HOUSTON, Texas -- The Sooner baseball team (5-2) began play in the Coca-Cola Classic at Reckling Park on Friday and dropped an 8-2 decision to No. 5 (Baseball America) Rice. The Owls (5-1) used three triples in the bottom of the sixth inning to plate five runs and end the Sooners’ three-game winning streak.
OU entered the game averaging 11 runs and 13 hits per game but was limited to two runs on five hits by Rice starter Eddie Degerman, who struck out 11 Sooners and pitched seven innings of one-hit ball.
"Sometimes you have to really tip your cap to the opposing team and Rice showed today why they are a top five team," said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. "That program won a national championship a couple of years back with pitching depth and they are doing it again with Degerman and Savery. Their starter was very good today"
The Owls, ranked as high as No. 2 in the NCBWA poll, began the first inning with a solo home run by Greg Buchanan and a sacrifice fly off Brian Friday’s bat to take an early 2-0 lead.
OU, despite recording just one hit in the first four innings, had its chances to tie the ball game early with runners on second base in the first and third inning but came up empty.
Rice took advantage of a potential double play in the bottom of the fourth inning and built a 3-0 lead on a Buchanan sac fly and that was all Degerman would need as he recorded eight strikeouts after five frames.
The Owls then broke the game open with a five-run sixth inning. Senior Daniel McCutchen (2-1), who was steady before the sixth, took his first loss of 2006 after five innings pitched. McCutchen surrendered six earned runs off of 11 hits and two walks, opposite four strikeouts.
Down 8-0, the OU offense came alive and ended the one-hitter in the seventh inning with four hits, three of them doubles.
Jackson Williams sparked the rally, after one out, on a double to left center field and pinch hitter Ryan Mottern followed suit with a double to the same gap, scoring Williams. It was then Chuckie Caufield’s turn, who had the Sooners first hit in the first inning, to collect a base hit and plate the second OU run of the game with a single to right center field. Ryan Rohlinger connected on OU’s third extra-base hit of the inning with a double down the left field line, but the ball was not deep enough to score Caufield. The rally finally ended on a Kevin Smith shallow fly ball that was caught by a diving Bobby Bramhall.
OU tagged the Owls’ Kurt Pessa for two runs on three hits in a third of an inning pitched. The Sooner pitching staff, consisting of McCutchen, A.T. Cole (2/3 inning), Nich Conaway (2/3 inning) and Joseph Hughes (1 2/3 innings) allowed 13 hits in the contest.
For Rice, Buchanan finished the game with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate which included three RBI and two runs scored, while Jordan Dobson led the way with three hits.
Friday’s game was the first time OU played against Rice since 1992, a meeting that resulted in a two-game split between the Sooners and Owls. OU leads the all-time series, 3-2 and will face Rice one more time in 2006 when it hosts the Owls on April 18 at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
"I am proud of the way we battled back," added Golloway. "Our at-bat in the eighth inning really showed how good Degerman was tonight because we got some extra base hits and scored some runs off Rice’s bullpen. We have been hitting the ball hard all year and we have to continue that trend. We also have to be better defensively."
OU continues play in the Coca-Cola Classic on Saturday against Lamar (4-4) at 4:30 p.m. The game will be a rematch of the Sooners’ first loss of 2006, a 21-9 victory for the Cardinals on Feb. 5 in Edinburg, Texas. The game can be heard live on KOKC (1520 AM) with Chuck Kelly calling the play-by-play. The Sooners’ contest against Lamar will only be heard up until the OU women’s basketball game at 7 p.m.