“I think the key was throwing strikes early in the count and making them swing the bat,” Smith said. “I really didn't have that many strikeouts. The defense behind me made some great plays when they needed to and I just tried to be efficient with my pitches."
Because of that, Smith cruised through the first seven innings, allowing just four base runners on a pair of hits and walks.
He was roughed up for a run in the eighth but battled back to keep the lead, and closer Ryan Duke finished it off by winning a two-out battle against designated hitter Bo Altobelli, who lined out to third baseman Garrett Buechele.
And so the Sooners’ regional hosting hopes stay alive for another day.
"We've got nothing to lose, as of right now,” said first baseman Cameron Seitzer. “We're just going out and playing hard and competing. Honestly, we don't care where we play, we're going to take it to whoever if we're at home, we're going to take it to them if we're away. We're just going to go out there and play to the best of our abilities."
But they’ll have to win three more to get to the tournament championship in order to fully secure a regional host, another huge reason why Smith’s performance was crucial.
"I think it's going to be huge, I really do,” said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. “We've got to make a decision on tomorrow. We've got Dillon Overton that's a really good left hander that can start for us, and we've also got Bobby Shore who's healthy and wants the ball now. What it gives us is whole new life and we weren't going to have that.
“Not only did we have to win, but if we didn't get a good start, we would've used Shore; we would've pitched anybody and everybody because there's no tomorrow in this tournament. You want guys to throw so that they don't have to wait until next week potentially."
Buechele put the Sooners on the board in the top of the third when he successfully hit a sacrifice fly that scored second baseman Cale Ellis.
First baseman Cameron Seitzer added a solo homer into the right field bullpen an inning later to make it 2-0 Sooners.
OU added one more in the top of the fifth when right fielder Elliott Blair came home on a bases-loaded balk.
Back-to-back singles from Blair and left fielder Casey Johnson, followed by a hit by pinch for Buechele, loaded up the bases for that opportunity.
But the Sooners couldn’t push across anything more than that, as catcher Tyler Ogle lined out to the third baseman, and after the Red Raiders intentionally walked Seitzer, designated hitter Evan Mistich grounded into an unassisted double play on a terrific play by the Tech third baseman, who quickly tossed the ball over to first.
"With bases loaded, we got the balk called and get on second and third and we don't end up scoring,” Golloway said. “We hit the line drive at third base, granted it took a great play, and we hit the bouncer that the third baseman makes a great play. He made great plays on both those. We just have to get the ball airborne right there. That's one or two more runs that makes it a little easier towards the tail end. That's kind of the difference, it's just one hit, one execution, one fly ball here or there."
It was scoreless from that point on until the bottom of the eighth when the Red Raiders finally broke through Smith.
Designated hitter Bo Altobelli singled to lead off the inning, and center fielder Barrett Barnes and second baseman Nick Popescu recorded consecutive two-out singles to bring him home and cut the Sooner lead to 3-1.
However, the Red Raiders couldn’t claw any closer, stranding runners at the corners on a flyout to center, and they came short in the ninth when Buechele snared Altobelli’s hard-hit ball headed towards the left field corner.
The Sooners now await the winner of Texas A&M and Kansas State and will play at 7 p.m. Friday.
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