NORMAN — Most teams celebrate when they eliminate a regional host and advance to a regional championship game. Oklahoma didn’t even come close to that last Sunday in Charlottesville, Va.
Less than a minute after shaking hands, the Sooners went down the left-field line and faced the wrath of Sooner coach Sunny Golloway.
“There are programs where the goal every year is Omaha. It’s not to win the conference, it’s to host a regional, to host a Super Regional, it’s to get to Omaha,” he said. “If we’re gonna get there, we’re gonna have to play defense.”
It was the vast chink in the Sooners’ armor in the Charlottesville Regional. The Sooners committed nine in errors in their five games.
The Virginia game summed up how fortunate OU was to advance. It committed three errors, and that doesn’t even count the Cavaliers scoring two runs in the ninth inning on a ball that dropped between second baseman Jack Mayfield and right fielder Cody Reine, because neither called the ball.
It’s what led to Golloway’s emotional outburst minutes after a big victory.
“We’ve known we’re lucky to get where we’re at,” Mayfield said. “We know we can play good defense because we’ve shown it before.”
Defense is a key to winning in the postseason. Sixteen teams reached the Super Regional series. Five of them — LSU, South Carolina, Stony Brook, Oregon and Florida — rank in the top 10 in total defense.
To get to the College World Series, the Sooners (42-23) have to win a best-of-three series against the Gamecocks (43-17), beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
One of the reasons South Carolina is playing for three straight national championships this year is that it doesn’t give games away. It’s currently fourth in the nation in fielding percentage (.980). Over 60 games, it has only allowed 18 unearned runs. The Sooners have allowed 47.