BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The Sooners were down but not out, rallying to defeat Coastal Carolina, 7-3, in their NCAA Regional opener at English Field Friday.
Oklahoma (41-19) trailed 3-0 after two innings, but scored seven unanswered runs and shut down the Chanticleer offense with a complete-game from Jonathan Gray (10-2).
No. 2 seed Oklahoma won its sixth straight game and advanced to the winner's side of the Blacksburg Regional bracket, where they will face No. 4 seed Connecticut, 5-2 victors over host Virginia Tech, Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Central.
Defensive miscues by the Sooners handed Coastal Carolina (37-22) an early advantage. Designated hitter Ted Blackman led off the game with a deep infield single that died in the astroturf field and advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt. Jacob May laid a sacrifice bunt back to Gray, whose throw to third was muffed by Garrett Carey. Jake Kane drove in Blackman with a single to left field and May reached home two at-bats later on an infield single by rightfielder Colin Hering.
"I thought the way they came out against arguably the best pitcher in the country was very admirable," OU head coach Sunny Golloway said. "The key for us was to settle down, one. We did some very uncharacteristic things defensively in the first inning so we had to overcome that. And two, I think offensively to get us back into the ball game was to be patient. We ended up finding more of the plate that way."
Coastal Carolina added a run in the second inning when May blasted a one-hopper to the right field fence to score Chris Suseck. Golloway visited the mound to settle his defense, and Gray finished the inning with the first of 11 strikeouts.
The Chanticleers would not score again.
Coastal Carolina starter Tyler Herb struggled with accuracy from the outset, but it didn't cost run until the fourth. Herb hit his third batter of the game, Hector Lorenzana, to leadoff the inning, then walked Anthony Hermelyn before Colt Bickerstaff doubled down the right field line for an RBI.
Patrick Corbett (2-3) relieved Herb following Bickerstaff's double and retired the next three in order, but not before Garrett Carey's batted in Hermelyn with a grounder to second base.
Jack Mayfield led off the fifth with a base hit to right field and Max White laid a drag bunt down the third base line that was thrown wide by Suseck, allowing Mayfield to advanced to third and White to second. Matt Oberste singled to right center, bringing home both for the go-ahead scores.
"Max can do an awful lot at the plate but to have such a big strong guy to be able to do that is great. We were down 3-2 with a runner at first, and lay down the drag and they threw the ball down the line and of course we knew of the injury so we were attacking a position and the next thing you know, we were down 3-2 with runners on second and third and were able to capitalize and get the lead."
The Sooners had the bases loaded with no outs in the sixth when Coastal Carolina changed to submarining right-hander Ryan Connolly. Connolly struck out Mayfield, but White delivered a single through left side on an 0-2 count to score Taylor Alspaugh.
Mayfield and White hit back-to-back doubles in the eighth, with the latter scoring a run, to cushion the lead for Gray, who threw a career-high 129 pitches. White later scored on a delayed steal as the Chanticleer catcher Josh Powell tried to throw out Oberste, who reached on a bunt single, stealing second.
Gray completed his outing stronger than he started, striking out five over the final three innings, including the final out.
"We almost weren't going to send him back out there," Golloway said, "but he said he really felt good. I just let him finish it up and you know what was amazing was what I was told after the game. The last pitch, he told me, `Oh, I let that one rip' and it was 102 (miles per hour)."