Top's Not on Top of Their Game

OMAHA, Neb. – The first three hitters in a team's lineup set the tone for the game, and the tone that Oklahoma's one-through-three-hole hitters set was a slow one.

Center fielder Chris Ellison, left fielder Max White and third baseman Garrett Buechele combined to go 1-for-14 with five strikeouts in the Sooners' (50-17) 6-4 loss to the Clemson Tigers. The only hit the three had came when Ellison singled through the left side of the infield in the ninth inning to try to start a rally.

And the lack of production from those three players isn't anything new, though. They had two hits and three strikeouts in 10 at-bats against South Carolina in OU's first game at the College World Series.

The reason for their recent struggles was put simply by head coach Sunny Golloway, they're pressing.

"We've got guys trying to do too much," Golloway said. "If we can just calm our guys down and make them understand, hey, it's a collective effort."

Buechele, who leads the team in batting average, home runs and RBIs, seems to be pressing the most. He has only one hit in nine plate appearances during the College World Series – a solo-homer Sunday – and he has struck out twice.

But his struggles have lasted for longer than this two-game period.

Buechele had three hits, including a solo homer that drove in his only run, during the Regional round, and had just one hit against Virginia during Super Regionals. That drove in two runs, but for the most part he was a no-show as the rest of the team picked up the slack.

The biggest sign that showed Buechele was pressing came in the ninth inning when he struck out swinging at a pitch that would have been too high for almost every player's strike zone.

"Garrett wants and wills his team to win; he's such a big part of what we are and why we're here," Golloway said. "We're just trying to calm him down."

White has been held hitless so far in Omaha, but his struggles seem to have translated to more than just poor cuts. Before the game was suspended Tuesday evening, he dropped an easy fly ball with two outs.

The error allowed two runs to score before the inning was over and the Sooners and Tigers were forced to complete their game Wednesday. OU lost by two runs.

One play usually can't, and shouldn't, be pinpointed when figuring out how a game was won or lost, but White's error will stick with him and those who witnessed it for a long time. Still, everyone in the Sooners' dugout is standing by their teammate, and nobody is playing the blaming game.

"We're not a club that's ever blamed each other; we're not going to start now," Golloway said. "We're going to be positive, so mainly let's have a short memory."

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