LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The second-seeded University of Oklahoma baseball team used a seven-run, seven-hit seventh inning to top three-seed Xavier, 7-2, in its NCAA Regional opener at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville, Ky., on Friday afternoon. The Sooners (35-22) will face one-seed and host Louisville, which defeated Radford 11-6 Friday night. The game will take place at 6 p.m. CT and will air nationally on ESPN2.
Xavier lefty ace Zac Lowther (5-5) stymied the Sooners for six innings, allowing just two hits and giving up no runs while striking out seven, but OU chased him with their explosion in the seventh.
With Oklahoma trailing 2-0, sophomore right fielder Domenic DeRenzo (Pittsburgh, Pa.) blasted a one-out triple to right center to set the table. Junior second baseman Kyle Mendenhall (Carlsbad, Calif.) kept the inning rolling when he reached first on an error by the catcher after striking out to give OU men on the corners with just one out. Freshman shortstop Brandon Zaragoza (Moore, Okla.) then walked to load the bases for sophomore left fielder Cade Harris (Leona, Texas).
Harris one-hopped the wall in right center to clear the bases and put OU up 3-2. That three-RBI double chased Lowther. The Sooners then unleashed a hit parade, following Harris with five straight singles, including RBI-hits from senior third baseman Jack Flansburg (Orange, Calif.), sophomore center fielder Steele Walker (Prosper, Texas) and sophomore DH Brylie Ware (Sedgwick, Kan.), to plate four more runs and give OU a five-run lead headed to the eighth.
Sooner right-handed junior starter Devon Perez (Ashburn, Va.) pitched beautifully for Oklahoma, striking out seven of his own while allowing just two runs on six hits to earn the win. Perez (6-2) pounded the strike zone all afternoon for OU, walking just one batter on 107 pitches.
The Musketeers opened the scoring in the second. After a leadoff-single from Will Larue and then a bunt-single by Mitch Gallagher put runners on first and second, catcher Nate Soria doubled down the left field line. Larue scored easily, and the Sooners nearly cutdown Gallagher on a close play at the plate, but Xavier put two runs on the board. Perez was able to limit the damage however, striking out the next three batters to end the inning.
Harris had a day in the field as well for the Sooners. Xavier looked to extend its early lead to 3-0 in the sixth when Larue singled to shallow left. Rylan Bannon, who had reached on a one-out double, tried to score from second, but Harris came up gunning and delivered a strike to catcher Renae Martinez who applied the tag in time to log the out.
Senior right-hander JB Olson (Shady Shores, Texas) was the second OU pitcher in relief of Perez in the eighth. He inherited a runner on and a 2-0 count, but promptly got a double play; the second turned by the Sooner infield on the day. He would go the final six outs to secure the win in two-scoreless innings.
Harris, Flansburg and DeRenzo all recorded two-hit games for Oklahoma. Harris matched a career-high with three RBI and DeRenzo registered his first two-extra-base hit of the season.
The Sooners will turn to sophomore right-hander Jake Irvin (Bloomington, Minn.) in Saturday's game.