COLUMBIA, S.C. — Once again, Oklahoma is on the brink of elimination.Sunday will tell if the Sooners can repeat history and bring themselves back from the abyss.
Seventh-ranked South Carolina beat Oklahoma 5-0 on Saturday in Game 1 of the NCAA Columbia Super Regional, leaving the Sooners one loss from ending their season and, as they were before the game, still two wins from the College World Series.
The two teams will play again at 6 p.m. on Sunday on ESPNU. With a win, the Gamecocks (44-17) will advance to their third straight CWS and have a chance to add a third title to their back-to-back national championships.
Oklahoma is again facing an uphill climb. But that’s nothing new.
“Our backs have been against the wall all year,” shortstop Caleb Bushyhead said. “I don’t see why this is any different.”
The Sooners had to win four games in two days at the Charlottesville Regional just to get to the Super Regional, and did so. OU doesn’t have to worry about saving pitchers or playing for the next day, because as it was last week, there is no tomorrow.
“We’ll battle,” coach Sunny Golloway said. “We’ll give it everything we’ve got.”
OU starter Jordan John (8-8) got into immediate trouble, walking Adam Matthews to start the second inning. Erik Payne singled to get Matthews to third, and LB Dantzler doubled to start a three-run outburst.
A wild pitch scored Payne, and Chase Vergason’s sacrifice fly plated Dantzler for a quick 3-0 lead. Golloway, seeking to control the damage, lifted John and had potential Game 3 starter Dillon Overton relieve to start the third inning.
Overton shut down the Gamecocks, but the Sooners (42-24) couldn’t solve USC’s Michael Roth (7-1). He held Oklahoma to six hits through 7 2/3 innings, and Overton was touched for two two-out runs in the seventh to make it 5-0.
By then, it was much too late. The Sooners had their chances, but Roth, throwing the last home game of his All-American career, was simply too good.
Two one-out singles in the second turned into two straight outs. A leadoff single in the third became a popped-up bunt attempt and then a double play. Two two-out runners in the fourth resulted in a fouled-out flare to right.
The Sooners were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and got one runner to third base. Max White reached on a single and raced to third on a two-base error, but stayed there when Bushyhead flied out to center.
“He had a little deception here and there,” Bushyhead said. “Our guys were chasing pitches out of the zone. We weren’t getting hits at the right time. We just never came through in the clutch.”
“You know what? I still think, as much as we wanted to win, it’s poetic justice for him to have that kind of outing,” Golloway said. “He didn’t let us have the hit when we needed it.”
The Sooners are expected to send sophomore right-hander Jonathan Gray (8-4, 3.32 ERA) to the mound for Game 2. He will be opposed by USC’s Colby Holmes.