The Captain and the Kid: Tim Elko and Mason Nichols Spark the Rebels to 10-3 win over Oklahoma
OMAHA, Neb. – Jimmy Buffett had a hit early in his career with the song, “The Captain and the Kid.”
That tune could have been Ole Miss’ team anthem Saturday as the Rebels beat Oklahoma 10-3 in the first game of the College Baseball World Series finals.
Sandwiched between five perfect innings from starter Jack Dougherty — making his first start since the Tennessee series — and back-to-back-to-back home runs by T.J. McCants, Calvin Harris and Justin Bench was the performance of the Captain and the Kid. That’s Tim Elko, the team captain, and Mason Nichols, the true freshman pitcher.
Elko notched four hits, scored three times, and hit his second home run in Omaha, while Nichols put a stop to an Oklahoma rally that could have either tied or given the Sooners the lead.
Elko’s home run, a solo shot in the third, was as impressive as the tape-measure shot he hit against Arkansas Monday. Against Oklahoma ace Jake Bennett in the third inning, the senior took a 1-1 pitch that appeared to not only be a bit outside, but also a tad low and he muscled it just over the fence in the right field corner.
📺 ESPN pic.twitter.com/gUUNwfZ2lA
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) June 25, 2022
The ESPN commentators remarked Elko is one of only a few players in college baseball that could hit a pitch in that location out of the ballpark.
The Captain got the Rebels’ offense going early with a single through the right side in the first inning. Despite looking a little gimpy at first base, he took second on a wild pitch that did not get far away from Sooners’ catcher Jimmy Crooks, but Elko was able to safely slide into second base.
That proved to be important as Kevin Graham followed with a single to left field to score Elko. It was the first time Oklahoma had trailed in Omaha and the Sooners would never lead in this game.
Elko also singled in the seventh and ninth innings.
As impressive as the Captain was, the Kid was just as important as he put a dagger into the OU hearts when he came on in relief of Dougherty in the sixth inning.
Mace 𝙈𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙮 💰
📺 ESPN pic.twitter.com/4Ab9QDFdeP
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) June 26, 2022
Nichols trotted in from the right field bullpen to find a situation where there was a Sooner on every base and no outs. The Jackson Prep product was not fazed by either the scenario or the national stage or so it seemed.
“For me I had plenty of butterflies,” Nichols said.
“The biggest thing was that the coaches have been good enough to trust me and put me in those situations earlier in the year in big environments like Trustmark Park, Swayze, those sort of places. So I was just focused on doing my job, and I’m glad I got it done.”
Nichols struck out Peyton Graham, one of the top hitters in the country, and Blake Robertson immediately for the first two outs of the inning but surrendered a walk to Tanner Tredaway to allow Oklahoma to cut the lead to 4-2.
Nichols then got Crooks to bounce back to the mound to end the threat.
“My mentality was I know that Graham is a great hitter, but whenever I came in, I just wanted to throw my best pitches,” Nichols said.
“Coach was calling it. He told me when I came out there, just fill up the zone. Slider away first pitch, so that was the game plan. I was just trying to get my slider down, throw the fastball, locate it well, and I did it.”
Mason Nichols on what he was throwing
After inheriting a bases loaded, no-out situation, coach Mike Bianco was thrilled with the freshman only allowing one run.
“But bases loaded, no outs, and facing one of the best hitters in the country, he gets a couple of punch-outs. Then he lets one get across, but that’s really my fault. We just didn’t want to Tredaway to hit a double or gapper and score everybody. And he is able to land his slider a lot, but I should have went fastball and made him hit it. We didn’t want to risk that where we were in the game.”
Coach Bianco on Mason Nichols
Nichols came on to pitch the seventh and struck out the side.
The freshman’s College World Series pitching line: two innings pitched, did not surrender a hit, walked one and struck out five-of-the-seven batters he faced.
The Rebels’ performance puts them one win away from the National Championship.
“We still have another game to win, Elko said.
“It’s obviously great to win the first one, but we still have one more to take home the whole thing. Will be rested up tomorrow, focused up, and ready to win one more.”
Ole Miss captain Tim Elko
Ole Miss will look to another kid Sunday as Hunter Elliott, a true freshman from Tupelo High School, will get the start for the Rebels.
First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.
(Feature image credit: Ole Miss Baseball)
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.