Hammer time: Powerful hitting, pitching propel Ole Miss to within one game of national championship

Published 10:02 pm Saturday, June 25, 2022

Jack Dougherty carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, Mississippi hit three homers in a row in the eighth and the Rebels beat Oklahoma 10-3 in Game 1 of the College World Series finals Saturday night.

Ole Miss (41-23) can secure its first national title in baseball with a victory Sunday. Oklahoma (45-23) must win to tie the best-of-three finals and force a deciding game Monday.

Freshman Mason Nichols limited the damage after Dougherty left with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth inning, and the Rebels broke open the game in the eighth.

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TJ McCants, Calvin Harris and Justin Bench hit back-to-back-to-back homers off Chazz Martinez to make it a six-run game. It was the first time a team had hit three home runs in a row at the CWS since LSU did it against Mississippi State in 1998.

Tim Elko also went deep for Ole Miss and finished 4 for 5 after entering the game 3 for 16 with seven strikeouts in the CWS. The Rebels finished with 16 hits off five OU pitchers.

Dougherty (4-3) took the mound with a lead in the first inning after the Rebels capitalized on OU starter Jake Bennett’s two wild pitches and error to get out to a 2-0 lead.

With Ole Miss short on starting pitching because of the newly condensed CWS schedule, coach Mike Bianco gave the ball to Dougherty. Making his first start since March 26, he became the first pitcher in Charles Schwab Field’s 11-year history to retire 15 batters in a row to start a game. Dougherty never had a 1-2-3 inning in his other three starts this season.

The sophomore right-hander struck out five in a row over the third and fourth innings and got a big defensive play from shortstop Jacob Gonzalez to keep the perfect game alive in the fifth.

Jackson Nicklaus broke it up with a single to center leading off the sixth and Sebastian Orduno followed with a base hit. Kendall Pettis bunted for a single, and Nicklaus scored on third baseman Garrett Wood’s wild throw to first. That ended Dougherty’s streak of 17 straight shutout innings.

Dougherty left after he walked John Spikerman to load the bases with no outs. He threw 72 pitches, 50 for strikes, and struck out six.

Nichols struck out Peyton Graham and Blake Robertson before walking Tanner Tredaway to bring in a run. Jimmy Crooks grounded out to end the inning.

Bennett (10-4), who had won his previous six starts, struck out 10 and walked none in 6 1/3 innings but couldn’t overcome his early control problems.

The lefty threw three wild pitches in the first two innings after throwing three in his first 110 2/3 innings this season, and all of them led to Ole Miss runs.

Elko singled with two outs in the first, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Kevin Graham’s base hit. Graham took second on his first steal of the season, got to third on a wild pitch and came home when Graham misplayed Kemp Alderman’s grounder to short for his third error of the CWS.

The Rebels added a run in the third when Harris singled, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Bench’s base hit through the right side.