NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma, which won 10 of its last 14 games, is in the field of 64 for the 2005 NCAA Baseball Tournament. The Sooners (33-24) are a No. 3 seed in the regional at Oxford, Miss. OU will meet No. 2 seed Southern Mississippi (41-19) in the first round on Friday, June 3 at 3 p.m. Central.
The Golden Eagles lost in the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament to TCU, 13-7, last weekend.
The other first-round match-up pits host Mississippi (44-18) vs. Maine (34-17) at 7 p.m. on Friday. Ole Miss is the top seed in the regional and Maine enters the tourney at No. 4. Maine is the lone automatic qualifier in the Oxford Regional as the winners of the America East Tournament. Ole Miss, the nation’s No. 5 overall seed, will be hosting its second consecutive regional.
NCAA Regional Central
Oklahoma rallied down the stretch to claim fifth-place in the Big 12 Conference. Four other Big 12 teams are in the NCAA field -- Nebraska, Baylor, Texas and Missouri. The Sooners, seeded third, will make its 29th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the fourth regional appearance in the last six years.
In its last appearance in the NCAA Tournament, OU was seeded second and was eliminated from the 2004 Oklahoma City Regional with a 1-2 mark. The Sooners defeated Central Connecticut State and lost two games to UCLA.
Each of the four-team, double-elimination regionals will be played June 3-6. The winners of each regional will advance to the super regional round held on June 10-13.
The winner of the Oxford, Miss., regional advances to meet the winner of the Austin, Texas, regional in super regional action. The four teams at Austin are Texas, Quinnipiac, Miami of Ohio and Arkansas.
Since the NCAA expanded the field to 64 teams in 1999, OU has not advanced to a Super Regional. The eight winners of the super regionals will play in the College World Series, beginning June 17 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.
The first round game against Southern Miss will be aired on the Sooners’ flagship station, KOKC 1520 AM, with Chuck Kelly calling the play-by-play. The remainder of the NCAA Oxford Regional will also be broadcast on KOKC 1520 and across the Sooner Sports Network. All times and availability are subject to change. Live stats will also be available through NCAAsports.com.
NCAA REGIONAL TEAM NOTES
No. 1 Seed - Mississippi
Overall Record: 44-18, SEC: 18-12)
Rankings: No. 9 (Baseball America), No. 11 (Collegiate Baseball),
Top Hitter: Brian Pettway (.400 avg., 19 HR, 63 RBI)
Top Starting Pitcher: Matt Maloney (3.02 ERA, 7-2, 101 SO)
The Rebels are playing in their 11th NCAA Tournament, and hosting a regional for the second straight year. Because they are a top-eight national seed, should the Rebels win the Oxford Regional, they will also host a super regional. Ole Miss enters the 2005 NCAA Tournament having lost the Southeastern Conference Tournament to Mississippi, 4-1, in its last outing. The Rebels closed out the 2005 regular season on a five-game winning streak and have won nine of its last 11 games.
No. 2 Seed - Southern Miss
Overall Record: 41-19, C-USA: 20-10
Rankings: No. 29 (NBCWA)
Top Hitter: Brad Willcutt (.329 avg., 16 HR, 82 RBI)
Top Starting Pitcher: Barry Bowden (4.13 ERA, 4-3, 70 SO)
This marks the third-consecutive year Southern Miss has advanced into an NCAA Regional, a school record. Southern Miss has now earned NCAA Regional berths six times, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005. The Golden Eagles made its way to the Conference USA Tournament semifinals before bowing out to TCU, 13-7. In its last 10 games of the regular season, Southern Miss finished with a 7-3 mark.
No. 4 Seed - Maine
Overall Record: 34-17, America East: 14-7
Top Hitter: Ryan Quintal (.338 avg., 6 HR, 44 RBI)
Top Starting Pitcher: Steve Richard (2.22 ERA, 8-1, 90 SO)
The Black Bears are making their 14th NCAA appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2002. Maine enters the tournament having won seven of its last 10 games. Included in that span was the Bears title run in the America East Conference Tournament in which they defeated Vermont, 6-5, in the title game.
LAST TIME OUT-SOONERS BOW OUT OF BIG 12 TOURNEY AFTER TWO GAMES
The Sooners entered the 2005 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Tournament as one of the nation’s hottest teams but was the second team eliminated after dropping the first two games for the first time in Big 12 history. OU lost the opener, 8-7, despite a comeback effort against the No. 4 seed Missouri. The Sooners were then forced to take on the No. 1 seed Nebraska in the loser’s bracket and suffered a 6-3 defeat.
SOONERS FINISH REGULAR SEASON STRONG
OU finished the 2005 season on its second longest winning streak of the year at seven games, included in that span is five consecutive conference victories. The Sooners won eight straight games earlier in the season and that streak started with South Alabama on Feb. 13 at the 2005 Coca-Cola Classic. OU then went on to sweep Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois in separate three-game series and finished off the streak with UCLA at the Kia Bash on March 4. During the current streak, OU is hitting .329 with 52 runs scored on nine home runs, 15 doubles, two triples and 46 RBI.
EIGHT SOONERS HEADLINE ALL-BIG 12 TEAMS
Oklahoma juniors Ryan Rohlinger (3B), Garrett Patterson (SP) and Russell Raley (2B) were named to the All-Big 12 Second Team while senior Eric Thornton (utility), juniors Will Savage (RP), Daniel McCutchen (SP), Kevin Smith (DH) and freshman Kody Kaiser (OF) received honorable mention.
The teams were announced by the conference office on Wednesday, May 25, the first day of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City. The honorees are voted on by the league’s coaches.
Rohlinger, Raley, McCutchen, Thornton are all repeat members as Raley was a first team member at second base a year ago, Thornton a second team member as a designated hitter and Rohlinger (SS) and McCutchen (RP) were both named honorable mention in 2004.
Savage, Smith and Kaiser are making their first appearances on the conference’s honoree list. In their first seasons at OU, all three players have made immediate impacts on this year’s club.
FOUR SOONERS NAMED TO ACADEMIC ALL-BIG 12 TEAMS
The Big 12 Conference named 47 student-athletes to the 2005 Academic All-Big 12 Baseball Team, including four Oklahoma Sooners, the league announced on Tuesday.
Among the honorees, sophomore Aaron Ivey (Oklahoma City), junior Scott Rooker (Dallas, Texas) and junior Ryan Rohilnger (West Bend, Wisc.) made the Academic All-Big 12 First Team while senior Matt Bose (Midland, Texas) was named to the second team.
Ivey, making his first appearance on the team along with Rooker and Rohlinger, was the only player nominated in the league with a 4.00 grade point average. Matt Bose was named to an academic team for the third consecutive year, after garnering first team accolades in 2003 and 2004.
Kansas placed a league-leading nine players on the academic squad, six on the first team and three on the second.
Nominated by each institution’s director of student-athlete support services and media relations offices, the baseball academic all-league squad consisted of 29 first team members combined with 18 on the second team. First team members include those who have maintained a 3.20 or better GPA, and the second team are those who have a 3.00 to 3.19 GPA.
To qualify student-athletes must record a 3.00 GPA or higher either cumulative or the two previous semesters. All players nominated must have participated in 60 percent of his team’s scheduled contests, while pitchers are required to have at least one inning pitched per game played by the team or have appeared in 35 percent of their team’s total games. Freshmen and transfers are not eligible in their first year of academic residence. Senior student-athletes who have participated for a minimum of two years and meet all the criteria except percent of participation are also eligible.
ROHLINGER NAMED TO OKLAHOMAN’s FIRST ANNUAL ALL-BIG 12 TEAM
Junior Ryan Rohlinger has had a standout season and the Daily Oklahoman recognized his efforts by naming him to the First Team as a utility player in the first annual All-Big 12 Team last week. He finished the regular season as the team’s leader in batting average (.355), hits (75), runs (47), home runs (10), RBI (49) and slugging percentage (.578)
ROHLINGER EARNS BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR
Ryan Rohlinger turned in another stellar performance for the week ending May 22, with three home runs and 10 RBI in two games against Northern Colorado and three more against Texas Tech. As a result, the third baseman was named the week’s Big 12 Player of the Week, the first of his career, and shared the honor with OSU’s Adam Carr.
The West Bend, Wisc., native hit .368 for the week and slugged at a 1.000 clip. On Sunday versus the Red Raiders, the West Bend, Wisc., native hit a grand slam to give OU the lead for good in a 14-11 victory. The four-RBI game tied a career high for Rohlinger, a feat he has achieved four times in his career. His other four-RBI game this season came in action earlier this week against Northern Colorado, a game in which he hit two home runs and was a foot away from his third.
The three home runs last week gives Rohlinger a team-leading 10 dingers on the season. He is the first player in the last three years to record 10 or more home runs in a season for OU. Charlie Frasier and Jason Fransz were the last Sooners to hit 10 or more homers in a season. In 2002, Fransz had 15 round trippers and Frasier was second on the team with 12. Rohlinger used the five games this week to extend his current hitting streak to six games. He has hit safely in 17 of the last 20 games and has eight homers and 19 RBI in those contests.
Nineteen of the Sooners’ 41 home runs this season have come in the last 14 games. OU has hit a round tripper in all but five of those contests. Ryan Rohlinger has hit six in that span.
Freshman catcher Jackson Williams has played in 53 games this season, starting 49 of them. Despite his current .264 average, the Broken Arrow, Okla., native is hitting the ball well as of late. He broke out of his 0-for-26 slump in a big way against Oklahoma State with a solo homer in the eighth inning. Starting with the homer against OSU, Williams is hitting .344 in the last ten games (11-for-32) and has driven in seven runs on three doubles and two homers. Before that game, his average was at a season-low .248. Williams has consistently been around the .300 mark for most of the season and was hitting at a .301 clip 21 games ago.
Sooner reliever Will Savage has become OU’s go-to guy in the bullpen. The junior earned four saves in his four appearances against Northern Colorado and Texas Tech during the final week of the regular season. Savage struck out five and walked zero as he held batters to a .267 clip in the five games to finish the season. Savage has now appeared in 14 of OU’s last 15 games and has only given up three runs and two walks in his last 10 appearances.
Since heading to the bullpen on April 16, Savage has made 18 appearances spanning 40 2/3 innings. In those innings of work, he has posted a 1.33 ERA, recorded a 5-1 mark and five saves, allowed 11 runs (six earned) on 39 hits and five walks while striking out 18 batters. He currently leads the team in wins (8), appearances (32), innings pitched (92) and ranks third in strikeouts (52) and has allowed just 17 walks in 356 at-bats.
RALEY’S CONSECUTIVE STARTS STREAK ENDS
Junior Russell Raley has been a permanent fixture in the Sooners lineup for the last three seasons. In the series opener against Texas Tech (May 20), a streak of 111 consecutive games with a start came to an end due to soreness in his right ankle. Raley started 60 games a season ago (missing just two of the first three games) and started every game this season (52) heading into the Texas Tech series. He finished 2003 with 16 straight starts and he has come off the bench in just 11 contests in his OU career. Of the 111 consecutive starts, only four did not occur at second base (2004-three starts at third and 2005-one start as DH).
THORNTON’S POWER SURGE
Beginning with a season-high four RBI against Texas Christian on April 12, senior Eric Thornton has 23 RBI in the last 26 games. The slugger drove in 39 a season ago and currently has 43. Thornton’s RBI total this season ranks second on the team and when looking at Big 12 games, the McCloud, Okla., native is tied for third on the team with Russell Raley at 13.
McCUTCHEN PROVES TO BE OU’S ACE IN THE HOLE
Since blowing a save against Nevada on March 6, Daniel McCutchen has returned to the Sooners’ starting lineup and has been solid in six Big 12 outings. Now the Sooners’ Friday starter, McCutchen made his second start of the season, first since Feb. 12, against No. 1 Texas (4/15). Despite a no-decision and an OU loss, McCutchen was stellar in nine innings of five-hit ball. He also posted a season-high ten strikeouts in the game. Against No. 5 Nebraska on April 28, the hurler recorded his first win since defeating Northwestern State on March 13. In his six Big 12 regular season starts, McCutchen has a 2-2 record and has struck out 48 batters in 44.2 innings pitched. In addition, he has allowed 15 runs (eight earned) on 36 hits and 11 walks. His ERA in that span is 1.61 and opponents are hitting just .222 off him. In his last eight outings, the Norman native has 58 strikeouts, opposite 15 walks, in 51 1/3 innings.