NORMAN – Alex Wise stepped into the right-handed batters box looking to erase a full game worth of struggles for the Oklahoma Sooners, who recorded just one hit with runners on base through the first 26 outs.
A season surrounded by question marks opened with a bit of a whimper for the Oklahoma Sooners when Wise lined out to short to end the game. A team tasked with replacing an NCAA-leading 11 draft picks from last season looked every bit fresh-faced as the 21 new players would indicate.
With two freshmen, two seniors who missed most of last season with injuries and a player who hadn’t played in a live game in two years in the starting lineup, Oklahoma couldn’t manage much off at all in a 3-2 loss in the season opener Friday night against Northeastern.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting two-out hits and when we have runners in scoring position,” Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes said. “. . . That was the story of the game: Two-out, two strike situations. They out produced us in that area. That’s why the game was won.”
Northeastern starting pitcher Aaron Civale kept Oklahoma in check for the first seven innings, allowing just two runs and striking out eight, with a dominant cutter.
Unable to come up with a big hit, Oklahoma (0-1) went 1-for-13 with runners on base and had two hits in an inning only twice – scoring just one run in both innings. The bottom five in Oklahoma’s lineup, which included four players in their first game with the Sooners, went 2-for-17 with seven strikeouts.
Cody Thomas, a former Oklahoma quarterback, started at designated hitter for the Sooners in his first live action since 2014, when he had just 12 at-bats. After almost two years off, Thomas struck out three times.
Oklahoma stranded four runners on base in the final two innings.
“It’s just timing in general,” Oklahoma shortstop Sheldon Neuse said of playing early in the year. “. . . You get out here and it’s a different game.”
Oklahoma, which lost its season opener for the second time in three seasons, continues play against Northeastern with a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday.
The Sooners put together a ninth-inning rally after Kyle Mendenhall reached on a one-out single and advance to second base on a passed ball. Wise, who scored the first run of the season, couldn’t bring him home and send the game to extra innings.
“We had a great quality at-bat at the end of the game, we just hit it right at the guy,” Hughes said. “We have to score more than two runs.”