A week later Rebels hold their ace again

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Jun. 10—TUCSON, Ariz. — Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco held his ace last week, and that proved to be a good strategy for the Oxford Regional.

He'll hold junior left-hander Doug Nikhazy again Friday as the Tucson Super Regional gets under way.

This time it's less strategic and more because Nikhazy needs the extra rest.

Sophomore Derek Diamond — who like Nikhazy threw twice in the Oxford Regional — will start Game 1 against the Wildcats (43-15).

Bianco said he's seen nothing since the regional in Diamond or Nikhazy to give him concern for the super regional.

"In the back of my mind I just didn't want to throw Doug tomorrow. We've asked so much of him," Bianco said, "and he's always responded."

Diamond was effective last week against Southeast Missouri State though his pitch count soared in the early innings.

He lasted 4 1/3 with only one unearned run allowed on 92 pitches. He threw 21 pitches on Monday.

"I'm feeling great, and I think a lot of the guys on our staff are feeling great. As we go through the season and get to the end we know we've got to be ready whenever we can," Diamond said.

Nikhazy threw 119 pitches in a seven-inning start in the Rebels' second regional game, a 4-3 win over Florida State.

He threw 28 more three days ago in an all-hands-on-deck matchup against Southern Miss for the regional title.

Arizona coach Jay Johnson compared Nikhazy to Wildcats left-hander Garrett Irvin who threw a complete-game shutout against UC-Santa Barbara to move Arizona to 2-0 in its regional.

"Nikhazy loves to pitch with intent," Johnson said. "I see a lot of similarities in personality and pitchability between him and Garrett Irvin."

Irvin was named MVP of the Tucson Regional.

Nikhazy has typically gone at least 100 pitches and has surpassed 110 pitches four times including in three of his last four starts.

In his relief appearance this week his location wavered a little when he gave up two solo home runs in the seventh.

But Nikhazy helped Ole Miss take a major step toward securing the regional with his strikeout of pinch-hitter Slade Wilks on three pitches in the sixth. That stranded three runners.

"He's a lefty that likes to work with good tempo. He works both sides of the plate, mixes in a slider. He can throw his secondary for strikes," Arizona second baseman Kobe Kato said. "We'll stay with our plan of staying within ourselves, getting in the ground and seeing the ball as early as possible to take away deception."

parrish.alford@djournal.com