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Men’s College World Series – ‘Special’ Night Powers Ole Miss Over Oklahoma in Finals Opener




OMAHA, Neb. — Sometimes it’s just your night. Sometimes that night just happens to drop by on the biggest stage your sport has to offer… say the opening stanza of the best-of-three Men’s College World Series final.

Saturday night was definitely Ole Miss’s night. Now the challenge is to recapture that Mississippi magic for one more game.

“There’s still work to be done and we know it,” explains Tim Elko, the team’s mustachioed first baseman, team captain, motivational speaker and member of the College World Series statistical elite starting Saturday night. “But we’re also going to make sure we enjoy every bit of this evening because it was special and it will always be special.”

The Rebels defeated Oklahoma 10-3 in a game that remained tense into the late innings, then suddenly turned into a loss. Now, a team that was among the last four invited to the 64-team NCAA baseball tournament is one victory away from the last team standing.

“I’ve been doing this for a while and I’ve never heard or felt anything in a college baseball stadium like I did tonight,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, who has competed in the College World Series six times, spanning more. over three decades as a catcher, assistant coach and head coach.

“We have great atmospheres at [home stadium] Swayze Field, but that atmosphere tonight, it was like a football game. I think half of Mississippi showed up in Omaha today, and they did in hopes of seeing something special. The energy coming out of those stands told me they felt that happening.”

It’s a feeling that washed over them as soon as they arrived in town and all day Saturday, and it increased when they arrived at Charles Schwab Field. As the gates opened and the powder-blue-clad worshipers poured into the stadium, they were presented with a giveaway from the baseball field’s title sponsor: a wave-to-wave towel dyed the company’s signature color, powder blue. It was a coincidence. Could be.

“No man, this isn’t a coincidence,” stated Tim Davis, a salesman from Memphis, as he began to twist his towel over his head. “This is fate, son!”

As the game began, the 25,813 in attendance, overwhelmingly clad in that blue, braced themselves for Oklahoma’s vigorous assault to get up early, as so often. Instead, it was Ole Miss who scored two runs in the first inning and one each in the third and fourth. Everyone expected to witness the massive advantage on paper for Oklahoma, with ace Jake Bennett on the mound during a week of rest, which was to unfold before them. Instead, it was Ole Miss reliever Jack Dougherty, who made his first start since March, who pitched perfect baseball for five innings and combined with real freshman Mason Nichols and sophomore Josh Mallitz not only won the game, but also helped push the reset button on The Rebels’ rotation with the ace of the season, Hunter Elliott, ready to leave Sunday afternoon after five days off.

“One game at a time is a sports cliché, I know,” Elko said. “But that’s how you do it.”

The fifth-year senior went 4-for-5 at the record, the first MCWS final with four hits since 2009. Teammates TJ McCants, Calvin Harris and Justin Bench shot back-to-back-to-back home runs in the top of the eighth , the first team to do so since LSU in 1998 and the only one to do so at Charles Schwab Field since opening and hosting the series in 2011.

It was an impressive, unexpected, jaw-dropping performance, punctuated by the actual home crowd and underscored by the fact that since the 2003 MCWS Finals went back to the best-of-three format, 11 of the 18 teams that won the title went to the a 1-0 start.

But history doesn’t really matter to these Sooners.

“I’m glad this happened…”

wait what?

“We’re going to learn from our lesson,” said Oklahoma first baseman Blake Robertson, the sophomore who turned more than a little red in the face after asking questions about the loss and his 1 for 4 outing.

“We’ve been doing it all season. Cared for Florida in Florida [during the NCAA Gainesville Regional]† Went to Virginia Tech at their home and took care of business. I really don’t think there’s a home crowd for it [Ole Miss] does everything. I think we really enjoy silencing the crowd.”

Both wins in enemy territory came in elimination games, and when the Sooners have their pre-Game 2 breakfast on Sunday, they’ll no doubt be reminded of another decidedly less depressing MCWS final stat: Each of the past three national champions has bounced back from losing Game 1 to win everything.

Besides, who knows better to circle the cars when they’re surrounded than a program that literally owns a car, the Sooner Schooner?

“That’s what’s so great about baseball. You can go 4-for-4, 5-for-5, and the next day you can go 0-for-4, 0-for-5, and that’s why you have to come back and keep it play the game and learn from the lessons you’ve learned,” said Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson, who has much of his own Omaha experience after a decade as an assistant under Augie Garrido in Texas.

“We woke up this morning and had to win two games. We wake up” [Sunday] morning and has two more games to win. It happens.”

Sometimes it is indeed just your night. Now we see who exactly will have their day.




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