A Dream Day for Duke

After what happened 10 months ago to Sooner closer Ryan Duke, tying the school saves record in the way that he did couldn't have come any sweeter.

Yesterday, June 21, wasn't just any ordinary day or setting for Duke to record No. 28, matching a mark set by Jeff Bajenaru back in the 2000 season, and he was fully aware of that.

"Yeah, definitely [it was special]," Duke said. "I told my guys that today is Father's Day. And my dad passed away in August, so it was extra special, you know, getting to do it on Father's Day at the College World Series in the last year, so I mean it was really special to me."

And perhaps it wouldn't have happened had his older brother Jason, a former baseball player at Texas, not mentored him along the way.

He provided the right motivation and showed him the way at times.

Ryan credits his older brother for making him bring a more businesslike approach to his pitching game, as Ryan admits there were times when his older brother would get onto him after smiling when striking out batters.

"He just [did] because I struck a guy out, and he said that I looked a little cocky and that I was like better than the game or something like that," Ryan said.

And that's not something the 5-foot-11, 180 lb. hurler takes lightly.

"Coaches talk about respecting the game, too," Ryan said. "And I just have that mindset that I have to do what I'm supposed to do and just play ball pretty much."

So with those two key motivating factors, his father's recent passing and brother's constant support, Ryan was able to get through a pressure cooker of a ninth last night.

"But I mean, you know, I try not to think about it," Ryan said. "I mean, I didn't want to make it feel like it was any different. I came in with two guys on and nobody out, but I mean it's just I got to make it seem like the same thing over and over, so I mean it's good to get it out of the way, and hopefully I'll get another one."

And the thing that defines him is just that, how calm and collected he is in those tense situations.

"I think it makes me focus a little bit more knowing that I've got to take every pitch like it has a point," Ryan said. "You know, like I said, I had to throw around [Jackie Bradley Jr.] and then throw first pitch strikes to the other three batters, especially with that guy blocking, so I mean the stage and everything, it doesn't really affect me. I was telling my brother earlier in the day that I didn't even notice the stands. I just saw the mitt and tried to do what I do best, and we ended up getting the win.

If he does that another or perhaps a couple more times, not only will he be the lone leader in saves at OU, but the Sooners could have their third national championship alongside it as well.

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