LINCOLN, Neb. The No. 13 Oklahoma Sooners (39-17, 17-10 Big 12) clinched third place in the Big 12 Conference standings after beating No. 11 Nebraska (39-14, 17-10 Big 12), 6-2, in the final regular-season game for both teams.
“I’m proud of the way the team came back to play today,” OU head coach Sunny Golloway said. “This was a great win against a great team.”
OU ace Daniel McCutchen (7-7) was brilliant on the mound in eight full innings of work. The Norman native struck out 11, the second highest total of his career, and allowed just two runs. It marked the fifth time this season that the senior posted double-digit strikeouts in a game.
“Daniel struck out a lot of batters, and he’ll tell you that he likes to strike out batters, but he wasn’t being selfish,” Golloway said. “He forced batters to hit a lot of pop-ups and fly balls, too. You can’t last as long as he did just trying to throw strikeouts because your pitch count will get too high.”
The Sooners and Huskers were tied 1-1 after two innings, but OU took the lead for good with a three-run third frame.
Lead-off batter Chuckie Caufield and No. 2-hitter Aaron Reza boarded the bases with singles and Kody Kaiser moved the duo over with a sacrifice bunt.
Kevin Smith and Brandon Moss reached on balls to score Caufield before Freddy Rodriguez slapped a single through the middle for two RBI.
The third-inning runs, all of which were unearned, were the result of some good luck that seemed to escape the Sooners during the past few weeks.
Huskers’ right fielder Luke Gossett was charged with an error after he dropped a foul fly ball from the bat of Caufield, extending the at-bat.
OU scored two more runs for insurance in the top of the ninth, but they were unnecessary as closer Will Savage struck out two and forced a ground out for the final at-bat of the game.
Nebraska’s Johnny Dorn (9-4) suffered the loss.
For OU, its 39th regular-season victory was the most since the 1994 team, which went on to win the College World Series, also won 39 in its regular season.
“We had a great regular season, but it’s over now and our record is back to 0-0,” Golloway said. “We have to continue to push ourselves and work even harder through the postseason.”
The Sooners will play No. 6 seeded Kansas on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Big 12 Championship at the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. The Sooners took two out of three in the series against Kansas at the end of April earlier this year. Wednesday's game will mark the first-ever meeting between the Sooners and Jayhawks in the Big 12 Championship.
The Big 12 implemented a new two-division, pool play format for this year's tournament. Previously, the Championship was conducted as a double-elimination tournament. Uner the new format, as approved by the league's head coaches, each of the eight teams will play a minimum of three games with the two teams with the best record out of each division, will advance to the championship on Sunday at 1 p.m. To purchase tickets to next week's games, call (405) 236-5000 or visit Big12Sports.com.
Below is a look at the Sooners' schedule next week:
Game One - Wednesday, 5 p.m. - No. 3 OU vs. No. 6 Kansas
Game Two - Friday, 5 p.m. - No. 3 OU vs. No. 7 Missouri
Game Three - Saturday, 5 p.m. - No. 3 OU vs. No. 2 Oklahoma State