No. 3 Ole Miss Baseball Sweeps Doubleheader at No. 23 Alabama

Published 2:00 pm Monday, March 29, 2021

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – No. 3 Ole Miss baseball needed a late rally in Game 1 and a dominant pitching effort in Game 2, but the Rebels pulled out victories of 9-6 and 2-0 to sweep a doubleheader at No. 23 Alabama on Friday.

Ole Miss (19-4, 5-0) plated eight runs on six hits in the ninth inning of Game 1 to escape with a win. An hour later, the Rebels followed a combined shutout from Doug NikhazyDrew McDaniel and Taylor Broadway to secure their second straight Southeastern Conference series win.

Game 1 Recap
A strong start from Gunnar Hoglund and a late offensive explosion gave Ole Miss a Game 1 victory at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Hoglund went 6.0 innings with three runs allowed on six hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts. All three of those Tide runs came on solo homers.

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The Alabama pitching staff held the Rebel offense down for nearly the entire game, but Ole Miss erupted for eight runs on six hits in the top of the ninth inning to earn the win. Peyton Chatagnier led the way, going 4-for-5 with a home run. Hayden Dunhurst led the Rebels with three RBI as part of a 2-for-4 day, while Justin Bench logged his second straight multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.

Ole Miss struck first in Game 1 when Hayden Dunhurst launched a 2-1 pitch over the right field wall to give the Rebels an early 1-0 lead.

Alabama struck back in the bottom of the third as designated hitter Owen Diodati and catcher Sam Praytor each sent solo home runs over the right field wall to give the home team a 2-1 lead.

The Rebels threatened in the top of the fourth, but TJ McCants was thrown out at home on an infield single by Chatagnier for the final out of the inning. Ole Miss had another two-out scoring opportunity in the sixth after a Hayden Leatherwood walk and a Calvin Harris base hit, but McCants lifted a ball deep to right that came up just a few feet short of a go-ahead home run.

To open the sixth inning, Drew Williamson jumped on the first pitch and drove it over the right field wall to make it a 3-1 advantage.

Tyler Myers relieved Hoglund in the seventh and quickly retired the Tide in order. The senior turned in another scoreless inning in the eighth to keep the game within reach, then the offense did its part.

McCants started the torrid ninth-inning rally, earning his way on with a hit-by-pitch. Chatagnier made the Tide pay, depositing a 1-2 breaking ball over the left field wall to tie the game at three. The Rebels were far from done. After a Jacob Gonzalez walk and a single by Kevin GrahamTim Elko roped a double down the right field line to put the Rebels on top. Dunhurst continued his strong day at the plate with a two-RBI single up the middle to make it a 6-3 lead.

After a pitching change, Justin Bench kept the rally going with a single through the right side, setting up Leatherwood, who smashed a double into the right-center gap to make it a five-run Rebel lead. As the Rebels batted around, McCants completed the eight-run frame with an RBI groundout, making it a 9-3 advantage.

Alabama didn’t go quietly, making the Rebels sweat after a three-run home run made it just a three-run gap. That brought Taylor Broadway out of the bullpen, and the Rebel closer quickly closed the door with back-to-back strikeouts of Alabama’s three- and four-hole hitters to cap the victory.

Game 2 Recap
The second game of the afternoon was all about the pitching staff.

Doug Nikhazy made his return from injury, going 5.0 innings with no runs allowed on one hit and two walks with seven strikeouts. He passed the torch to Drew McDaniel, who followed with three scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and striking out three. Finally, Broadway closed the door once again, yielding just one hit in the ninth inning to earn his third save in as many games.

The pitchers’ duel began with four scoreless as the two teams combined for just seven baserunners through the first four innings. McCants broke the tie when he yanked a solo home run over the right field wall in the fifth inning, making it 1-0, Rebels.

Nikhazy kept his squad on top with a brilliant outing. He struck out two in the first and escaped a jam with a double play in the second. His only hit allowed came in the form of a Peyton Wilson double in the second. After stranding Wilson, the Rebel lefty heated back up, fanning two in the fourth and two more in the fifth to close his day.

Drew McDaniel picked up where Nikhazy left off, working around a single in the sixth and a double in both the seventh and eighth innings to turn in three scoreless.

Aside from the McCants home run, Alabama starter Dylan Smith matched Nikhazy, going 7.0 innings with just one run allowed on four hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. Jacob McNairy took over for Smith in the eighth, and Ole Miss added one insurance run on the reliever. McCants once again sparked the scoring, this time with a leadoff single. After a Bench walk and a perfect sacrifice bunt by Chatagnier, Graham brought McCants home with an RBI single to right to make it a 2-0 Rebel lead.

With the game on the line, head coach Mike Bianco once again called upon Broadway. Owen Diodati notched a leadoff single, but the Crimson Tide would get no more off the Rebel closer. Broadway bounced back with consecutive strikeouts and a soft lineout to Gonzalez at short to end the game.

Ole Miss will go for the series sweep on Saturday. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. CT, and the series finale will be nationally broadcast on SEC Network.

Quick Hits
– Ole Miss improved to 19-4 on the year and 5-0 in SEC play.
– Gunnar Hoglund notched 10 strikeouts on the day, his fifth outing with 10-plus Ks in six starts this season.
– Peyton Chatagnier hit his first home run of the season to tie Game 1 in the ninth inning.
– Hayden Dunhurst hit his fourth home run of the season in Game 1, becoming the third Rebel with four-plus homers this season.
– Justin Bench swiped his team-high fifth stolen base in Game 2.
– TJ McCants hit his second home run of the season in Game 2, becoming the seventh Rebel with multiple homers on the year.
– Doug Nikahzy made his return after missing the last two starts due to a strained pectoral muscle. Nikhazy threw 78 pitches, going 5.0 innings with no runs allowed on one hit and two walks with seven strikeouts.
– Taylor Broadway earned the save in both games of the doubleheader and has saved the last three games for the Rebels.