HOUSTON -- The No. 10 Oklahoma baseball team (45-22) could not rally from a four-run deficit against the No. 1 team in the nation, as Rice (55-11) scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning en route to a 9-5 win and a berth in the 2006 College World Series at Reckling Park on Monday.
OU held a 4-3 lead until the bottom of the sixth inning, where the Owls took their first lead of the game and put away the Sooners and their bid to reach the program’s 10th College World Series. The Owls outhit the Sooners 12-8.
The Sooners jumped out on top early with two runs in the first inning. Chuckie Caufield led off the game with a hit by pitch and was moved to third on Russell Raley’s (3-for-5, RBI) single to center field. That made way for Kevin Smith to drive in his 69th run of the year on a sacrifice fly to right field. The next batter, Freddy Rodriguez, grounded out to short for the second out of the inning, but was still able to plate Raley from third base.
OU entered the game with a 32-4 record when scoring first in 2006, but Rice answered in the bottom half of the first with two runs to chase OU starter Ryan Mottern out of the game after two-thirds of an inning. That matched the outing by Rice starter Craig Crow, who also only managed to record two outs before exiting for the day.
After a scoreless second inning, Smith struck again for the Sooners with his 70th RBI (first Sooner to drive in 70 or more runs since Rich Park in 2000-75), doubling in Raley, who singled to lead off the third frame.
Unfortunately for the Sooners, the lead was short-lived as the Owls answered again with a solo homer off the bat of Aaron Luna in the fourth.
The lead would change again in the fifth frame, as Oklahoma quickly countered with a home run of its own. Raley’s solo shot left field was his second of the year and first since Feb. 4 against UTPA. The long ball put OU ahead 4-3 and reliever John Brownell (5-1) held the lead despite loading the bases in the bottom half of the inning.
But the Sooners’ bullpen was not as lucky during the Owls’ next at-bat. The sixth inning saw Rice go ahead with five runs on five hits. Josh Rodriguez’s two-run single and Joe Savery’s three-run homer accounted for two of the Owls’ five hits in the inning as they took an 8-4 lead.
The Sooners tried to build a rally in the seventh inning as they cut the lead to three runs, 8-5. Ryan Rohlinger drove in his 14th run of the NCAA postseason with a ground-out to Rice second baseman Greg Buchanan, plating Joseph Hughes. Rohlinger finished his impressive tournament run with a .559 batting average during the Sooners’ eight tournament games with four doubles, three homers and a .941 slugging percentage.
However, as soon as the Sooners cut the Owls’ advantage, the opposition increased the lead back to four on a sacrifice fly by Rodriguez in the eighth, who tied a career high with five RBI on Monday.
Cole St. Clair improved to 6-2 for Rice as the reliever pitched 5 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. Bryce Cox notched his third save of the season after pitching the final three frames.
The 2006 Sooners, under first-year head coach Sunny Golloway, complete one of the most successful seasons for OU since it made back-to-back trips to the College World Series in 1994 and 1995. The 45 wins this season ties the sixth highest total in school history (1988). Only the 1994 (50), 1985 (55), 1976 (62), 1975 (52) and 1973 (48) teams had more wins and only the 1985 and 1988 team failed to reach the CWS.
The 45 wins this season ties the sixth highest total in school history (1988). Only the 1994 (50), 1985 (55), 1976 (62), 1975 (52) and 1973 (48) teams had more wins and only the 1985 and 1988 team failed to reach the CWS.
OU is now 5-4 all-time against Rice and 66-57 lifetime in the NCAA Tournament. The 2006 run was the 30th appearance in the NCAA Tournament for Oklahoma and its first trip to an NCAA Super Regional.
Senior Kevin Smith connected for a RBI-single and a RBI-double in today’s game, giving him 70 on the year and three-multiple-RBI games in the NCAA Tournament. Smith has an RBI in all but one game in this year’s tourney (6/5/06 vs. Wichita State). His 70 RBI mark ranks ninth all-time in a single season by a Sooner and he is also the first Sooner to have 70 RBI in a season since 2000, when Rich Park connected for 75.
In the fifth inning, senior Russell Raley (3-for-3, RBI) hit his second home run of the year and first since Feb. 4 against UTPA, the second game of the year. Before the solo shot to left field, Raley went 47 games without a round tripper. Raley also collected his fifth multiple hit game in the last nine contests, and finished the year hitting .378 (17-for-45) with 7 RBI in over those final games.
With a single in the fifth inning, senior Ryan Rohlinger extended his season high hitting streak to 11 games. In that span, Rohlinger is 23-for-41 (.561). In addition, Rohlinger finished with .559 batting average during the Sooners’ eight tournament games with four doubles, three homers and a .941 slugging percentage.