Sooners Steal Huge Game Against Razorbacks

Every game counts when you can count the number of regular season games left on your schedule on one hand, and the No. 15 baseball team's 5-2 victory over the No. 14 Arkansas Razorbacks last night may have been the essential key to OU's playoff picture.

The Sooners (38-14) are still in the hunt for hosting a regional round of the NCAA tournament in a couple weeks, and this victory was a big stepping stone in attaining that goal, head coach Sunny Golloway said.

"As far as what this is going to mean on a national picture, who knows at this point," Golloway said. "It could be a piece of the puzzle."

OU had the game in hand early because of clutch hitting in the first three innings and a solid start by junior pitcher Michael Rocha.

Rocha, who was making his first start since playing Houston Baptist on March 10, got into some trouble in the first inning by allowing two runners to reach scoring position with just one out, but he struck out back-to-back batters to settle down and establish a groove.

And finding that groove was rewarded in the bottom of the first inning when sophomore third baseman Garrett Buechele connected for a solo shot to plate the game's first run. The Sooners added a run in the second inning on an RBI single by sophomore center fielder Chris Ellison and sophomore right fielder Cody Reine put OU up 3-0 in the third with an RBI single of his own.

"Getting out to an early lead was just a huge confidence boost for our team," said Buechele, who went 3-5 with one RBI. "It's something we haven't been that good at this year, and the fact we were able to do it tonight in a clutch situation like that was really big."

Rocha gave up a run in the fourth inning, but other than that the Razorbacks (38-15) did not have an answer for the right hander. He threw 7 1/3 innings, gave up the one run, surrendered six hits and struck out seven batters.

"I just made it simple," Rocha said. "Every thought in my head on the mound was just look at the glove, hit the glove."

The quality start may have earned Rocha the nod to start OU's opening game of the Big 12 Tournament, Golloway said. The decision has not been finalized, but the outlook of Rocha starting the first game look good.

The Sooners plated two runs in the fifth inning on RBI singles by sophomore catcher Tyler Ogle and junior second baseman Danny Black, and OU looked to have the game wrapped up with the 5-1 lead.

Sophomore shortstop Caleb Bushyhead collected his only hit of the game during the fifth inning to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.

Three relievers combined to throw the final five outs, and Ryan Duke recorded all three outs in the ninth innings on strikeouts. Duke allowed an RBI single in the final frame, but did his job to close out the game.

He wasn't credited with a save, which would have tied him for the OU career saves record because he entered the ninth inning with a four-run lead.

The win not only helped the Sooners' RPI, it also helped erase any memory of being dismantled by the Razorbacks in last year's regional round to knock OU out of the playoffs.

The Sooners return to L. Dale Mitchell Park at 2 p.m. today to take on the Texas Southern Tigers in a make-up game to replace one of the snow-outs against Baylor. The game was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. but was moved up five hours due to inclement weather that's supposed to come through Norman.

The home game will be OU's last before heading to Lawrence, Kan., to take on the Kansas Jayhawks in the final Big 12 series before the conference tournament.

"It's just a big win for us," Rocha said. "It's getting us started going into playoffs, and we're not going to stop from here."

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories