The come-from-behind victory was OU’s 25th of the season and it advanced the Sooners into the winners bracket. But the late-inning heroics could have been avoided.
OU (45-15) got out to a 3-0 lead before the Golden Eagles (35-26) got on the scoreboard.
Sophomore shortstop Caleb Bushyhead singled in sophomore right fielder Cody Reine and freshman left fielder Max White drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the second inning. In the third inning, junior second baseman Danny Black scored from second when he advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored when the throw to third ended up in left field.
Senior pitcher Michael Rocha was rolling through the first four innings, but he hit a wall in the fifth inning.
He gave up a solo homer to Oral Roberts junior left fielder Chris Elder in the fifth inning, but the Sooners’ offense responded with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to extend its lead to four runs.
Sophomore catcher Tyler Ogle doubled in the inning’s first run, and he was later plated by Black’s two-out single.
But Rocha couldn’t hold onto the 5-1 lead. He allowed the first two batters of the sixth inning to reach base and gave up a three-run blast to junior shortstop Tyler Saladino to cut the lead to one run.
The next batter doubled to put the game-tying run in scoring position and knock Rocha out of the game. Head coach Sunny Golloway called upon senior pitcher Jeremy Erben to shut things down.
Like Rocha, Erben struggled in the sixth. He gave up a two-run homer to the first batter he faced to give the Golden Eagles both the 6-5 lead and the momentum.
Rocha’s day ended after throwing five-plus innings and allowing five runs on seven hits.
Erben settled down after the homer and retired the next six batters he faced, but the offense couldn’t get anything going.
“One of the things the coaching staff and I continue to say is ‘Hey, stay positive, we trained for this and don’t panic,’” Golloway said.
And Golloway’s words resonated with his players, especially Reine.
With one out in the eighth inning and OU still trailing by one run, Reine drove a two-strike pitch over the right field wall to tie the game. He knew the pitcher was pounding the inside corner, so he backed off the plate and waited for a pitch he could drive, Reine said.
The homer tied the game 6-6 heading into the ninth, and the clutch hit was Reine’s second in almost two weeks.
Oral Roberts almost took the lead in the ninth inning, but Black saved junior pitcher Ryan Duke from earning his first loss of the season.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Black dove and stopped a hard ground ball that was hit back through the box and would have rolled into center field to plate a run. The hustle play set up a bases loaded situation, but Duke escaped the inning unscathed with a ground out.
“Coach kind of just trained us to knock everything down when there’s runners on; trying to keep runners from scoring,” Black said. “So I was just trying to keep it in the infield, and I was fortunate enough to be able to stop it and let Duke get the last out.”
The Sooners couldn’t end the game in the ninth inning, and Duke threw a scoreless 10th inning to set up Ellison’s bases-loaded heroics to win the game. The walk-off hit was Ellison’s second of the season while the bases were loaded.
OU awaits tonight’s matchup between North Carolina and California and will play the winner at 7 p.m. tomorrow.
If the Sooners win the second game, they’ll play the winner of an elimination game to try to move on to the super regionals. If they lose, then they’ll have to fight to win out to advance.
No. 1 OU 7, No. 4 Oral Roberts 6 (10)
No. 3 North Carolina v. No. 2 California, 7 p.m.
No. 4 Oral Roberts v. Loser of Game 2
No. 1 OU v. Winner of Game 2
Winner of Game 3 v. Loser of Game 4, 1 p.m.
Winner of Game 4 v. Winner of Game 5 7 p.m.
Monday’s Schedule (if necessary)
Same teams as Game 6 if undefeated time loses, 7 p.m.
*All rankings are based on regional seeding