Norman — In their most dominating performance of the season, 13th-ranked Oklahoma showed no mercey for top-ranked Rice whipping the Owls 15-3 and ending their 14-game winning streak in front of 2,657 fans, the largest crowd seen at Dale Mitchell Park in years.
The Sooners pounded 14 hits and were led by sophomore Joe Dunigan. OU's designated hitter hit two mammoth home runs to right field, his second and third homers of the year, en route to finishing with three hits on the night driving in three runs as well.
"Our kids really played well and the atmosphere was great. I commented before the game hoping that our fans would show up," said OU Head Coach Sunny Golloway following the game. "They gave us a Super Regional type atmosphere and I really think that is what that was. The fans poured out, they were all over the burms and our kids played really well in front of a great crowd.
"I thought (Ryan) Mottern did a great job on the mound giving us a good start there. The wind was blowing in and we knew that it was going to be tough on the hitters, but our guys found a way to keep the ball out of the air, and then Big Joe decided to put a couple in the air. He got it going good for us."
Dunigan has tremendous power, but the coaches have been working all year trying to get the power hitter to lift the ball just a little, so some of his line drives that go off or just in front the wall start going over the wall like they did tonight.
"You are exactly right. Joe lets the ball get deep in the zone so he hits a lot of balls on the line and some more on the ground," said Golloway. "He usually hits them hard so it has been good for him. We always knew if he could get his foot down a little bit earlier and get the barrell out in front that he was going to catch some on the upside, and that is exactly what he did tonight.
For Dunigan, it was his biggest offensive night as a Sooner. And he admits the coaches suggestions paid off.
"It has been pretty much all season that they (coaches) have been trying to tell me to get my foot down early and to just see the ball," said Dunigan following the game. "That is because I have hands fast enough to get to it. The first homer was pretty far inm and I just turned on it and kept it fair some how. The second (home run) I was actually looking fastball away, because they were throwing me pitches away, and I kind of leaned over and kind of yanked one."
Sooner senior shortstop Freddy Rodriguez was also outstanding at the plate going 4-for-4 driving in three runs and scoring two. Rodriguez was also sensational in the field making several outstanding plays to help the Sooners' pitching cause.
"I think we played very well defensively tonight," said Rodriguez. "Our goal is to always make the routine plays and we certainly did that tonight, which really helped our pitchers, who were competiting as hard as they could. We also made a couple of outstanding plays in the field and I think our defense was outstanding. This was also our best offensive game of the year. Joe really sparked our offense and I am happy that I was able to do well offensively."
Mottern drew the start and was outstanding in 5.1 of work getting the win (3-1). In all, he gave up six hits, two runs, both earned, two walks while striking out three.
"We really are putting things together at the right time," said Mottern following the game. "We have been this good from the start, and I think people will start to realize that. This game is a huge stepping stone as far as that goes. Everybody is going to look at this game and go 'wow.' Did they really just do that?"
What does this win do for the 13th-ranked Sooners, especially in the all important RPI?
"It is going to go a long ways," said Golloway. "There have only been a few teams that have been able to defeat them and those teams are ranked pretty high. I think that will go a long ways with the committee and improve our RPI, because they have a quality program and they are ranked No. 1. The thing we have to focus on that gives us confidence that we can compete nationally with anybody. We do have a chance to get to Omaha. We have to come back tomorrow and really work hard and get better."
Junior Aaron Ivey also had two hits, hitting a double, driving in two runs and scoring two runs. Senior Russell Raley had two hits and drove in one run, and freshman Brandon Moss pinch-hit with a triple to drive in two runs.
Mottern was followed by senior John Brownell and sophomore Brad Burns, and then senior Will Savage earned the save with 2.1 innings of work, giving up one hit and striking out one.
"It was a mid-week game, but we threw some quality arms at them. We had some arm strength on the mound, with a couple of guys running it up there 90-plus, and they had at least three of their five running it up there 90 plus. You have to tip your cap to the hitters, because again the wind is blowing in. They had arm strength on the mound and I still thought we really competed well offensively."
The Sooners are now 29-10 on the year while Rice drops to 32-9. They will travel to Texas Tech for a three-game series starting on Friday.
OU-Rice Box Score
OU pounds top-ranked Rice, 15-3
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