NORMAN, Okla., -- The University of Oklahoma baseball team opened the 2005 home season in style with a 19-3 victory over Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Feb. 19 at L. Dale Mitchell Park. The Sooners improve to 2-2 on the season while EIU lost its season opener. Junior Kevin Smith led OU with a 3-for-4 performance that included five RBI and four runs scored.
It was the most runs that an OU offense has posted since a 21-6 win over Kansas State (May 7) in Norman last year.
Junior pitcher Garrett Patterson recorded his first win of the season throwing six solid innings and allowing one hit. Patterson also set a career high with eight strikeouts in the contest.
“Obviously a good first ballgame (at home),” said head coach Larry Cochell. “Patterson was outstanding today. On a day like today, you have to keep the ball down, and he had eight ground balls and one fly ball. When you do that, you have a chance to be very successful.”
Smith sparked the OU offense after starting the season in a 1-for-13 slump. The junior college transfer was batting cleanup in the Coca-Cola Classic last weekend and today batted out of the six spot.
“He’s going to be outstanding,’ said Cochell about Smith and his overall ability. “Being a first year player, he puts a lot of pressure on himself. We had him in the four-hole (last weekend) and he got anxious and just swung at a lot of pitches out of the zone. He got himself out, out there (in Arizona). He’s an outstanding hitter and he’ll be back in the four-hole again.”
OU took the initial lead in the ball game for the fourth time this season with two runs in the second inning and never looked back. Smith started the game’s scoring after he walked to start off the second frame and was advanced to second by junior Freddy Rodriguez’s sacrifice and to third on a ground out. That brought junior Chuckie Caufield to the plate and he proceeded to double to center field and record his first RBI as a Sooner. Freshman Kody Kaiser was next up and he doubled down the left field line that scored Caufield. Kaiser is batting .412, with seven hits, on the season to lead the team in both categories.
The third and fourth frames saw OU’s offense show zero mercy to the EIU pitching staff as it posted six more runs in the innings to take an 8-0 lead after four. The run support was more than enough to allow Patterson cruise his way to the victory. Patterson (1-1) was impressive in his second start at OU, as he allowed his only hit in the first inning and punched out eight Panthers after that to record a career high and a season high for the team. After recording two earned runs against then-No. 12 Arizona State in his first appearance of the season (in relief), the right hander lowered his ERA to 2.0 after today’s action.
The Sooners posted eight runs in the sixth inning led by junior Ryan Rohlinger’s three-run homer. Rohlinger went 2-for-3 on the day with three RBI and three runs scored. Rohlinger is hitting .313 so far this season and he is currently one of six OU hitters (with 10 or more at bats) batting over .300.
For the Panthers, left-handed starter Ted Juske lasted three innings and gave up six runs (all earned) for his first decision of the season. Offensively, Kieji Szalo led EIU with a 3-for-4 performance and was responsible for two of the Panthers’ three runs after he drove a pitch by freshman Kevin Smith over the left field fence.
Also posting solid numbers for OU in the home opener was junior Russell Raley (1-for-3, 2 RBI), Eric Thornton (1-for-3, RBI), Rodriguez (2-for-5, RBI), Caufield (2-for-4, 2 RBI) and Tyler Gooch (1.0 innings pitched, 2 SO).
The Sooners continue the series at L. Dale Mitchell Park against the Panthers on Sunday at 1 p.m. OU's Steven Guerra (1-0, 1.50 ERA) and EIU's Kyle Widegren (0-0, 0.0 ERA) are the expected starters for game two of the series. That game will be followed with Monday’s finale at 3 p.m.