NORMAN, Okla. -- In a game that saw the lead change hands on three occasions, the No. 25 (Collegiate Baseball) Sooners rallied from a two-run deficit to defeat UC Riverside, 7-6, on Sunday to complete the three-game series sweep. It was the first-ever sweep for OU over UC Riverside and the victory improved the Sooners’ record to 6-3 against the Highlanders. OU also improved to 12-4 overall this season, while UCR dropped to 9-8.
After OU took an early 2-0 lead, the Highlanders posted four runs in the second inning, only to see the Sooners rally thanks to Ryan Rohlinger’s RBI single and Joe Dunigan’s two-run triple in the fifth.
“This is big series win for us, because if UC Riverside gets swept by anyone else in the country this year I will be impressed,” said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. “They are a lot better team then we made it look in these games. All three games could have went either way but we will take what we got, feel good about it for a night, and start focusing on TCU tomorrow.”
P.J. Sandoval (3-1) made the start for OU and lasted 5 1/3 innings before giving way to Joseph Hughes in the six inning. Hughes entered the game with runners on first and second and one out, and froze consecutive batters to end the frame with two punch outs. Sandoval earned his third win of the season, in last four outings, after falling to 0-1 early in the season.
UCR stranded nine base runners in the contest, opposite the same amount for OU, but none were more important than the three Highlanders left on base in the top of the ninth inning.
OU’s closer Will Savage entered the game in the ninth inning with one out and immediately gave up a double to right center, which put D.J. Hollingsworth, who singled earlier in the inning off Nate Hammons, on third base. Savage then intentionally walked Aaron Grant to set up the double play. Instead of the double play, Savage struck out pinch hitter Andrew Martinez with three fastballs and followed that up with Aaron Wible grounding into a force out at second base to end the game. Savage earned his fifth save of 2006 and completed a solid outing by OU’s bullpen, which allowed just one earned run (two overall) over 3 2/3 innings. Hughes, John Brownell, Hammons and Savage combined to record four strikeouts and four hits.
OU wasted no time in giving Sandoval run support by posting two runs in the bottom of the first frame. Jackson Williams drove in the Sooners’ first pair of runs on a single to left field bringing home Aaron Reza and Kody Kaiser. The hit marked the fifth and sixth RBI for Williams in the last six games.
The Highlanders countered in their next at-bat, posting four runs in the second inning off a RBI single by Jaime Pedroza and a three-run homer to right field by Hollingsworth.
Rohlinger started the Sooner rally in the bottom of the fifth inning and brought OU within one run on a RBI single up the middle. Two batters later, Dunigan tripled down the right-field line, bringing in Rohlinger and Kaiser. The multiple-RBI game for Dunigan was his second in as many days, the third of the season and fourth of his career (2005 season opener vs. Gonzaga). The Chicago, Ill., native finished the series as the team’s leader in RBI with four and a .429 batting average. Rohlinger led all Sooners over the weekend with a .636 clip (1.091 slugging percentage).
OU extended its lead to 7-4 in the sixth after Kevin Smith scored on Reza’s sacrifice fly to center field and Freddy Rodriguez came home on a wild pitch by Adam Reifer. Reifer entered the ball game in the sixth inning after starter Taylor Bills (1-1) was tagged for seven runs off 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Offensively, Rohlinger led the charge with a 3-for-4 day at the plate while Reza and Kaiser each contributed two hits to give the Sooners’ their 10th game of 10 or more hits this season. OU connected for 11 base hits on Sunday, opposite the UCR’s 12, marking the sixth time this season that the Sooners have been outhit in a game. OU is 2-4 on those occasions.
The Sooners return to action Tuesday, March 7 with a mid-week road contest against No. 21 (Baseball America) Texas Christian. First pitch at Lupton Stadium is slated for 7 p.m. and the game can be heard live on KOKC (1520 AM) with Chuck Kelly calling the play-by-play.