced back with consecutive strikeouts to end the inning.
It looked as though the Rebels would regain the lead in the sixth, loading the bases with one out, but a strikeout and a pickoff ended the scoring opportunity.
Nikhazy bounced back with a 1-2-3 inning, setting the Rebels up with another opportunity to take the lead-and this time they cashed in, once again on an FSU miscue. With runners at second and third and two outs, Elko grounded it to the Seminole shortstop, who airmailed his throw to first, allowing Graham and Gonzalez both to come home to give Ole Miss a 4-3 lead.
In the seventh, Nikhazy returned to the hill and struck out three more Seminoles to increase his total to 16 for the game, tying Ole Miss single-game record, becoming the fourth Rebel to do so and the first since Drew Pomeranz in the 2009 NCAA Oxford Regional, also against the No. 3 seed, Western Kentucky.
Broadway then stepped in and retired three straight Florida State batters, including back-to-back-to-back strikeouts in the ninth. The final K brought some nerves as the ball in the dirt led to a close play at first base to complete the out. But after a review, the out was confirmed and the Rebels remained in the winners' bracket.
Ole Miss will play the winner of Southern Miss and Florida State. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. CT. The Rebels will have two opportunities to win one game to advance to the Super Regionals.
- Ole Miss improved to 43-19 on the season, tying for the sixth-most wins in program history.
- The Rebels logged just their second-ever win over Florida State, moving to 2-7 in the all-time series.
- Ole Miss improved to 60-50 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
- Doug Nikhazy struck out a career-high 16 batters on the night to pass Drew Pomeranz (2009) and tie Scott Bittle (2008) for fourth on the school's single-season strikeouts chart, now with 130 on the season.
- Nikhazy's 16 strikeouts tied an Robert Earl Siedell (1962), Jamey Price (1995) and Drew Pomeranz (2009). Pomeranz's 16 K game also came in the NCAA Oxford Regional against the No. 3 seed, Western Kentucky.
- Kevin Graham increased his reached-base streak to 55 games, one shy of the national season-long (56 by ECU's Connor Norby). It is the longest active streak in college baseball. He has reached safely in 60 of 62 games this season.
- Ole Miss struck out 19 batters, tying a season-high, set on May 12 against Little Rock.
- Ole Miss improved to 32-6 this season when allowing five runs or fewer.
- The Rebels are now 34-1 this season when leading after eight innings.