OU’s mistakes gave the Rebels an insurmountable lead early, setting up a win-or-go-home scenario on Sunday.
Two wild pitches by OU starter Jake Bennett and an error by shortstop Peyton Graham helped the Rebels build a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Another wild pitch by Bennett enabled Ole Miss to tack on another run in the second inning, and a solo home run by star first baseman Tim Elko in the third gave the Rebels all the scoring they needed Saturday night. OU’s future SEC opponent punctuated the win with back-to-back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning by pinch hitter TJ McCants and outfielders Calvin Harris and Justin Bench.
The loss puts OU in a do-or-die situation in the best-of-three series when the Sooners take the field in Omaha on Sunday. OU freshman Cade Horton is expected to take the mound in game two and will look to continue a stellar postseason in which he has allowed a total of six earned runs in 18.1 innings. Horton struck out 11 batters in six innings in his last appearance, a 6-2 win over Notre Dame on Sunday. Ole Miss will counter with a freshman of its own, Hunter Elliott, who has a 5-3 record this year with an ERA of 2.70 and 96 strikeouts in 73.1 innings pitched.
Despite the rough start, Bennett pitched a solid game. The lefty out of Bixby gave up four runs – three of them earned – with 10 strikeouts and no walks in 6.1 innings.
Ole Miss starting pitcher Jack Daugherty also had a strong outing. Daugherty didn’t allow a base runner in the first five innings of the game before giving way to freshman reliever Mason Nichols. Nichols inherited three baserunners with no outs in the bottom of the sixth after OU second baseman Jackson Nicklaus scored on a throwing error by Rebels third baseman Garrett Wood. Nichols walked in a run, but Ole Miss escaped the inning relatively unscathed with a 4-2 lead.
The Sooners pushed across a third run in the bottom of the eighth inning, but the Rebels’ three bombs in the top of the inning had already given Ole Miss an insurmountable lead.
First pitch in game two on Sunday is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT on ESPN.