By Adam Brown
Ole Miss defeats Southern Miss 12-9 in the championship game of the Oxford Regional on Monday afternoon.
“Today was one of those epic regional finals,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “Proud of my guys for hanging in there because it wasn’t easy. We were good today by making a couple of more pitches than they did.”
Ole Miss (44-20) is headed back to their second-straight Super Regional appearance of the NCAA Tournament.
Game 7 of the Oxford Regional was determined by home runs. Each club hammered the ball out of the ballpark in the championship game of the Oxford Regional.
The senior captain Tim Elko led the Rebels against the Golden Eagles at the dish with two of five Ole Miss home runs.
“Tim Elko-the-legend continues,” Bianco said. “What seemed like a tragedy back in early April turned into a legend for us.”
In the first inning, Peyton Chatagnier and Justin Bench each belted two-run bombs out of the yard that gave the Rebels a four-run lead.
Elko in his second at-bat of the afternoon delivered a grand slam to left field. Ole Miss went up 9-0 at the time.
“It is always my goal to help us win,” Elko said. “In the field, now with the bat.”
Elko finished the game going 3-for-3 with two home runs, five RBI and on-base five times on the day. After his performance, he was named a member of the Regional All-Tournament Team and the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
“(Elko) is a big moment player,” Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry said.
Ole Miss starter Jack Dougherty kept USM’s bats cool in the first two frames.
Southern Miss responded in the third, with the first home run off the barrel of Reed Trimble.
Dougherty worked four innings and surrendered two runs on three hits. He retired four sluggers by strikeout and a walk.
Elko came back to the dish and crushed his second home run of the game. The Rebels went up 10-2 over Southern Miss.
The Golden Eagles found two home runs in the fifth by Trimble and Reece Ewing for a five-run frame that trimmed Ole Miss’ advantage down to three runs, 10-7.
Calvin Harris hit the Rebels with the fifth home run of the game in the home half of the fifth that made it 12-7.
Ole Miss’s ace left-hander Doug Nikhazy (11-2) came into the game in the sixth on one day’s rest and allowed two runs on two hits in 1.1 innings of work to win the game.
“(Nikhazy) text and says I’ll start. I’ll relieve. I am ready to go,” Bianco said. “He is special how he is wanting to win for the team.”
Southern Miss added the final two runs off the bats of Danny Lynch and Will McGillis with two solo back-to-back home runs.
In the eighth, Bianco called on Rebels closer Taylor Broadway one more time to secure the win. Broadway picked up his 16th save of the season.
Ole Miss is headed to Tucson, Arizona, to face the Arizona Wildcats this weekend.