HOUSTON, Texas -- The Oklahoma baseball team (7-2) won its second consecutive game and first ever against No. 19 (Baseball America) Long Beach State (6-4) on Sunday in the finale of the Coca-Cola Classic at Reckling Park. OU topped the Dirtbags 2-1 and did so with strong pitching by P.J. Sandoval (2-1) and John Brownell (save).
The Sooners are 1-2 lifetime against LBSU after falling in the 1997 South Regional and 1989 West Regional. Long Beach State, ranked as high as No. 11 in the NCBWA poll this week, was undefeated heading into today’s contest at the Coca-Cola Classic after topping Lamar 11-6 on Friday and No. 5 Rice 4-1 earlier on Saturday.
“This is a big win because it’s early in the season and Long Beach State is a top 25 program,” said OU head coach Sunny Golloway, who is 7-2 in his first full season at OU and 19-8 at the Sooners’ helm. “Long Beach swept USC early in the season and beat Rice yesterday, so they had set themselves up to move up in next week’s poll.
“This win builds confidence for our players and gives us a quality win to help our RPI and get us ready for the Big 12 season. Today’s game was a lot like a postseason game with two very good programs going after each other. Any play could have lost the ball game and Joseph Hughes getting the would-be tying run at the plate was huge. I think both teams are better off after what was a great college baseball game today.”
With a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning and runners on first and third base and one out, Sandoval forced LBSU’s Brandon Godfrey to fly out to center field. That gave Sooner center fielder Joseph Hughes a chance to duplicate the feat he accomplished in his first career game at OU on Feb. 3 against Texas State. Hughes caught the fly ball and threw a ball on target to home plate in time to allow catcher Jackson Williams to block the tying run and tag out Robert Perry. Hughes did the same against the Bobcats in the UTPA Classic, completing a similar double play that ended the game to give OU a 7-6 victory.
The Sooners failed to record double-digit hits for just the second time this season (five vs. Rice) with seven base hits on Sunday, but built a 2-0 lead after three innings and played solid defense to finish things off with two double plays.
OU posted the game’s first run after Kody Kaiser led off the second inning with a single to center field. Kaiser moved over on a Kevin Smith sacrifice bunt and scored on Jackson Williams’ RBI single through the right side of the infield. The Sooners improved to 6-1 this season when scoring the game’s first run.
Aaron Reza’s RBI single through the left side plated Hughes and built a 2-0 lead for OU. The two-run cushion appeared to be enough for Sandoval, who has won two straight decisions, as the hurler held LBSU hitless through the first three frames (3 1/3 innings).
Sandoval finished the contest with two strikeouts and allowed one run off of four hits after six innings tossed. Brownell came into the game in the seventh inning and limited the Dirtbags to three hits over three innings to earn his first save of the season.
“Our pitching coach, Fred Corral, deserves a lot of credit for P.J.’s performance today,” added Golloway. “He decided to stick with P.J. after a shaky first outing and he has responded with two quality outings and showed everyone what he is capable of. Pitching and defense are the two elements that are going to win games and we had both of those today.”
The loss was charged to LBSU’s Vance Worley (0-2), who lasted six innings and allowed two earned runs off six hits and two walks. Evan Longoria went 3-for-3 at the plate and drove in the Dirtbags’ only run on a RBI single in the fourth inning.
Hughes, the star of Saturday’s game with three hits and four RBI, again fueled the Sooner offense with two hits on Sunday. Five other Sooners totaled the team’s seven hits. The Dirtbags also connected for seven hits and equaled the Sooners’ one in the error column.
OU returns to action Feb. 24, 25 and 26 against Memphis, Indiana State and Notre Dame in Millington, Tenn., at the Service Academies Classic.