NORMAN, Okla. - The 2006 OU baseball team, under first-year head coach Sunny Golloway, completed the most successful season in program history since it made back-to-back trips to the College World Series in 1994 and 1995.
The Sooners finished the 2006 season with a 45-22 overall record and came up one win shy of reaching the program's 10th College World Series after going 1-2 against the No. 1 Rice Owls.
OU is the only team in this year's NCAA Tournament that won at least five games in the postseason and did not advance to the final field of eight.
Before earning a spot in the program’s first Super Regional (new format originated in 1999), the Sooners hosted the first NCAA Regional at L. Dale Mitchell Park, which opened in 1982 (third in Norman). The home-field advantage provided the squad with four consecutive wins out of the loser’s bracket en route to OU’s fifth regional title (last was in 1995) with back-to-back wins over Wichita State.
The Sooners' success this season has not gone unnoticed as the club was ranked as high as No. 8 for three consecutive weeks (April 24 - May 8). In this week's polls heading into the College World Series, the Sooners are ranked as high as No. 9 by Baseball America and only sit behind the eight teams competing for this year's national title in Omaha, Neb. The top-ten finish would mark the first for the Sooners since their last trip to the CWS in 1995 (finished the year ranked seventh).
OU also experienced success in the Big 12 Conference, recording a third-place finish with a 17-10 record. The Sooners ended up being the last conference team standing in the NCAA Tournament and finished the year with a league-best .323 batting average. Included in that statistic is Ryan Rohlinger's league-high 99 hits and .387 clip, which ranked second.
Another big factor in the Sooners’ success in 2006 can be attributed to solid defense. Heading into the 2006 CWS, OU still owned the nation’s top fielding percentage (.983) in NCAA statistics released on June 13, an honor they have held for seven consecutive weeks.
Golloway, who became just the second coach in NCAA history to guide his team to a Super Regional in his first year as a head coach (Smoke Lavall - LSU, 2002), will lose 12 seniors from the 2006 team but will return seven position players (Joe Dunigan, Joseph Hughes, Aaron Ivey, Kody Kaiser, Brandon Moss, Aaron Reza and Jackson Williams) that started or saw significant time last year and two hurlers with starting experience (Ryan Mottern and Brad Burns) for the 2007 season.
SOONERS' 2006 TIMELINE
Below is a look at some important dates that led to the success of the 2006 season:
April 24, 2006
Fresh off a 15-3 victory over No. 1 Rice and a sweep of Texas Tech, OU earns the highest ranking of the season at No. 8. The last time OU was ranked in the top ten was during the 1998 season.
April 29, 2006 -
The Sooners extend their season-high winning streak to 13 games with a 17-2 victory at Kansas. The streak was the longest since the 1985 season when the Sooners strung together 19 consecutive victories.
May 27, 2006
Ryan Rohlinger, the eventual MVP of the Norman Regional, connects for four RBI against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship. The offensive performance put Rohlinger over the 50-RBI mark for the year, making him the first Sooner to connect for back-to-back seasons of at least 10 home runs and 50 RBI since All-American Casey Bookout turned the feat in the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
May 28, 2006 -
The University of Oklahoma is selected as one of 16 sites for the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The 2006 Norman Regional marked the third time in the history of the OU baseball program that it has been chosen to host an NCAA Regional in Norman (1975 and 1977), but first at L. Dale Mitchell Park, which opened in 1982.
May 30, 2006 -
Aaron Ivey and Ryan Rohlinger were named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Baseball Second Team released by the College Sports Information Directors of America. The pair became the first Sooners to be honored on an Academic All-America Team since Casey Bookout was tabbed a third-team member in 1997. The last second-team member at Oklahoma was Greg Carlton (1982).
June 5, 2006
OU wins the 2006 NCAA Norman Regional in front of 3,531 at L. Dale Mitchell Park (the second largest in the park’s existence). The regional title was the fifth for OU and first since 1995.
June 6 and 7, 2006
Nine current Sooners (Ryan Rohlinger, Daniel McCutchen, Russell Raley, Kody Kaiser, Will Savage, John Brownell, Chuckie Caufield, Kevin Smith and Ryan Mottern) are selected in the 2006 MLB Draft. In addition, seven signees for next season are selected (Chad Lee, Devin Shepard, Teddy Hubbard, Brandon Thompson, Aaron Baker, Andrew Doyle and Tanner Chitwood).
June 11, 2006 -
Daniel McCutchen strikes out nine against Rice in the Super Regional and moves into sole possession of second place on OU’s all-time single-season list with 147 punch outs. McCutchen passed Geoff Geary (142 in 1998) who is currently pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies.
June 11, 2006 -
OU records its 45th win of the season after defeating Rice 11-5 to force the third and decisive game. The 45 victories ranks in a tie for 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.
June 12, 2006 -
Kevin Smith connects for a RBI-single and a RBI-double against Rice in the NCAA Houston Super Regional, giving him 70 on the year. The total ranks ninth all-time in a single season by a Sooner and Smith also became the first Sooner to have a 70-RBI season since 2000, when Rick Park connected for 75.
June 26, 2006 -
The Sooners’ .983 fielding percentage finishes as the highest mark in Division I baseball in 2006 and is the second highest in school history behind the .986 mark established in 1951 (program’s first national title).