EDINBURG, Texas -- The University of Oklahoma baseball team (1-0), ranked No. 28 in the NCBWA poll, began the 2006 season in successful fashion with a 7-6 comeback victory over Texas State (0-1) on Friday in the UTPA Classic in Edinburg, Texas.
After being down 6-2, the Sooners used three runs in the bottom of the fourth and two more in the sixth to snap a two-game losing streak for the program in season openers. The Sooners are 21-2 in season openers since 1984.
“This was a big win for us and we will come back tomorrow and play better,” said OU head coach Sunny Golloway, who began his first full season as coach of the Sooners today. “I was proud of the way we executed at the plate. We got runners on base with hard-fought at-bats. The guys stayed away from pitches out of the zone and made good solid contact.”
Despite leaving 13 runners on base, OU out hit Texas State 14-9. After Kevin Smith’ s solo homer and Brandon Moss’ sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, Will Savage entered the game in the ninth innng to close things out for the Sooners with a 7-6 lead.
“We left 11 or so runners on base in the first four innings and that has to improve,” added Golloway. “We were moving runners over with bunts or other things, but we need to drive those runs in and take advantage of those opportunities. I think we were maybe trying to hard and we need to make the pitchers come to us. But the coaching staff is proud of the way we swung the bats today, especially for a season opener.”
Savage, fresh off his nomination to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year watch list on Thursday, made things interesting by allowing runners to reach first and third with one out in the top of the Texas State ninth. That brought Phil Crumpton to the plate with a chance to tie the game but he flied out to shallow left field and allowed OU’s Joseph Hughes to make a play at the plate. The pinch runner on third base, Adam Witek, faked his way to score the game-tying run, but retreated back to third base only to find OU third baseman Ryan Rohlinger had cut off the throw and dove to his left to tag the runner’s foot. That spectacular play ended the game and gave Savage save No. 1 of the season.
Texas State scored the game’s initial run, with a two-run first inning. The Bobcats would add another run in the third inning to counter Freddy Rodriguez’s RBI single to right field in the second, and once again countered a single OU run, Smith’s RBI single, in the third frame with a three-run fourth inning. The Bobcats were led by Thomas Field and his two RBI performance on Friday.
Daniel McCutchen (1-0), who started the game, lasted six innings and struck out two to record the decision. The Sooners’ ace did struggle early on but settled down after the fourth frame. John Brownell came in out of relief in the seventh frame and blanked the Bobcats over two innings. From the fifth inning through the eighth frame, McCutchen and Brownell combined to retire 12 consecutive batters.
Texas State starter Scott Moore was effective early but surrendered five runs, four earned, over a 3.1 inning span. After he struck out four batters, he was relieved by Justin Fiske (0-1) who was credited with the loss after the Bobcats lost the lead with him throwing. Fiske gave up two earned runs on three hits in 2.1 innings.
Smith, Rodriguez, Chuckie Caufield, Ryan Mottern and Aaron Ivey powered the Sooner offense with two hits apiece. Smith led all Sooners with two RBI, while Rohlinger, Mottern, Rodriguez and Moss each drove in a run.
OU will resume play in the UTPA Classic on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the host Broncs (1-0) at Edinburg Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on KOKC (1520 AM) with Chuck Kelly calling the play-by-play. OU's Steven Guerra (RHP) is expected to throw opposite UTPA's Dane Mason (RHP). The contest will be joined in progress following the completion of the OU women’s basketball game versus Missouri, slated for a 5 p.m. tipoff.
“Winning is obviously important to this team, especially early in the season, but ultimately we are concerned about getting better each and everyday,” said Golloway. “I expect us to clean up the little things tomorrow versus Texas-Pan American, like moving runners on second and third and hope to have another successful day.”