Baseball Team Takes Two of Three in Lincoln

A good weekend ended in embarrassment for the No. 9 baseball team in its series against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Neb., as the Sooners won two of three games in their first road series during conference play.

Everything seemed to click during the first two games of the series, games that the Sooners (20-3, 3-1) won 10-2 and 4-1. Head coach Sunny Golloway got good starting pitching from junior pitchers Zach Neal and Bobby Shore and hitters came up with timely at-bats and run production that Nebraska pitchers had not allowed at Hawks field prior to this series.

Neal was coming off a rocky start against Baylor a week ago, and was facing questions on whether he was the right choice to be named the team's Friday night starter at the beginning of the season. He answered those questions with a resounding yes Friday night.

Neal threw seven solid innings, allowed one run and gave up four hits. But the most impressive thing about the right hander was his strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Neal, who was such an important offseason pickup for the simple fact that he did not walk anyone, lived up to his preseason hype by striking out 11 batters without allowing a batter to reach base via a free pass.

Was Friday's start against Nebraska a sign of things to come for Neal? Sooner fans can only hope so now that OU is entering the toughest part of its schedule with the No. 7 Texas Longhorns coming to L. Dale Mitchell Park at the end of the week.

Shore was just about as dominating as Neal without having the same caliber of a stat line.

Shore lasted just five innings, but it was his high pitch count that knocked him out early despite giving up just one run on seven hits and striking out four batters.

Shore benefited from one of the best bullpens in the nation Saturday. Senior pitcher Jeremy Erben threw three shutout innings, his 22nd in a row, and junior pitcher Ryan Duke threw a perfect ninth inning to record his eighth save of the year and 24th of his career.

The Sooners did have their hitting spread around the lineup during the first two games, but freshman right fielder Max White just about solidified his spot in the starting lineup with his performance at the plate. White collected four hits in seven plate appearances with five RBIs during OU's two victories, but was held hitless, like most of his teammates in the series finale.

Then again, nobody performed well in the Sooners' 10-0 run-rule loss Sunday.

Freshman pitcher Ryan Gibson lasted just one inning on the mound and gave up three runs and every pitcher Golloway put in did not slow down Nebraska's hitters. The Cornhuskers scored in every inning they stepped to the plate except their last.

OU's hitters did not fare any better. The Sooners were held to three hits, all of which were singles in the fifth inning.

The only time the OU threatened to score a run was when hitters flied out to the warning track on multiple occasions. Otherwise, this team had nothing going for them on offense.

Sunday's performance will have to be a thing of the past if the Sooners want to find success this week.

Not only do they turn right back around and play a five-game home stand in five days, they have to face the No. 7 Texas Longhorns, the only team in the Big 12 who is ranked higher than the Sooners. Texas is 18-6 overall and 4-2 in the Big 12, winning both of its conference series against Nebraska and Texas Tech 2-1.

But before OU can square off in the Red River Rivalry, it must get past the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions in a two-game, midweek set. The first pitch is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, and the series with the Longhorns is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday with the first game of the series starting at 6:30 p.m.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories