With its 5-4 win over No. 2 Oklahoma, third-seeded ASU improved to 40-16 on the season and picked up its first NCAA Tournament win since beating NC State in 10 innings back on May 26, 1973 The Sooners have not won an NCAA Tournament game (five consecutive losses) since an opening game victory in the 2010 CWS.
If you like superb pitching, this was the game to watch for seven innings. Appalachian State’s Ryan Arrowood was dominant. For 6.1 innings Arrowood was unhittable but in the seventh Oklahoma’s Caleb Bushyhead returned a pitch right back up the middle for OU’s first hit of the game. The senior hurler set down nine OU batters via the strikeout, his second highest total of the season. Arrowood issued three base-on-balls but allowed just two hits. Bushyhead who recorded one of the two base knocks Arrowood allowed was clearly impressed.
“[Arrowood] really was on point this evening,” said the OU shortstop. “He was throwing a good mix of pitches and keeping us hitters off balance. Our approach really wasn’t really that great. We were going up there and attacking it, thinking we could do a lot more than we were really capable of. We beat ourselves but you do have to give him credit. He threw the ball really well this evening. Later in the evening, we caught ourselves chasing a lot more pitches. In my opinion, that really hurt us but you have to give him credit.”
Sooner Jordan John was just as solid. The lefty fanned seven, scattered eight hits over eight innings of work and allowed just two earned runs.
“Jordan John was one of the best arms we’ve seen in the past couple years – maybe the best changeup we’ve seen while I’ve been at Appalachian,” said ASU head coach Chris Pollard.
With the win Arrowood improved his record to 11-0 on the season while John fell to 8-7. Ryne Frankoff earned the save, the first of his career.
The Mountaineers opened the scoring in the top half of the third inning. Trey Holmes led off the frame with a double advancing to third on Preston Troutman’s sacrifice bunt. Noah Holmes singled back up the middle to score his brother giving ASU the early 1-0 advantage. With two outs Tyler Zupcic singled to put runners on first and second. Holmes came around to score when John’s fielded Will Callaway’s squibber and his errant throw sailed into foul territory. The inning ended when Zupcic tried to score on the play and was gunned down at home by Sooner right fielder Cody Reine.
With Appalachian state leading 3-0 Oklahoma got on the board with some clutch two-out at-bats. Reine and Max White earned back-to-back walks to bring Evan Mistich to the plate who singled off Arrowood to score Reine and cut the Mountaineer lead back to two.
In the top of the ninth Appalachian tacked on what proved to be a pair of critical insurance runs. Jermey Dowdy opened the inning with lead-off double, advancing to third on a fielding error and scoring on Trey Holmes RBI double. Holmes moved up 90 feet to third on Troutman’s ground out to first and scored ASU’s fifth run of the evening when brother Noah hit a deep fly ball to center field.
But Oklahoma made things interesting in its final at-bat. Bushyhead and Matt Oberste got things started with back-to-back walks and loaded the bases when Mountaineer closer Nathan Hyatt hit Garrett Carey. The Sooners cut the lead to three on Hyatt’s balk and added another run when pinch hitter Chase Simpson grounded out to second to shave the lead to 5-3. Carey scored on a wild pitch but new pitcher Ryne Frankoff managed to get Erik Ross swinging for the second out. That brought White, a First-team all-Big XII honoree to the plate. On a 1-1 count and a runner on first White sent a towering fly ball into right field that Tyler Tewell squeezed for the final out of the game.
In the 38 victories in 2012, OU has come from behind in 18 of those contests. Tonight was not one of those nights.
Appalachian State moves to the winner’s bracket and will play host Virginia at 3 p.m., while Oklahoma drops to the loser’s bracket and will play Army at 11 a.m. in the regional’s first elimination game.
Despite having to come out of the losers bracket to win the regional, coach Golloway did not seem to lack any confidence in his club moving forward.
“Instead of just winning two to move on, we have to win two each day, and we are fit to do that. I wouldn’t be surprised – matter of fact I would be a little shocked if we aren’t playing for it in the end. No disrespect to anybody else but that is just how we are built.”