June 4, 2012; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners bench writes inspiration in the dirt during the 7th inning of game seven of the Charlottesville regional against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Davenport Field. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Laferriere-US PRESSWIRE
Oklahoma certainly had it's fair share of ups and downs heading into the post season. A team that was once expected to compete with the top teams in the nation fell off the map. Their disappearance was then followed up by a surprise appearance in the Big XII Championship game after sweeping the conference's best in the Baylor Bears. While many thought this was enough to get them into NCAA Regional play, the chances of advancing were slim to none after losing the opening game. Through thick and thin, this team stuck together eventually winning the Charlottesville Regional along with a shot to play two-time defending national champs, the South Carolina Gamecocks. With their winning streak on the line and a shot at playing in Omaha once again, the Gamecocks downed the Sooners 2-0 in the series putting an end to the great finish on the season Oklahoma displayed.
Jordan John took the mound as the starter in game one. Usually a solid option no matter where he comes in the rotation at, John saw only two innings of action as the South Carolina Gamecocks plated three runs on two hits. L.B. Dantzler knocked an RBI-double to bring the first run in. Next up to bat was Chase Vergason who received a wild pitch that slide by allowing the second runner to score. Later in the at bat, Vergason would drive home Dantzler on a sac-fly leaving the Sooners in a 3-0 hole early after two innings.
For the Gamecocks, they could not have asked for a better performance out of starting pitcher Michael Roth who had only lost a single game all season long. Roth pitched 7.2 innings of shut-out baseball while allowing six hits. Of those six hits, two runner advanced to scoring position yet the clutch hitting never came through.
Dillon Overton stepped in as the relief pitcher and kept things close. Through three innings, Overton held the Gamecocks at bay without a single run crossing the plate. But, in the 7th, South Carolina got things going once again with two outs as they scored two more runs all but solidifying a game one win against the Sooners.
Game two was slotted to start Sunday evening with Jonathan Gray getting the start for the Sooners against Colby Holmes for the Gamecocks. Sunday would prove to be a pitchers dual as Gray was on fire recording eight strikeouts to only two hits in five scoreless innings. But, bring on the rain delay.
Usually a rain delay tips into the favor of one team or the other often for the underdog. If the game is cancelled like Sunday's was, it adds a problem as the depth of the bullpen becomes an issue. Oklahoma has depth but with the way Gray was tossing, it seemed like this was going to kill the Sooners. The NCAA might have made a flub by resuming the game after the rain delay at the top of the sixth inning by allowing it to go a half inning before postponing the game. Rain had significantly let up before and presented a playable condition yet the game failed to resume. Instead fans sat through an unnecessary hour long delay. Such is life...but, the Sooners might be alive to fight that much longer had things been done properly.
Monday saw the continuation of game two. Instead of seeing Gray and Holmes, Steven Okert, one of the nations best relievers took the mound against a trio of Gamecocks pitchers. Okert allowed two runs after six scoreless innings. While it had the feeling of a repeat performance, the Sooners cut the lead in half, scoring one of their own as Evan Mistich brought Garrett Carey home from second on a single to right field.
In two games, the Sooners were only able to muster up a single run. South Carolina is a very experienced teamand was heavily favored. All credit due them is certainly given as they were able lay down hits in the time of need. Hats off to their fans as well for giving a standing ovation to the Sooners as the game ended. The Gamecocks currently boast a 21 game winning streak in NCAA Tournament play and show no signs of stopping as they attack from everywhere.