OXFORD, Miss. -- Oklahoma (34-24) opened the 2005 NCAA Oxford Regional with a 5-4 win against No. 2 seed Southern Miss (41-20) on Friday in front of 4,121 fans at Oxford-University Stadium.
The contest marked the first time OU opened a NCAA Regional with a victory since the 2000 NCAA Tournament when it defeated Oral Roberts.
Kody Kaiser provided the Sooners with the go-ahead run in the fifth inning with a 410-foot home run that plated Scott Rooker, who had walked in the previous at-bat. But Kevin Smith’s single to left field, which scored Freddy Rodriguez for OU’s fifth run, proved to be the difference in the game as Southern Miss added a run in the ninth to cut the Sooners’ lead to one.
Daniel McCutchen (4-5) put together another solid start on the bump for OU. The right-hander tossed 7 1/3 innings and allowed three runs, two earned, on eight hits. Despite striking out just one batter (tied his season low in a start), the Norman native showed excellent control by walking just one batter. It marked the fourth time this season that McCutchen surrendered just one free pass in a start.
Southern Miss starter Barry Bowden was chased out of the contest after four innings of work. Bowden (4-4) gave up four earned runs on five hits and two walks.
Kaiser’s shot in the fifth was not the only homer hit in the game by OU. Eric Thornton came up to the plate in the fourth to lead off the frame with a solo shot to left-center field. The pair of long balls helped OU to improve its mark to 11-1 this season when it hits two or more home runs in a game.
Thornton also drove in the Sooners’ first run with an RBI single through the right side of the infield in the first frame.
Southern Miss quickly countered in its next at-bat with David Steele’s RBI single to center field in the bottom of the second inning. The Golden Eagles took their first lead of the ball game in the third inning, plating two runs on Marc Maddox’s RBI single and Jason Lowery’s sacrifice fly.
After the third frame, the game’s momentum swayed in OU’s favor. The Sooners held the Golden Eagles scoreless for five consecutive innings and the offense took care of business in the fourth and fifth frames with a pair of homers from Thornton and Kaiser and the RBI single by Smith. The Sooners improved their mark to 28-0 this year when leading after seven innings.
Will Savage took the mound for OU after McCutchen left the game in the eighth. Savage has appeared in 15 of OU’s last 16 games, and despite giving up a solo homer to Chris Matesich in the ninth, the Sooners’ closer recorded his fourth save in his last seven appearances.
The Sooners, seeded third, advanced to the winners' bracket of the Oxford Regional and will face Ole Miss, who defeated Maine 5-0 late Friday, tomorrow at 5 p.m. The game can be heard on KOKC 1520 AM with Chuck Kelly calling the play-by-play. Fans that are attending the game can hear the Sooners’ broadcast on 96.3 FM inside the stadium in Oxford. The game can also be seen live on Ole Miss' official athletic web site by clicking here.
Twenty-one of the Sooners’ 43 homers this season have come in the last 15 games ... Kody Kaiser and Freddy Rodriguez extended their individual hitting streaks to six games ... Kaiser has hit safely 13 of the last 15 games and Rodriguez has collected 41 hits in the last 27 games ... Eric Thornton hit his second career postseason home run today with a solo shot in the fourth inning. Prior to today’s contest, Thornton had just two RBI in eight postseason games and he doubled that total with a 3-for-5 performance with two RBI against Southern Miss.