FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Ole Miss bats awoke in Game 2 of the Fayetteville Super Regional to keep the Rebels’ season alive. The No. 12 overall seed Rebels scored 13 runs on 12 hits, clubbing four home runs at Baum-Walker Stadium to defeat No. 5 overall seed Arkansas, 13-5.
While the Rebel bats were red-hot, Freshman All-American pitcher Doug Nikhazy turned in a solid start against a dangerous Arkansas lineup. Though he allowed a career-high 10 hits, he pitched out of trouble on numerous occasions while striking out eight Hog hitters over five innings of work to earn his ninth win of the year. During the electric outing, he set a new program record for strikeouts in a single season by a freshman.
Cole Zabowski, Cooper Johnson, Tyler Keenan and Grae Kessinger all went yard in the victory. Keenan, Johnson, Zabowski and Anthony Servideo all recorded multi-hit days, while Thomas Dillard, Kessinger, Keenan and Zabowski all scored multiple runs.
The Rebels and Razorbacks will square off for the eighth time this season on Monday at 3 p.m. CT. The winner of that contest will book a trip to Omaha for the College World Series.
Arkansas got on the board first after a Casey Martin pop-up fell in the infield between first and second base. With the inning extended, Dominic Fletcher sent a two-out, two-run home run over the right field wall to give the Razorbacks an early 2-0 lead.
Ole Miss got those runs back and more in the bottom half. Dillard led things off with a single to left center, and Kessinger wore a pitch to keep it going. Zabowski then absolutely annihilated a 1-0 changeup, launching it over the bullpen in right to make it a 3-2 game.
Nikhazy responded with a zero in the second, working past a leadoff single to post a clean inning and send it back to the Rebel bats. Cooper Johnson led off the second with an opposite-field homer down the right field line, making it 4-2 and chasing Arkansas starter Connor Noland. The Rebels were far from finished in the inning. After a few walks were issued to load the bases, Tyler Keenan unloaded on a ball, clattering it off the wall in left center for a base-clearing triple. Soon thereafter, Ryan Olenek drove Keenan home on an RBI fielder’s choice to make it 8-2, Rebels.
Arkansas threatened in the third, but Nikhazy did what he does best and got out of the jam. After an HBP and a pair of singles loaded the bases, Nikhazy struck out Heston Kjerstad and got Jack Kenley to pop out to end the inning with no damage done. The strikeout of Kjerstad gave Nikhazy 82 on the year, setting a new single-season record by a freshman, passing the mark set by Jeff Calhoun in 1977 and matched by Drew Pomeranz in 2008.
The Razorbacks got back into it in the fourth, stringing together three straight two-out doubles by Trevor Ezell, Martin and Matt Goodheart to cut the lead to three, 8-5. Arkansas threatened again in the fifth with runners on first and second and one out, but Nikhazy promptly struck out two more Hogs to escape the jam.
Houston Roth relieved Nikhazy in the sixth and, worked past a two-out double, inducing three flyouts to post a zero on the scoreboard. The Rebel bats responded, putting up another three-spot in the bottom half. Keenan opened it up with a solo home run before Zabowski, Kevin Graham and Johnson all singled to load the bases with two outs for Servideo. The sophomore showed off his wheels, legging out an infield single that brought two around to score, making it an 11-5 Rebel lead.
Roth continued to roll in the seventh, adding another zero to the scoreboard. He yielded a leadoff base hit before retiring three straight Razorbacks to escape the inning. That allowed Kessinger to deliver the dagger in the bottom half. Dillard reached with a leadoff walk, his 60th of the year, which set a new single-season record. The All-American shortstop followed that up, jumping on a high fastball to send a towering homer into the Hog Pen in left field, making it a comfortable 13-5 lead.
Roth made sure that there would be no Razorback comeback. The junior out of Oxford went three up, three down in each of the final two innings to close out a tremendous relief outing. He finished with no runs and just two hits allowed in 4.0 innings of work, walking none and striking out three to earn his first save of the season, and the second of his career.
Ole Miss and Arkansas are set to battle for a spot in Omaha at 3 p.m. CT on Monday on ESPN2. Game time and network are subject to change.
– Ole Miss improved to 41-26 on the season and 8-3 in postseason play.
– Doug Nikhazy set a new freshman record for strikeouts in a single season, now with 86 on the year.
– Cole Zabowski hit his 12th home run of the season, the third-most on the team behind Thomas Dillard and Tyler Keenan, who each have 14.
– Cooper Johnson hit his eighth homer of the year, good for fourth on the team.
– Tyler Keenan hit his second career triple and second of the season, tying him with Thomas Dillard for the most on the team.
– Ole Miss has scored three or more runs in an inning 61 times this season, including 26 three-run innings and 12 five-run innings.
– The Rebels have scored in double figures 21 times this season and have reached double figures in hits 25 times. Ole Miss has scored 12 or more 16 times in 2019.
– Ole Miss hit four home runs on the day, tied for the second-most this season and the most since March 20 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
– Thomas Dillard drew his 60th walk of the season, setting a new single-season record, breaking a mark set by Pat Ball in 1977.
– Dillard is now one walk away from tying the Rebels’ career record of 135, set by Jason Huisman in 1998.
– Houston Roth went four shutout innings to earn his first save of the season and his first since closing out the Rebels’ 9-8 NCAA Oxford Regional win over Tennessee Tech in 2018.