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Ole Miss defeats A&M, 12-7, to even the series with the Aggies

Ole Miss defeats A&M, 12-7, to even the series with the Aggies

COLLEGE STATION – Saturday is commonly known as “swing day” in a Friday, Saturday, Sunday baseball series, and on this particular swing day, Ole Miss looked to even the series on the road against Texas A&M after falling in walk-off fashion to the Aggies Friday night.

It’s also known as “Doug Day” to many, referring to that part of the series when left-hander Doug Nikhazy is on the mound for the Rebs. He didn’t disappoint as he earned the win in the Rebels’ 12-7 victory over the Aggies at Blue Bell Park.

Nikhazy improves to 6-2 on the season with a near-high season pitch-count of 112 pitches with 9 strikeouts.  

After allowing single runs in the second and third innings, Nikhazy found his groove allowing no runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth and saving the Rebel bullpen for a pivotal series-deciding game three Sunday.  

“It was a great feeling,”Nikhazy said of bouncing back from Friday’s game.

It’s something we’re used to, winning swing days. We know we can win these days. And the focus shifts now to Sunday and how we’re going to come out and beat the crap out of them.”

Ole Miss pitcher Doug Nikhazy on “swing day”

Head coach Mike Bianco was pleased with the way Nikhazy rebounded from a longer-than-normal first and second innings. “He was at 50 pitches after two (innings) and then got really efficient. (Then), almost got through seven (innings), that’s pretty amazing,” Bianco said.

Wes Burton came in to relieve Nikhazy, and he threw his season-high of 56 pitches and recorded six outs.  Tyler Myers recorded the final out to preserve the 12 -7 victory for the Red and Blue.

Middle-inning runs

The middle innings were kind to the Rebel offense, as Ole Miss plated all of its runs in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings.

By far the most exciting moment of the game, however, occurred in the seventh. Captain Tim Elko, who made his return last week from a torn ACL suffered in April, entered the game against A&M as a pinch hitter.  

Elko, who we observed having a solid batting session before the game, came to the plate with center fielder T.J. McCants on first and third baseman Justin Bench at second.  

Much to the delight of the Ole Miss faithful in attendance, Elko deposited the second pitch he saw into the right field bleachers.  

After a Kirk Gibson-style home run trot, reminiscent of the 1988 Major League Baseball World Series, an excited dugout met the captain after he touched home plate.  

His teammates were obviously moved by Elko’s performance.

“What a moment,” Nikhazy said. “It’s magical. It’s cool to be a part of something like that. Nobody else deserves it more than Tim. A lot of guys wouldn’t do what Tim’s doing.”

After the game, Elko said his belief he could return was helped by his teammates’ encouragement.

“It was an awesome moment. (I) kind of almost blacked out a little bit once I hit it. It was a great moment. I’m happy I was able to put more runs on the board for our team and help us get the win.

Captain Tim Elko on his three-run homer

Elko’s home run was his 10th on the season and 39th RBI. “Once I saw it in the air, I kind of knew it was gone,” he said. “It was awesome to have the embrace from all my teammates and coaches and all the staff here when I got back to the dugout. It was a really special moment for me.”

Bianco gave much credit to Elko, explaining how hard he has been working with Ole Miss athletic trainer Josh Porter.

In the fifth inning, the Rebels tied things up. Ben Van Cleve stroked an RBI triple high off the off wall to right of the scoreboard at Olsen Field and subsequently scored on a Hayden Leatherwood sacrifice fly.

Ole Miss took the lead in the sixth and would never relinquish it. Kevin Graham powered a one-out solo home run down the left field line. Then, pinch hitter Calvin Harris cranked a two-out, 2 RBI double to right center, scoring McCants and Bench.

In addition to the home run by Elko in the seventh, the Rebels scored four runs prior to the big blast.  

Ole Miss started with a single from Cael Baker and a walk to Jacob Gonzelez and. The Rebs then chained together four singles from Peyton Chatagnier, Graham, Justin Bench and T.J. McCants. In total, seven runs came across on seven hits in the lucky seventh inning for the Rebels.

Coach Bianco notches 800th win at Ole Miss

The win Saturday marks Coach Mike Bianco’s 800th victory at Ole Miss and 900th of his coaching career.  In thinking about the accomplishment, he paid tribute to all those who made it possible.

“I don’t pitch it, I don’t catch it, I don’t hit it. We’ve had a lot of really great players; I am fortunate and have been blessed with a lot of great coaches. It’s cool, it’s really neat and I’m proud. It’s one of those things that it’s not really me.”

Head coach Mike Bianco on his 800th win at Ole Miss

Other notes

Coach Bianco said after the game Saturday that pitcher Gunnar Hoglund is going to have an MRI on Monday.

Two items of note that won’t make the news:

First, Cael Baker’s diving catch in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Secondly, Jacob Gonzalez’s 13-pitch at bat in the fifth inning. Gonzalez was the last batter the A&M starter faced.

Up Next:

In the series finale, the Rebels and Aggies return to action Sunday at 1 p.m. to decide the series. 

Hotty Toddy!

(Feature image credit courtesy of Ole Miss Baseball)

About The Author

Chris Muller

Chris is our Director of Baseball Content and Senior Baseball Writer. Muller is a 1995 Graduate of Ole Miss. He is a collegiate recreational sports professional currently residing in Arlington Texas with his wife of 24 years, Amber, and German Shorthaired Pointer, Sophie. Chris is an avid Ole Miss Baseball and Football fan. His hobbies include watching college football and baseball and playing poker with his friends.

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