No. 12 Ole Miss Baseball Takes on No. 5 Arizona in Tucson Super Regional

Published 3:05 pm Friday, June 11, 2021

• Ole Miss enters the Tucson Super Regional at 44-20 overall (18-12 SEC). The Rebels battled through one of the nation’s toughest regionals, topping OVC Champion Southeast Missouri and perennial powerhouse Florida State before splitting two games with in-state rival Southern Miss.
• Ole Miss is making its seventh appearance all-time in the Super Regionals and its second in as many seasons. THe Rebels fell to Arkansas in three games at the 2019 Fayetteville Super Regional.
• The Rebels hosted 10th NCAA Regional, all under head coach Mike Bianco. Ole Miss is one of just five programs to host 10 or more regionals since 2004. Swayze Field is also one of just eight in college baseball to host five or more regionals since 2014.
• Doug Nikhazy was named a First Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball last week. This week, Jacob Gonzalez became the first Rebel shortstop to be named freshman All-American since Zack Cozart in 2005.
• Six Rebels earned SEC year-end honors, highlighted by Tim Elko’s selection as the conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the first such honor in program history. Doug Nikhazy (First Team), Hayden Dunhurst (Second Team, All-Defense, All-Newcomer), Justin Bench (Second Team), Jacob Gonzalez (All-Freshman) and TJ McCants (All-Freshman) rounded out the list of SEC awards.
• Ole Miss is third nationally and first in the SEC with 629 hits on the season.
• Ole Miss is eighth in the nation and leads the SEC with 460 runs scored this season.

Ole Miss fought through one of the toughest regionals in the 2021 NCAA Tournament to advance to the Tucson Super Regional. The Rebels first bested the Ohio Valley Conference Champion Southeast Missouri, topping the OVC Pitcher of the Year, Dylan Dodd, on Friday night. Ole Miss then used a masterful performance from Doug Nikhazy to edge perennial powerhouse Florida State, 4-3 in Game 2. The Rebels were then faced with taking down a familiar foe in in-state rival Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles plated _____ runs over the weekend, including a 10-7 win on Sunday to push the Rebels to the brink of elimination. But with their backs against the wall, the Rebels responded, following a two-home-run day from Tim Elko to a dramatic 12-9 victory to advance for the Super Regionals for the seventh time and in the second consecutive season.

Ole Miss has qualified for the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament for the 24th time in program history, including the last three tournaments and 17 of 20 full seasons in the Mike Bianco era. Ole Miss will host its 10th NCAA Regional, all with Bianco at the helm. The Rebels are one of just five programs to host 10 or more regionals from 2004 to 2021. Swayze Field is also one of just eight in college baseball to host five or more regionals since 2014.

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Ole Miss will head to its second consecutive Super Regional and will look to advance to the College World Series for the first time since 2014, the sixth time in program history and the second time in the Mike Bianco era. The Rebels fell shy of that mark in 2019, dropping Game 1 at Arkansas before an emphatic 13-5 Game 2 victory. In the Super Regional finale, the Rebels ran out of gas as the home team advanced to Omaha.

Ole Miss and Arizona have met just twice in their history, splitting the two contests. The first came in the 1956 College World Series, where the Wildcats eliminated the Rebels in a 7-3 final. Arizona came to Oxford in 2001, and the Rebels came away with a 5-4 win in 17 innings. It is tied for the longest game in Rebel baseball history alongside Ole Miss’ 17-inning defeat to Mississippi State in 2007. This is Ole Miss’ second trip to Arizona for a Super Regional. The Rebels went two-and-out against Arizona State in the 2007 Tempe Super Regional.

Ole Miss made yet another deep run in SEC Tournament play at Hoover, going 3-2 over five days with just two one-run losses to No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 1 Arkansas. The Rebels opened it up with a 7-4 win in an elimination game over Auburn and nearly went 2-0 to start play in Hoover but suffered a 5-4 walk-off defeat to Vanderbilt. Ole Miss bounced back with a shutout 4-0 win over Georgia before exacting revenge with a 4-1 win over the Commodores. In their third straight trip to the semifinals, the Rebels fell 3-2 to eventual SEC Tournament champion Arkansas to just miss out on a third straight trip to the title game. Pitching was the story of the weekend as the Rebels posted a team ERA of 2.64 over five games. All five Rebel starters—Doug NikhazyDerek DiamondDrew McDanielTyler Myers and Cody Adcock—allowed two runs or fewer in their outings. McDaniel and Myers each set career-highs in innings pitched and strikeouts to lead the Rebels to victory. Jacob Gonzalez led the way at the plate in his first SEC Tournament, hitting .421 with two doubles and three runs scored. Tim Elko and Kevin Graham eached homered twice at The Met.

The injury bug has bit Ole Miss hard in 2021, most recently with the loss of ace right-hander Gunnar Hoglund, who is out for the season with a torn UCL. He will have surgery on Tuesday, May 18. The Rebels have also been without one of their top relief arms, Max Cioffi, who also underwent UCL surgery after making just two appearances this season. Ole Miss’ team captain and top hitter Tim Elko missed 33 days with a torn ACL but has since returned in a pinch-hitting capacity and slid into the designated hitter role last weekend at Georgia. Outfielder and two-sport star Jerrion Ealy is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery before the start of the 2021 campaign. Other notable injuries include co-ace Doug Nikhazy, starting second baseman Peyton Chatagnier and starting first baseman Cael Baker, who have all since returned to the lineup.

Fourteen of the Rebels’ 20 losses have come by four runs or fewer, including seven one-run losses.

Ole Miss is 36-12 this season when making one error or fewer.

Ole Miss brought home a total of eight SEC honors from six different players, highlighted by Tim Elko’s selection as the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the first in program history. Doug Nikhazy was named to the All-SEC First Team, while Justin Bench and Hayden Dunhurst were each named to the second team. Dunhurst also earned All-Defense and All-Newcomer honors. Jacob Gonzalez and TJ McCants were both named to the SEC All-Freshman Team.

Ole Miss is 16-10 on the season against ranked opponents, including 11-6 against teams then-ranked in the top 10. The Rebels are are 6-7 against teams ranked in the top three. Nine of the Rebels’ 10 ranked losses have come by four runs or fewer, including three one-run losses. Ole Miss is No. 12 in the RPI and has played the nation’s seventh-toughest schedule. The Rebels are 21-14 against quadrant one opponents, the second-most Q1 wins in the country.

Ole Miss leads the nation in attendance at 303,859 (7,596 per game) and holds four out of college baseball’s top five most-attended on-campus games this season and 11 games with 10,000-plus fans. Each of the eight largest crowds in college baseball this season watched the Rebels play.

Ole Miss is 14-10 away from home this season, including 6-2 in neutral territory and two SEC road series victories at Alabama and Georgia.

The Rebels were one of five SEC teams to not get swept in the 2021 regular season (Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia). The last time Ole Miss entered the postseason without a losing sweep was 2018, when they were selected as a top-eight national seed and crowned SEC Western Division Champions before winning the SEC Tournament in Hoover.

On Saturday, April 17, in front of 13,338 at Dudy Noble Field on Super Bulldog Weekend, Doug Nikhazy stole the show. The left-hander out of Windermere Florida, threw a one-hit, complete-game shutout, striking out 12 and walking two, allowing just three total baserunners—none of which advanced past first base.

Ole Miss is 8-1 when Nikhazy starts in SEC play. The First Team All-SEC selection has allowed 11 earned runs (1.67 ERA) on 38 hits and 19 walks (0.97 WHIP) with 85 strikeouts (4.47 K/BB Ratio) in 59.1 innings. The junior left-hander has walked three or fewer batters and struck out seven-plus in 10 of 11 starts since returning from an early-season pec injury, including seven starts with nine or more strikeouts.

Nikhazy was named a First Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball on June 3, making him just the fourth player in Ole Miss baseball history to be named an All-American over multiple seasons, joining Stephen Head, Paul Husband and Jake Gibbs.

One week after being named SEC Pitcher of the Week, Gunnar Hoglund’s season came to an abrupt end as an MRI revealed a torn UCL. Dr. James Andrews performed surgery on Tuesday, May 18. The junior out of Hudson, Florida, missed the first start of his Rebel career on April 23 due to arm stiffness but returned to throw a near-flawless six innings against South Carolina. Hoglund needed just 73 pitches to go 6.0 scorless with just one hit allowed. He walked none and struck out nine along the way. Hoglund was third in the SEC and fifth nationally with 96 strikeouts when his season came to a close. His 14 strikeouts against ULM were two shy of the program record and the most by a Rebel since Drew Pomeranz struck out 15 in 2010. The projected first round MLB Draft pick struck out seven or more in eight of his nine full starts this season.

Ole Miss is second in the nation and second in the SEC in strikeouts per nine innings, averaging 11.8 Ks per game. The Rebels have struck out at least 10 batters in 46 of 64 games this season, including 22 vs. SEC competition and 15 of the last 17 games. Ole Miss also ranks No. 5 nationally and second in the conference in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 3.46.

Ole Miss has won all seven games against SEC competition in which Doug Nikhazy starts and Taylor Broadway finishes. Broadway has closed out all seven of Nikhazy’s wins vs. the SEC except for the latter’s complete game shutout vs. Mississippi State. In the seven SEC games that Nikhazy and Broadway appear together, the two combine for seven Rebel victories, six Nikhazy wins, six Broadway saves, 9 ER allowed in 56.2 IP (1.43 ERA) and 76 combined strikeouts (12.1 strikeouts per nine IP).

Ole Miss is 32-6 this season when the Rebel pitching staff holds the opponent to five runs or fewer.

Ole Miss ranks eighth nationally and leads the SEC in runs scored with 460. The Rebels also rank in the top five in the SEC in hits, batting average, walks, hit by pitch, runs per game, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, sacrifice flies and doubles. Ole Miss has scored 8-plus 27 times this season, including 17 games in double figures.

Ole Miss leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in hits wiith 629. Ole Miss is second in the SEC and ranks 44th nationally in team batting average at .289 on the year, including a .289 mark in SEC play. Eight different Rebels have a batting average of .275 or higher, including five at .300 or better. Ole Miss has 34 double-figure hit games this season.

Just 33 days after he tore his ACL, Tim Elko hit a three-run home run at Texas A&M. The senior out of Lutz, Florida, sustained the injury on Apr. 5 while avoiding a diving North Alabama first baseman. The NCBWA Hitter of the Month for March made his return to action on May 1 against South Carolina, popping up to a standing ovation at Swayze Field. Since his return, Elko has hit seven home runs, including two grand slams and two multi-homer games. Last week, Elko was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the first such honor in Ole Miss baseball history.

Kevin Graham has reached base safely in 57 consecutive games and in 62 of 64 games this season. Graham’s streak is the longest in the nation this season. Graham is one of just 14 players nationally with 80 hits, 50 runs scored and 50 RBI.

Jacob Gonzalez leads the SEC in hits and runs scored. The last freshman to lead the SEC in both statistical categories was Todd Walker in 1992. The last person to do so was Dansby Swanson in 2015. A two-time SEC Freshman of the Week, Gonzalez was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team and a Freshman All-American. He is the first Rebel shortstop to be named Freshman All-American since future MLB All-Star Zack Cozart in 2005. Gonzalez leads all true freshmen nationally in hits and runs scored.

Kevin Graham and Jacob Gonzalez are two of just 14 players in the nation with 80 hits, 50 runs scored and 50 RBI. Ole Miss is the only team in the country with two players on that list.

After a sensational freshman season, catcher Hayden Dunhurst has cemented himself as the next in a long line of phenomenal catchers in Oxford. Dunhurst leads the SEC with a combined 20 runners caught stealing or picked off. A semifinalist for the Buster Posey award, Dunhurst was named to the All-SEC Second Team, in addition to All-Newcomer and All-Defense honors.

Ole Miss has out-hit its opponent in 39 of 64 games this season. The Rebels are 33-6 in those games.

Ole Miss has homered in 48 of 64 games this season. The Rebels are 16th in the nation and sixth in the conference with 82 home runs on the year.

Ole Miss is 27-7 when it scores first this season. The Rebels are 19-7 when they score in the first inning.