Sooners seek return to super regional
Eli Hull, The Oklahoma Daily
The No. 11 OU baseball team looks to continue its hot streak when the Sooners open play in NCAA regional action beginning Friday.
The No. 1-seeded Sooners (44-15), who had their eight-game win streak snapped in their second game of the Big 12 Championship, will take on in-state rival Oral Roberts (35-25) at 1 p.m. in the opening game of the Norman Regional at L. Dale Mitchell Baseball Park.
The game between the Sooners and the No. 4-seeded Golden Eagles will be followed by No. 2-seed Cal (29-23) taking on No. 3-seed North Carolina (36-20) in the night game at 7 p.m.
OU is making its 33rd appearance in the NCAA tournament, and fifth under head coach Sunny Golloway.
“We are playing our best baseball of the year,” Golloway said. “After the Big 12 Tournament, winning two out of three, we treated that just like a Big 12 weekend. We called it a success.”
“We were disappointed not to play in the championship game this year, but that’s just how it fell this year.”
OU has won nine of its last 10 games, with its only loss coming to Baylor in round-robin action during the conference tournament on May 28.
The Sooners are also 17-4 since April 24, when the Sooners defeated Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, to begin their season-ending hot streak. During that span, OU has outscored its opponents 192-89.
Sophomore third baseman Garrett Buechele said playing in regionals at home was one of the payoffs of a successful regular season.
“It’s one of the goals we set it out at the beginning of the year,” he said. “It’s just really nice to see us accomplish it.”
The Sooners are 22-6 overall in Norman, with three of the losses coming to No. 2 national seed Texas.
Oral Roberts is coming off its 13th-consecutive Summit League tournament title, the third-longest streak of conference championships in NCAA history.
The Golden Eagles will be led by junior shortstop Tyler Saladino, who was named the conference Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year in his first season at ORU.
Saladino finished the regular season batting .388 overall with 17 home runs, 71 RBI and 14 stolen bases. In 28 Summit League games, Saladino hit a league-best .491 while collecting at least one hit in every game.
The winner of the Norman Regional will move on to face the winner of the Charlottesville, Va., Regional, which features Virginia Commonwealth, Ole Miss, St. John’s and No. 5 national seed Virginia.
The Super Regional matchup will be held June 11-14 at an undecided location.