Second baseman Jack Mayfield’s bases loaded, 3-RBI triple in the bottom of the fourth inning gave Oklahoma (40-23) a four-run lead and the Sooners held on for a 5-4 win. For the second time in three seasons the Oklahoma Sooners eliminate the Virginia Cavaliers (39-19-1) from NCAA post season play.
“I was fortunate to have three runners on base and I just squared up and luckily we found a hole. I was just running hard and made it to third base and just helped my team out any way I could,” Mayfield said.
With the win, OU will face Appalachian State in the regional championship round. The Sooners must win both games Monday to advance to the Super Regional against South Carolina.
Dillion Overton (6-3) dominated a Virginia lineup that led the ACC in hitting this season going 8.1 innings and allowing two earned runs. The southpaw sophomore scattered seven hits and struck out 11 Cavalier hitters. Overton clearly impressed Virginia skipper Brian O’Connor.
“Oklahoma has a really good ball club,” said O’Connor. “Overton was about as good a left-handed pitcher as we have seen all year. He is obviously a really talented young pitcher and has a very bright future.”
Overton said he’s gained confidence over the last few weeks but was quick to credit the play of his defense as well.
“The last few outings I’ve had have been pretty solid. Going out with a lot of confidence is what you need. Especially in times like this. I have confidence with my defense behind me. They struggled a little bit late in the game, but it happens, its baseball. You just have to be tough and obviously everything worked out.”
Kindle Ladd worked the final two outs to earn his second save of the year.
Shane Halley (9-2) got the start for Virginia, his first appearance since May 12 against Georgia Tech where he suffered oblique strain. The senior pitcher lasted three innings allowing three earned runs off four OU hits and striking out four. Halley gave way to Nick Howard who went 3 2/3 and surrendered a run off a hit and three walks.
OU coach Sunny Golloway said he used the down time between the two games to try and figure out which pitcher either potential opponent would throw and Halley’s numbers stood out.
“I looked at Halley’s numbers and, to be honest, hoped he wouldn’t be throwing. I said my goodness, 9-1 and that low ERA and kept asking my coaching staff why this guy didn’t have more starts. We heard news of an oblique injury. He didn’t show any signs of it. He was really good.”
Oklahoma plated the first run of the contest when Matt Oberste lofted the regional’s first home run over the left field bleachers just over the 377 marker.
Virginia scratched in the fifth when Keith Werman reached on an error and scored on Chris Taylor’s RBI double. Taylor was the catalyst offensively for the Hoos going 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored.
OU won both games on Sunday, despite only going 9-of-58 (.155) and were outhit nine to four by Virginia. But Army and Virginia both helped the Sooners as four of Oklahoma seven runs on the day were unearned.
Unearned runs and uncharacteristic mistakes led to Mayfield’s big chance in the fourth. Evan Mistich got things started when he reached when Taylor booted a sharp grounder to short. Matt Oberste got a free pass from Halley and Cody Reine was hit to load the bases. That’s when Mayfield took Halley 1-2 offering into the left center gap.
O’Connor noted his club’s uncharacteristic play and its impact on the game.
“Those are the runs that you never know which one is going to cost you,” he said. “Unfortunately we let a run cross [in the seventh] and it was the run that cost us the ballgame. We certainly were not at our best this weekend and that is in no way meant to take away from Appalachian State and Oklahoma. We play better infield defense that we did this weekend.”
As they did in the earlier game the Hoos did not give up without a fight making things interesting in the ninth.
Nate Irving set the table with a one-out double and scored on Keith Werman single. Taylor singled and both runners advanced on Colin Harrington’s grounder to third. Harrington was out at first on a bang-bang play. Stephen Bruno’s 2 RBI double shaved the Sooner lead to one and put the tying run in scoring position for Derek Fisher. Fisher who entered the at bat 0-14 for the regional hit a harmless ground ball to Mistich at first who threw out Fisher to the covering Ladd to end the game.
The Sooners now prepare for a hot Appy State club and Golloway says his team knows there’s a challenge ahead.
“ If we are going to get to Omaha it’s still going to be a tough road,” said the OU coach. “We have to win four games to get to Omaha, that’s kind of how we look at it. If we are going to get to Omaha we’ve got to win two against Appalachian State and two against [South Carolina]. To do that we are going to have to play defense because that is what our team is built on-pitching and defense.”