Oklahoma prevailed to stave off elimination taking Game 3 of the Charlottesville Regional 2-1 in 10 innings over Army. The Black Knights are the first team eliminated from the regional falling to 41-15 on the year.
Game three was an old-school pitchers’ battle as the two staffs surrendered a combined three runs and struck out 13. Jonathan Gray got the start for the Sooner holding Army down for seven complete allowing just a single run on five hits. Gray gave way to Steven Okert (9-7) who tossed three scoreless, striking out five en route to his ninth win of the 2012 campaign. Sooner coach Sunny Golloway admitted he went to Okert earlier than he wanted but said it was the right thing to do based on the situation.
“We went to Okert earlier than we wanted to but we went to Okert when we had too,” said Golloway. “You have to win this game to win the next one and I’m hoping somewhere along the line the dam will break open and we score a bundle of runs and at some point will be able to save a few of these power arms.”
Army’s Logan Lee was just as solid allowing a run on two hits in his seven innings setting down four via strikeout. Lee said he wanted to keep his club in the game and give them a chance to win late.
“I wanted to get the three outs as quickly as possible and get back in the dugout so that the guys can get on base and get runs in,” said Lee. “Lead off walks hurt me a little bit. They led to one run but other than that I thought it was a good game.”
In the top of the eighth the Knights went to one of their two closers, Gunnar Carroll. Carroll entered the regional having posted eight saves and a 2.45 ERA in 51⅓ innings and 21 appearances. Carroll was stellar in the Patriot League championship game hurling three innings of scoreless relief to close out Holy Cross earning the Knight the automatic bid.
It was not the case in this afternoon as Army paid the ultimate price in the top of the tenth when Carroll gave up the game-winner, an RBI single to All Big-12 Sooner outfielder Max White that scored Caleb Bushyhead from second base. Despite the loss Army coach Joe Sottolano said his sophomore closer is a winner.
“With Gunnar, it’s more than just what you see on the field,” Sottolano explained. It’s his leadership and his personality. We feed off his energy. He came into that ball game and pumped strikes from the first pitch all the way through. Things happen. Gunnar Carroll was the right man for the job and if I had to it all over again, that’s who would go in.”
Harold Earls got the Black Knights on the board as Army manufactured a run in the bottom of the fifth. Earls led off the inning with a single and move up 90 feet to second on Matthew Carter’s on-out, sacrifice bunt. The freshman scored on Zach Price’s RBI single.
Oklahoma responded in the top of the sixth as White drew a lead-off walk and advanced to third following a sacrifice bunt and a balk. Evan Mistich grounded out to second for the second out but that was enough to push White over for the run to notch the score at one.
The win was the Sooners first in its last six NCAA Tournament games, a point not lost on his team according to Golloway.
“We’ve been riding a little negative wave,” said Galloway. “It wasn’t really talked about because it was getting to be a pretty big monkey, maybe a gorilla on our back but we have lost two College World Series [in 2010], lost two last year and we lost the first one here. We’ve had a five game losing streak in the NCAA.”
Oklahoma will face the Virginia Cavaliers at 7:30 Sunday night in an elimination game. Virginia lost 6-5 to Appalachian State in game four.