Sooners Set For Super Regional

The No. 11 baseball team is two wins away from reaching its first College World Series since 1995, but it must get past the No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville, Va., starting Saturday if it wants to accomplish that goal.

The Sooners (47-15) have a lot of work to do if they want to be crowned Super Regional champions.

The Cavaliers (50-12) are a juggernaut at home. They have a 33-5 record at home, including a 3-1 record during last weekend's Regional round.

What makes this Virginia team so dominant is that it's a well balanced team. The Cavaliers' pitching staff has a 3.76 ERA and Virginia is hitting .334 at the plate and has scored 515 runs.

The Cavaliers are sending two tough pitchers to the mound for the first two games of the series. Sophomore Danny Hultzen (10-1, 2.83 ERA), a lefty, will start Saturday and right-hander junior Robert Morey (9-3, 3.72 ERA) will start Sunday.

The offensive lineup doesn't have too much power – it only hit 58 homers in 62 games – but it makes up for that by using speed. Cavalier base runners have stolen 92 bases in 116 attempts and move runners from base-to-base to produce runs.

But the Sooners won't be fazed by Virginia's stature. They have been a team that wasn't expected to match the numbers or success that last year's squad produced, but they've exceeded everyone's expectations except their own by finding different ways to win.

OU can blow teams out, but at this point of the season it is going to have to rely on what made it successful during the Regional round, winning close games. The Sooners won all three of their Regional games by a combined three runs, two of those wins came in extra innings, and have come from behind to win 26 games despite being a high-octane offensive team.

Senior pitcher Michael Rocha (7-1, 3.50 ERA) and junior pitcher Zach Neal (8-3, 4.42) will be on the mound for head coach Sunny Golloway.

Rocha has had three straight good starts after spending most of the season in the bullpen. He earned a big victory over Arkansas to solidify a spot in the starting rotation but didn't earn a decision against Kansas and Oral Roberts despite being on top of his game in both starts.

Neal is coming off one of his best starts of the season by going eight innings and striking out 10 Oral Roberts batters in the Regionals. He didn't earn a decision in the game, but he proved his ankle isn't bothering him too much anymore and he can record outs both on his own and by depending on his defense.

Junior pitcher Bobby Shore or freshman pitcher Jack Mayfield will start Monday's game if needed, and Shore is the more likely of the two to start. Shore is coming off a career performance that earned him the Regional round's Most Outstanding Player honor.

The first pitch of the best-of-three series is slated for 2 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU. The second game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday on ESPN and a decisive third game (if needed) will be at either noon or 6 p.m. Monday on ESPN2.


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