June 16, 2010

CWS Previews


Arizona St. | Clemson | Florida | Florida St. | Oklahoma | South Carolina | TCU | UCLA

By Shane Mettlen
Special to NCAA.com
 
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -
Oklahoma's arch rivals from Texas cruised through the regular season, earning the attention and respect of the nation, but after a Super Regional offensive explosion, only one Big 12 team is left, and that's the Sooners.
 
"Our league got beat up," Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway said Monday night after his team crushed No. 5 seed Virginia 11-0 to win the Charlottesville Super Regional and advance to the College World Series. Oklahoma opens the CWS Sunday against South Carolina.
 
"Everybody said it was Texas and the rest," Golloway said. "Our players weren't going to have any of that."
 
While Texas was knocked off on their home field by TCU, the Sooners had to travel to the East Coast, where they faced a Virginia team that was ranked No. 1 in many polls for most of the season and was gunning for its second straight trip the College World Series in Omaha.
 
Virginia ace Danny Hultzen more or less shut down the Sooners in a 3-2 victory in Game 1, but after that it was the Oklahoma offensive juggernaut that defined the Super Regional. The Sooners scored 21 runs in the final two games, led by sophomore outfielder Cody Reine, who hit four home runs in the final two games after hitting just six in the entire season leading up to the Super Regional.
 
"I really can't explain it," Reine said. "It's one of those things that finds a player every now and then. It happened to me this weekend. It could be anyone else next weekend."
 
With the Sooners, that most certainly could be the case. Reine wasn't considered one of the team's big sluggers heading into the postseason, but Oklahoma didn't lack for players who could take it deep.
 
Sophomore third baseman Garrett Buechele, who was limited to just one hit in the Virginia series, leads the Sooners with a .371 batting average, 16 home runs and 64 RBI. First baseman Cameron Seitzer and left fielder Max White are each hitting better than .300 with 15 homers apiece.
 
Virginia coach Brian O'Connor certainly came away impressed with the Sooner lineup.
 
"They've got a very good ballclub and they were the better club this weekend," O'Connor said. "They've got good players who are well coached. Obviously they got hot at the right time, which is what it takes to get to Omaha. Obviously they beat us pretty good. They swung the bats offensively and took advantage of our missed opportunities."
 
For all the offensive firepower the Sooners will bring to Omaha, if OU is to win the school's third national championship it might be the pitching that the Sooners rely on.
 
Despite the loss, Oklahoma got a good performance out of Game 1 starter Michael Rocha and then benefited from a phenomenal outing by Game 3 starter Bobby Shore, who shut the Cavaliers down for eight innings.
 
It's not easy to shut out Virginia, though Shore made it look that way. The Cavaliers hadn't been held scoreless in 142 games, dating back to April 27, 2008.
 
"Sometimes you coach young athletes and they don't really know how good they are," Golloway said. "Our starting pitching has done it for us. What pitching and defense does for teams this time of year heading into the College World Series is that it allows hitters to do some great things."
 
Heading to Omaha, the Sooners are confident they can keep their hot streak going. Golloway believes the rigorous Big 12 schedule and non-conference games against fellow CWS participants UCLA and TCU have helped prepare his team for the postseason. OU lost to UCLA 5-2 on March 14 and won at TCU, 4-2, on April 6.
 
"I think our conference prepares us," Golloway said. "We played UCLA earlier in the year and we play a tough non-conference schedule to prepare us. Then the Big 12 prepares student athletes. Our student athletes are well trained and they compete the right way."