After emerging from a bubble team late in the season to one that was a lock for the NCAA Tournament and won the Charlottesville Regional with four victories in two days, one over top-seeded Virginia, they couldn’t quite get over the hump and make the next step, ending at 42-25 overall.
“We lost 25 games [in 2012] and we went toe-to-toe with a team that has won back-to-back national championships,” said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. “I think it’s a tribute to the young men that represent the University of Oklahoma baseball team. It’s hard to lose that many games and get this far. I am extremely proud.”
In a game that spanned nearly 23 hours, including a day postponement, the Gamecocks were able to finally strike first blood to break a scoreless tie in the top of the seventh.
An errant throw by Sooner first baseman Evan Mistich on a sacrifice bunt by left fielder Tanner English allowed the game’s first run to come across, and a wild pitch by closer Steven Okert, who relieved yesterday’s starter, Jonathan Gray, paved the way for South Carolina to make it 2-0.
Mistich got half of that back on his RBI single in the bottom half, but the Sooners could get no more, stranding one of their eight base runners in the contest.
South Carolina added three more in the eighth, including one on English’s second beautiful bunt of the day, this time a successful safety squeeze single, and two on second baseman Chase Vergason’s two-run double to the left center gap.
“Give South Carolina credit,” Golloway said. “They put the ball on the carpet and forced the issue. They can beat you in a number of different ways.”
OU went quietly in both the eighth and ninth.
The Sooners’ best chance came in the first inning after resumption, the bottom of the sixth, when they had the sacks juiced with two outs.
But right fielder Cody Reine, who got ahead in the count 2-0, eventually flew out on a 2-2 pitch, the 10th offering of the at bat.
OU also left a pair on in the third and one each in the seventh, eighth and ninth.
It mustered just three hits in the game, and Mistich led the way, going 1-for-2 with an RBI.
Okert (9-8) was tagged with the loss after surrendering four earned runs on six hits and two walks in four innings.
South Carolina pitcher Tyler Webb (6-1) earned the win, while closer Matt Price picked up his 11th save of the season and career-leading 41st for South Carolina.
Both starters, Gray and Holmes, were stuck with no decisions after the postponement.
Gray struck out a game-high eight.
“I was really proud of Jonathan’s effort,” Golloway said. “Especially to come back out after the first rain delay.”
The Sooners return a number of players next year, including him as one of their two big horses on the mound.
“We are going to hang our hat on the fact that we have Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton back next year,” Golloway said. “There will be a time for Oklahoma baseball to be reckoned with. It won’t be today. Today is about South Carolina.”
The Gamecocks head to Omaha on a 21-game postseason winning streak, three of which have now come against the Sooners.
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