OXFORD, Miss. — Mat Clark just did not have his stuff on Saturday. And unfortunately for No. 3 seed Clemson, Mississippi’s Doug Nikhazy did.
The Rebels’ lefty limited the Tigers to four hits in eight innings of work as No. 1 seed Ole Miss downed the Tigers 6-1 in Game 4 of the Oxford (Miss.) Regional at Swayze Field in Oxford.
It was the second straight game Nikhazy pitched eight innings. He gave up just three hits and did not yield a run against Texas A&M in last week’s SEC Tournament.
“I thought Doug Nikhazy was outstanding,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “He was phenomenal.”
With the loss, Clemson will play Jacksonville State Sunday at 3 p.m., in Game 5, an elimination game. Ole Miss advances to the championship round and needs just one win to advance to the Super Regional Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Rebels will play the Game 5 winner in Game 6 at 9 p.m. on Sunday. The Game 5 winner will have to beat the Rebels twice to advance.
In a matchup of lefties that had been pitching well coming in, Nikhazy shined while Clark could not find the strike zone. The redshirt sophomore tied for his shortest stint of the season, pitching just 3 1/3 innings, while giving up 4 runs on 5 hits.
He issued three walks and gave up back-to-back home runs to Cole Zabowski and Cooper Johnson in the top of the second inning. It was just the seventh and eighth home runs he allowed this season.
“I would have liked to have gotten deeper into the game with Matt,” Lee said. “Obviously, that did not happen. But Ole Miss is a good ball team.”
While Clark struggled, Nikhazy owned the Tigers. The freshman struck out nine and walked three while improving to 8-3 on the year. It was the best outing by a single pitcher against Clemson all year.
The Tigers’ four hits on Saturday marked their worst performance of the year at the plate. Clemson’s four hits came from the top of the order, which had 10 of its 12 hits against Illinois on Friday.
“He was doing a really good job hitting his spots,” first baseman Grayson Byrd said. “Everything he was throwing was hard to hit.”
Zabowski’s and Johnson’s home runs, gave the Rebels (39-25) a 2-0 lead and they added another run in the inning for a 3-0 advantage.
After Ole Miss ran Clark off with two hits in the fourth, Tim Elko scored on two wild pitches from reliever Sam Weatherly to make it a 4-0 game. The Rebels made the score 5-0 in the top of the sixth as Thomas Dillard scored on a sac fly from Grae Gessinger.
Clemson (35-25) tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh inning. Byrd led off with a double, while Kyle Wilkie singled to centerfield to put runners on first and third with no outs. But Bryar Hawkins hit into a double play at shortstop, and though Byrd scored on the play, it killed the rally.
Nikhazy ended the Tigers’ hopes and the inning by getting Jordan Greene to pop up to first base.
Ole Miss extend its lead back to five in the top of the eighth inning on a Kevin Graham solo shot to centerfield. The home run was the Rebels third of the night.