The Norman Transcript

June 25, 2010

Lack of hitting power prevented Oklahoma from pulling out a win

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

OMAHA, Neb. — Nothing went as planned for Oklahoma from the moment it arrived at the College World Series. There were rain delays that turned its first two games into marathons.

But even on a picture-perfect night at Rosenblatt Stadium Thursday, the problems continued. Rain didn’t stop the Sooners this time. It was the inability to score runs and hold a critical one-run lead.

Those two factors ended the Sooners’ season with a 3-2 loss to South Carolina in 12 innings at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Losing the last game of the season is hard for any team to take. But this one was harder to stomach than a bowl of razor blades.

“Every game you see here at the College World Series is a fight to the end,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said.

It truly was Thursday.

The Sooners (50-18) never trailed until Brady Thomas’ single up the middle off OU closer Ryan Duke to score Jackie Bradley Jr., and end the game.

Then again, OU never did anything to seize control either.

It couldn’t get anything going at the plate. The hot-hitting team that powered OU to its first College World Series appearance in 15 years never made it to Omaha.

The top of its order, Chris Ellison, Max White and Garrett Buechele, was a combined 2-for-14 Thursday night and the group only reached base twice.

Tyler Ogle scored both OU runs, coming home on Caleb Bushyhead’s RBI single in the top of the second inning and giving the Sooners the lead with a solo homer in the top of the 12th.

“A lot of guys pressed to do too much,” Ogle said. “It was our weakness today.”

Over 12 innings, OU was 5-for-38 as a team and only left six runners on base.

Gritty pitching was the only thing that kept OU in the game.

Zach Neal, who only lasted three innings in his Super Regional start at Virginia, pitched seven shutout innings and held the Gamecocks (50-16) to five hits.

Reliever Jeremy Erben, who pitched in all three of OU’s games in Omaha, gave up a single to South Carolina’s Christian Walker to tie to the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning. But the senior cruised from that point.

Ogle had a premonition that holding the lead was going to be as tough as getting the lead. Even after his homer, he didn’t celebrate when he got to the dugout.

“As soon as I got back in the dugout the number one thing on my mind was, ‘Let’s go win the ball game,’” he said. “I knew it wasn’t over.”

He was right.

Closer Ryan Duke managed to get two outs in the 12th before things went haywire. He had two outs and a full count on Jackie Bradley Jr., when the Gamecocks’ best hitter laced a single through the right side to score Robert Beary to tie game.

That final out was the one Duke couldn’t get. He walked Jeffrey Jones on four pitches then gave up the game winner when Brady Thomas laced a single up the middle.

It was a tough way for the season to end.

“We scored a couple runs and we worked hard to score a couple more. We worked hard to end it with the lead,” Golloway said. “We couldn't do it.”

Eight teams arrive in Omaha every June. Only one gets to leave that way.

John Shinn 366-3536 jshinn@normantranscript.com