COLUMBIA, S.C. — Sunny Golloway was disappointed, but managed to sound happy. A 5-1 season-ending loss at South Carolina in Monday's Game 2 of the NCAA Columbia Super Regional stung, but Oklahoma's eighth-year coach said it didn't take away from the Sooners' journey to get there.
Simply, the Sooners (42-25) weren't that good early in the season, but they righted themselves to be two wins from the College World Series. Ending the season still two wins short of Omaha was hurtful, but when taken with how OU had steered itself through a rough patch to get there, the pain was soothed.
“We lost 25 games, and got to go toe-to-toe with a team in a Super Regional that has won back to back national championships,” Golloway said. “I think it's a tribute to the young men who represent the University of Oklahoma baseball program.”
Oklahoma won 24 of its final 35 games, a streak that started on April 10 and featured wonderful moments. The Sooners swept Baylor on its home field to give the Bears their only Big 12 series loss of the season. They lost the Big 12 tournament championship game by a run. They won four games in two days in the NCAA Charlottesville Regional to advance to the Sweet 16 of college baseball.
That the journey didn't quite come to a wonderful end wasn't a knock on what had gone on during it.
A rain-delayed in Game 2 knocked out starter Jonathan Gray, who had been overwhelming with nine strikeouts, and closer Steven Okert (9-8) couldn't quite get it done. The Gamecocks (45-17) scored the game's first run on a wild throw to third and another on a wild pitch, and even after the Sooners got a run back in the bottom of the seventh, USC knew its time was at hand.
Oklahoma squandered a leadoff single in the eighth after USC notched three runs in the top of the frame. It quickly progressed, until pinch-runner Drake Roberts stood on first base with two outs and Dylan Neal at the plate in the ninth.
Neal went around too far on a third strike and was rung up by the first-base umpire, Neal standing frustrated at the plate as catcher Dante Rosenberg raced to tag him. Neal was tapped with the glove, then watched in dismay as Rosenberg raced to tackle Matt Price and the rest of the Gamecocks dogpiled.
“We just kept fighting,” first baseman Evan Mistich said. “It just didn't go our way today.”
Golloway credited his players for sticking with what turned into a difficult season.
“We were a bubble team with three weeks to go,” he said. “To be a bubble team and earn a two-seed and then go to Virginia and win and come in here, hopefully we pushed South Carolina a bit. We were short. I realize that looking back.
“There'll be no crying in baseball, on our side. There just won't be. We're building a program. Sometimes, you have to take a step back.”