Trailing 5-1 going into the bottom of the fourth, the Sooners responded with 10 unanswered runs over the next five innings and Daniel McCutchen took care of business on the mound in an 11-5 win over Rice in Game 2 of the Super Regionals Sunday in Houston.
With the win, Oklahoma ended the Owls' 14-game winning streak, but more importantly they forced a third and deciding game on at 12 p.m. Monday for a berth in the College World Series. The game will be televised on ESPN.
"I'm just extremely proud how we came out and fought," said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. "I can't say enough for our offense the way we fought back and got the big five-run inning. That was a key."
"We were tetering on the cliff just a bit. I think until you've really played those elimination games, it's tough. You go back and we have won four straight elimination games in Norman, and then won one here. We have faced elimination five times in the NCAA tournament and we've won all five. Our guys have faced that adversity and they have played through it."
In all, the Sooners ripped 16 hits, including clutch home runs in a four-run seventh by Ryan Rohlinger and Kody Kaiser. OU knocked Rice starter Bobby Bell, who came into the game with an 8-0 record, out in the fourth inning.
"We're are not going to sit there and hit a lot of home runs," Golloway said. "I think already they (Rice) have hit six to our two. Rolly's (Ryan Rohlinger) was big, don't get me wrong, but we're built on hitting line drives up the middle and trying to hit the ball in the four and six holes and just run.
"You want to try to put some pressure on them. We had some really good first to third moves where we hit the ball in the hole. We got to run behind it and go first to third to keep some things going.
"Our guys are not trying to do anything special. They are just trying to go up there and put a good swing on it and hit it hard. That's what we control — trying to hit a pitch hard. If you simplify it it makes it easier. I think our hitting coach, Tim Tadlock, has done a great job as far as that goes."
On the mound, it was another gutsy performance by McCutchen.
McCutchen gave up solo home runs in the second and third, and a poorly fielded fly to center on what should've been a routine play with two outs led to three more runs for the Owls in the fourth. However, the Sooners scored five in the bottom of the fourth and McCutchen re-took the mound on a mission throwing shutout ball over the last five innings.
The senior from Norman ended the game with nine strikeouts and retired 14 straight Rice batters from the end of the fourth inning until one out in the ninth.
"Daniel (McCutchen) left a couple of balls over the plate and they got a couple of solo home runs, but I thought he showed tremendous courage coming back," Golloway said. "Right away, the hitters that he faced after giving up the home runs set the tone for the rest of the day for us defensively, as far as on the mound and in the infield."
McCutchen, however, said it was the offense that helped get his game kickstarted.
"I can't say enough about our offense. They have been banging the ball," McCutchen said. "The guys that are hitting have shown that they can dominate at this level. And to be able to go out there, being down four runs, and put the ball in play like that and hit missiles all over the field, it was great. It gave me a lot of confidence on the mound."
So how does a pitcher go from giving up five runs in four innings, to retiring 14 straight hitters on the No. 1 ranked team in the country?
"I just got into a zone," said McCutchen. "I was forcing contact and when I needed a strikeout I was striking the guy out. They were jumping on a lot of pitches early, and that was good for me with the defnese that I have behind me. That let me go the complete game without even getting my pitch count high.
"I just went out there after the lead and tried to pitch like I always do. I know that I have a great defense behind me and if I let them put the ball in play, odds are it's going to be all in my favor."
At the plate, the Sooners were led by senior third baseman Ryan Rohlinger. Rohlinger followed his three-hit performance Saturday with a 3-for-4 effort today, inlcuding a home run, two RBI and two runs scored.
The Sooners and Owls will now play a third and deciding Game 3 on Monday for a trip to Omaha.
Rice head coach Wayne Graham said junior righthander Craig Crow (8-1, 3.08 ERA) will start for the Owls. Golloway said he will either start sophomore Ryan Mottern (4-2, 7.54 ERA) or sophomore Brad Burns (0-0, 8.38 ERA).
OU-Rice Box Score