OMAHA, Neb. — When Jackson Nicklaus went to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning, Ole Miss starting pitcher Jack Dougherty had retired 19 consecutive OU batters.
It was a long night for the Sooners’ offense in Game 1 of the Men’s College World Series Final on Saturday, but a lead-off single by Nicklaus appeared to be a sign that they were getting back on track.
Sebastian Orduno followed him up with a single and Kendall Pettis used a well-placed bunt to force an Ole Miss error and cut the Sooners’ deficit to 4-1.
John Spikerman loaded the bases up on a walk to put the leading run at home plate with no outs. Just as the Sooners started to find success against Dougherty, the Rebels replaced him with Mason Nichols.
Nichols gave up a walk to Tanner Tredaway, but retired the other three Oklahoma batters in seven pitches to get out of the jam.
“Yeah, they were all making good pitches, and they were executing,” OU redshirt sophomore Blake Robertson said. “I think earlier in the game against Dougherty, we weren’t being as aggressive as we could be. I think we were taking — getting down 0-1 and 0-2 too much.”
The Rebels escaped the sixth inning leading 4-2 and hit three consecutive home runs in the eighth inning to break open the game late. Ole Miss would go on to take Game 1 10-3, putting the Sooners in a win-or-go-home situation on Sunday.
Oklahoma faced an early deficit after giving up four runs in the first three innings. Starting pitcher Jake Bennett retired the first two Rebel batters in just three pitches, but it took 14 more pitches before Bennett finally escaped the inning, and not before Ole Miss had scored two runs on two hits and one errors.
“I think it might have sped up on them a little bit,” OU head coach Skip Johnson said about the defense early. “They have a toolbox to get back in control of themselves like Jake did, but that’s the way the game wants you to feel. It wants you to feel that way.”
Bennett bounced back to strike out the first two batters to lead off the second inning, before the Rebels once again found success in their two-out hitting. Ole Miss’ Calvin Harris singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
During the next at-bat, the Rebels’ Justin Bench poked a single through the right side to bring in another run. Tim Elko led off the third inning with a solo home run to extend the Rebel’s lead to 4-0. He led all Ole Miss hitters with four hits in five at-bats.
Oklahoma’s five hits ties its fewest in any game this postseason.
Dougherty allowed three hits and two earned runs with six strikeouts and one walk. Nichols didn’t allow a hit and had five strikeouts.
“I think he commanded his fastball,” Johnson said. “Kind of kept (us) off balance, had a little ride life to his fastball. We didn’t lay off of it. I think he really took the game over.”
Bennett was replaced by Chazz Martinez with one out down in the seventh inning. Bennett allowed seven hits and three earned runs with 10 strikeouts and no walks.
The Sooners needed to use the arms of Carter Campbell, Carson Atwood and Ben Abram to close out the final two innings of the game. The Rebels finished with 16 total hits, which is the most the Sooners have allowed this postseason.
Oklahoma will look to even the series when the two teams meet for Game 2 on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We woke up this morning and still had to win two games,” Johnson said. “We’ll wake up tomorrow morning and still have to win two games. It happens.”