NORMAN, Okla., -- The University of Oklahoma baseball team defeated Eastern Illinois, 6-1, on Monday at L. Dale Mitchell Park to complete the three-game series sweep of the Panthers. The Sooners outscored EIU 35-11 in the series and now own an 8-0 record against it under head coach Larry Cochell. It was also OU’s fourth consecutive victory of the season after an 0-2 start.
“We had one error in a three-game series which we expect to do every time we play and that is a very big positive,” said head coach Larry Cochell. “We had a hard time adjusting to today’s opposing pitcher because of his speed, but that is a good thing for us to face this early in the season and have to adjust to. Overall, it was a good day and we are pleased with our performance.”
Freshman Brad Burns made his second appearance of the season on the mound and in his first start, the Gracemont, Okla., native was impressive. In six innings pitched, Burns struck out five and limited the Panthers to three hits. Dating back to his last appearance in which he struck out five batters in three innings of relief work, Burns has allowed zero earned runs in nine straight innings of work and the freshman is second on the team in strikeouts (10).
“Brad pitched very well today and he is capable of doing that every game,” commented Cochell. “He is also going to get better because he is only a freshman and were excited about him being in a Sooner uniform for awhile.
“He struggled a little bit with his command early and that is uncharacteristic of him. Once he got into a groove, he hit his spots and pitched very well. He got his fastball down and away and that was a good pitch for him today.”
After recording 19 runs on Saturday and 10 on Sunday, the Sooner offense was slightly less potent in the series finale but still produced six runs, including two in the bottom of the seventh. The Sooners once again jumped out first in the ballgame and in all six of their games this season, they have scored the game’s first run.
Burns left the game with a two-run lead in the top half of the sixth inning and before junior Will Savage would come out of the bullpen in the seventh, the Sooners would add an insurance run. Junior Ryan Rohlinger’s RBI single gave OU a three-run lead, scoring sophomore Aaron Ivey. Ivey pinch ran for senior Eric Thornton who walked earlier in the inning and later stole second before crossing the plate on Rohlinger’s single.
The shutout was ended in the top of the seventh inning after Keiji Szalo singled to center field and scored Ryan Campbell. Savage settled after his first inning of the season and retired five straight batters before giving the ball up to junior Daniel McCutchen. McCutchen saw his second straight day of relief and retired the side with one strikeout in the ninth.
Junior Kevin Smith, who went 7-for-9 with eight RBI in the series’ first two contests, continued his hot hitting streak with a 1-for-3 performance on Monday that included another RBI. Smith concluded the series batting .667 with nine RBI and even more impressive was his slugging percentage (1.083).
Freshman Kody Kaiser extended his six-game hitting streak on Monday with two hits and a run scored. Junior Russell Raley matched Kaiser’s streak with a single in the sixth inning.
OU improves to 4-2 on the season while EIU falls to 0-3. The Sooners will return to the field on Saturday, Feb. 26 at home against Western Illinois (4-4). The Leathernecks are coming off a three-game series against Texas Tech in which they defeated the Red Raiders, 6-1 in the second game while dropping the other two by a combined score of 31-12.