MILLINGTON, Tenn. -- The Sooner baseball team (7-3) had solid pitching on Friday night against Memphis (2-0) at the Service Academies Classic but only collected one run off four hits and dropped its third defeat of the season at USA Stadium, 2-1, despite a solid outing from Daniel McCutchen.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, McCutchen (2-2) was dominant with a no-hitter through six innings and seven strikeouts, but the Tigers chiselled their way back into the ball game led by Adam Amar. The Tigers’ first baseman fueled the offense and plated two runs, one in the seventh inning and another in the bottom of the ninth to seal the deal.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Memphis head coach Daron Schoenrock and his pitching staff,” said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. “He had his guys ready to play for two games now (Alabama and OU) and I think Memphis is going to be a tough club to beat this year.”
The game was tightly contested from the beginning with a pitcher’s duel featuring McCutchen and Memphis’ Scott McGregor. McGregor made his collegiate debut against OU on Friday and was solid with six innings pitched and just three hits allowed. However, McCutchen went further in the game and was more effective, as he tied a career high with 10 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings.
The no-hit bid was stopped by Michael Murray’s leadoff single to left field in the seventh inning and as the no-hit bid ended, so did OU’s chances to record its first shutout of the season. Three batters later, Murray scored on Amar’s sacrifice fly to center field and the game remained tied until the bottom of the ninth.
In the ninth frame, Murray again led things off with a single and moved his way to third base, with one out, on Kyle Norrid’s double to center field. Fortunately for the Sooners, Murray made the mistake of rounding third base too hard and was caught making his way back to third base by a relay that started with OU’s Joseph Hughes (CF) hitting the cutoff man, Russell Raley (2B), who threw home to Jackson Williams (C) and ended with Ryan Rohlinger (3B) tagging out the runner to record the second out of the inning.
With two outs and Norrid on second base, McCutchen gave up a single to center field that turned Hughes around and dropped into center field, allowing Norrid to cross the plate and give the Tigers a 2-1 victory. In its two games this season, Memphis has allowed just one run in 18 innings pitched. The Tigers defeated Alabama 2-0 in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night.
OU had its chances, stranding five runners on base, including one in the seventh and ninth innings. Additionally, the Sooners were unable to capitalize off the Tigers’ second error of the contest, allowing Jackson Williams to reach base in the seventh with two out.
Friday saw OU continue its season-long trend of plating the game’s first run, when WIlliams was plated on a sacrifice fly to right field off the bat of Joseph Hughes, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week. However, the one run was not enough as Memphis’ Drew Jaudon (1-0) pitched three effective innings of relief to drop OU to 6-2 when scoring first (Lamar was the only other loss).
Williams reached base in the fifth inning after trying to move Kevin Smith from first to second base on a sacrifice bunt and was more than successful with an error by the Memphis’ second baseman Bill Moss. Covering first base, Moss dropped the potential out thrown from short, but redeemed him self by throwing to third base and catching Smith trying to take third base. Fortunately, Williams advanced to third on Joe Dunigan’s single through the right side and scored on Hughes fly to right field.
“Daniel McCutchen pitched outstanding tonight and that’s good news for us because if he continues to make those kind of starts throughout the year we are going to be very good,” added Golloway. “On the other hand, we need to improve our ability to execute in key situations late in ball games because we did not do that today and it costs us the game.”
Two of the Sooners’ four hits in the contest belonged to Chuckie Caufield, and Norrid and Murray had four of the Tigers’ seven hits.
OU returns to action on Saturday, Feb. 25 against Indiana State (0-2) at 1 p.m. OU’s Steven Guerra (3-0, 3.06 ERA) is expected to throw opposite ISU’s Chad Dawson (0-0, 0.00 ERA).