Baseball: Off to a Nice Start

The Sooners (6-1) swept a four-game series against the San Diego State Aztecs in San Diego last weekend, and they are returning from Jacksonville, Fla., after winning two-of-three games in the Jacksonville Tournament this past weekend.

Head coach Sunny Golloway couldn't ask for a better way for his No. 20 baseball team to start the season.

OU started the tournament with a 12-9 victory over Valparaiso. The Sooners were in line to win that game easily, but pitchers junior Zach Neal and senior Michael Rocha combined to give up six runs in the seventh inning to tie the game at 9-9.

Senior pitcher Jeremy Erben pitched 1 2/3 hit-less innings, which gave OU's bats enough time to wake back up. The Sooners struck for three runs in the eighth inning before junior pitcher Ryan Duke recorded the final three outs for his third save of the season.

Duke's save increases his career saves total to 19, just nine saves behind the OU career saves record of 28 saves held by former pitcher Jeff Bajenaru. Bajenaru was the Sooners' closer in 1999 and 2000.

The Sooners' bats did not stay hot in the second game of the tournament, though. After jumping out to a 2-0 second-inning lead, the Jacksonville Dolphins' pitch staff held OU scoreless for the next five innings and held it to a season-low nine hits en route to handing the Sooners their first loss of the season.

The Dolphins scored four runs on four hits in the fourth and fifth innings off senior pitcher J.R. Robinson. OU was able to score a meaningless run in the eighth inning and lost 4-3.

The Sooners were able to bounce back from the loss with an 11-3 victory over the Richmond Spiders by jumping out to a seven-run lead through four innings behind the arm of junior pitcher Bobby Shore. Shore pitched four innings, allowing one hit and striking out eight batters before Golloway pulled him because the team had such a big lead.

The bullpen allowed two runs in the fifth inning before OU scored three of its own in the final three innings.

Sophomore third baseman Garrett Buechele had a big series at the plate for the Sooners, collecting seven hits in 13 at-bats while driving in five runs. Four of Buechele's RBIs came on a grand slam home run in the series opener.

Erben was the Sooners' leading pitcher during the weekend with two solid outings. He threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings over the weekend while allowing the one hit in the first game and striking out eight batters.

Erben also was credited with the win in the series opener, which was the second of the season and the third of his career.

Now that the seven-game road trip to start the season is over, the Sooners will take on the Texas-Arlington Mavericks at 3 p.m. Tuesday at L. Dale Mitchell Park. Freshman pitcher Ryan Gibson is schedule to make his second start in the crimson and cream.

Gibson was credited with a win in his first start against the Aztecs on Feb. 20 by throwing five shutout innings and striking out nine batters.

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