OMAHA – If Oklahoma is to win a national title, they’ll have to do it from a series deficit.
After blazing through the College World Series so far, taking each of their first three games, the Sooners continued action on Saturday night at Charles Schwab Field against the Ole Miss Rebels in the first game of the CWS championship series.
But, despite playing incredibly well so far in Omaha, the Oklahoma win streak came to an end going down to the Rebels 10-3 to fall behind one game to none in the best-of-three finals.
Getting the start in the opener was left-hander Jake Bennett, who worked through not having his best stuff to still turn in a solid outing against the Rebels.
The OU ace worked into the seventh inning finishing his day having allowed three earned runs and seven hits with ten strikeouts.
His night, and Oklahoma’s as a whole, did not get off to the best start on Saturday as Ole Miss went for two quick runs thanks in part to some rare nerves shown by the Sooners.
Rebels first baseman Tim Elko and left fielder Kevin Graham each picked up singles and later scored, aided by two wild pitches from Bennett and a rare fielding error by OU shortstop Peyton Graham.
"I think it (the game) might have sped up on them a little bit," head coach Skip Johnson said postgame. "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."
Ole Miss then added a run the following frame on a two-out RBI knock from center fielder Justin Bench to extend their lead to 3-0.
In the third, the powerful Elko would tack on another with a solo shot to right field, his 24th home run of the season, to make it 4-0 Rebels.
Bennett settled in after that, working three straight scoreless innings in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to give his offense time to get back in it.
Making just his fourth start of the season, Ole Miss starter Jack Dougherty retired the first 15 OU hitters to open the game - a rare slow start offensively for Oklahoma.
"You can't take anything away from him (Dougherty)," Robertson said. "He was executing pitches. I think we were a little sped up. Lesson learned. Tomorrow we'll be better prepared and ready to go."
That would change in the sixth, though, with Jackson Nicklaus and Sebastian Orduno leading off the inning with back-to-back singles.
The Sooners then cracked the scoreboard on a third straight hit - a bunt single from Kendall Pettis that was fired wide of the bag at first, giving Nicklaus enough time to score from second.
John Spikerman then walked to set Oklahoma up with a bases loaded, nobody out situation for their 2-4 hitters.
But, to Rebels reliever Mason Nichols’ credit, Ole Miss did a terrific job of limiting the damage allowing only a run by striking out Graham and Blake Robertson before walking Tanner Tredaway and getting Jimmy Crooks to ground out.
"It happens," Robertson said about leaving some runs on the board in the sixth. "It's baseball. Me and Peyton (Graham) were talking about we're going to get up again. Success is coming. Tanner Tredaway picked us up working the walk, which that helped big-time. It happens."
The Rebels took a 4-2 lead into the late innings.
After teams traded scoreless trips to the plate in the seventh, the Ole Miss offense would erupt in the eighth against OU reliever Chazz Martinez.
With two outs and a man on second base, the pinch-hitting T.J. McCants hammered a two-run home run to right to double the Rebels' lead.
They weren't done there, either, as the next two hitters also went yard with Calvin Harris and Bench sending balls over the fence.
It was the first time a team had hit three straight homers in the CWS since 1998 (LSU).
The Sooners would get one of those runs right back in the bottom half on a Robertson RBI single, but still trailed 8-3 heading to the final frame.
"They definitely came out hot, but we were still in it (late)," Bennett said. "Still in it until the end. Sun is going to come up tomorrow. Just have to get ready to play."
Ole Miss added on to their lead in the ninth, with Peyton Chatagnier picking up an RBI double followed by a McCants sacrifice fly.
OU was then retired scoreless in the bottom half to finish the game.
The loss drops Oklahoma to 45-23 on the season and puts their backs against the wall heading into Game 2.
"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."
The Sooners will fight to keep their season and hopes for a national title alive on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. back at Charles Schwab Field.
"I think the learning lesson is they learned to take it one pitch at a time," Johnson said. "We have to get back to doing one pitch at a time, and that's the biggest thing, is to understand what the game is telling us to do and go out and execute our game plan."