OMAHA, Nebraska. — Ole Miss, one of the last four teams invited to the NCAA baseball tournament, is just one win away from becoming the last team standing.
Mississippi defeated Oklahoma 10-3 in the first match of the men’s best-of-three World Series College Finals, which led to an unexpected hand: relief pitcher Jack Dougherty. A sophomore from Collierville, Tennessee, was forced to work as a starter because the team’s 1-2 aces were used up in Mississippi’s march to this championship series. The right-hander responded with his longest outing of the season: five perfect baseball innings before leaving the mound in the sixth with a 4-1 lead and loaded bases with no strikeouts. His relief came from freshman right-hander Mason Nichols, who knocked out five of the seven batters he faced in two job opportunities and only submitted once, charged by Daugherty.
A trio of Ole Miss pitchers – Dougherty, Nichols and sophomore Josh Mullitz – enjoyed a pre-set defense as their offensive teammates hit two runs at the top of the first and added one more in the second and third innings. The last one out was fifth-year and new Oxford, Mississippi folk hero Tim Elko, who blew his 24th homer of the season, culminating a 4-for-5 night on a plate that has been the top four-hit for any MCWS slugger since 2009 .
When teammates TJ McCants, Calvin Harris and Justin Bench played back-to-back homers for eighth – the first team to do so since LSU in 1998 – the score was 8-2 and the game was essentially over.
Oklahoma missed the opportunity for what looked like a huge discrepancy on paper by sending ace Jake Bennet to the mound with a week off after he hadn’t pitched since the opening game of the Sooners MCWS against Texas A&M on June 17. So Ole. Miss will have Hunter Elliott’s start number 2 and his flawless playoff run on Sunday afternoon, as well as a shot at the title on a five-day break. If a third game is required on Monday, the Rebels could apparently have ace Dylan DeLucia available for at least some work following his fearless Thursday afternoon lockout that pushed Ole Miss to the Finals.
The University of Mississippi is one win away from not only its first MCWS title, but the second ever NCAA recognized national championship in any team sport. The women’s golf team won its first varsity title just a year ago. The school does claim three national football titles from 1958 to 1960, but none have been honored by the Associated Press or coaches’ polls.