CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Throughout the regular season, the Sooners waited until the pressure was on to deliver. Nothing has changed in the regional round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
OU needed 10 innings to defeat Army 2-1 in Sunday's first game, then it took down host Virginia 5-4 in a second elimination game Sunday night to stay alive.
The Sooners face Appalachian State at 3 p.m. Monday. If OU wins, it will play the Mountaineers again after the first game to advance to a Super Regional next weekend at South Carolina.
After Oklahoma took the lead, mental lapses allowed both opponents to put a tying run on second base in the final inning. That did not sit well with OU coach Sunny Golloway, who lit into his team on the field after defeating Virginia.
“I made it very clear that if we don't show up (Monday) and play defense, it's going to be very, very short,” he said. “They got a pretty good tail-chewing out there.”
Damien Magnifico (3-1, 3.86) will start the first game for the Sooners against Appalachian State, looking to build on a weekend of untouchable starting pitching that made up for a lack of offense.
The bats, silent all tournament, finally woke up in the 10th inning against Army, when OU was on the verge of being sent home. OU has almost as many errors (8) as it does hits (11) in the regional.
“We've gotten pretty lucky to be where we're at right now,” OU second baseman Jack Mayfield said. “We know we have a good defense – we've showed it before.”
So far, the pitching has been good enough to overcome the other flaws. Sophomore Jonathan Gray was up first Sunday against Army, delivering seven strong innings and picking up some key defensive help from Cody Reine, who gunned down a runner at the plate in the third inning to keep the game scoreless.
Each team scratched out a small-ball run in the middle frames, and Max White singled to drive in Caleb Bushyhead from second base for the win, Golloway's 300th as the school's coach.
After a break of about five hours, spent watching golf on TV, the bats built on White's momentum against Virginia. Matt Oberste hit the first home run of the regional in the second inning, and Mayfield launched a three-run triple in the fourth. Erik Ross added a run in the seventh to provide the winning margin.
Sophomore lefty Dillon Overton gave OU (39-23) a masterful 136-pitch, 81/3-inning outing. However, with the game in hand, the indifference Golloway spoke of reared its head again. Errors by Garrett Carey and Mayfield allowed Virginia to score three times before reliever Kindle Ladd finally shut the door.
There won't be any room for that Monday against the Mountaineers, with two OU wins needed to keep the season alive. It's not the situation Golloway wants for his team but the one the Sooners seem to keep picking.
“It's harder on the coaches; we're getting old,” Golloway said. “But the kids seem to enjoy doing it.”