Coach Dan Hubbs (right) and his USC Trojans celebrate the Friday night win over Oklahoma.

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Sorenson: Sooners Cut Short At USC

At The Ballpark

The Sooner struggles just continue, thanks to a 5-4 decision at the hands of USC at Dedeaux Field tonight in South Central L.A.

At this same time last year, as I was out on the islands to see Oklahoma play at Hawaii, OU coach Pete Hughes bristled a little when he read that I had said his Sooners had been “struggling” through the first few weeks of the season. His charges responded by winning a hard-fought series at Hawaii.

This year, I came to the yard to see the Big Red stuck in neutral once again. They entered tonight’s game at USC with a 4-5 record, which includes two losses to Northeastern to start the season and a sweep at the hands of Sam Houston last weekend. Oh, the pitching isn’t to blame, in their first nine games the staff has surrendered just 26 earned runs in 80.2 innings for an ERA of 2.90.

Brad Wegman (27) threw one pitch and got the two-out save in the win over Oklahoma tonight. Brad Wegman (27) threw one pitch and got the two-out save in the win over Oklahoma tonight.

The offense has been the wart on the nose, as the Sooners hit just .246 coming into this weekend’s DodgerTown Classic. Things had been so inconsistent that coach Hughes and his staff have started nine different lineups in their first nine games.

Well tonight, they seemed to break out of their offensive funk, matching the Trojans with nine hits and also getting four walks in the process as well. The Big Red also had a number of other instances where they were hitting the ball on the screws a number more times, unfortunately it seemed to be right at SC defenders. But when it came crunch time, they couldn’t come up with that key hit.

Clean-up hitter Jack Flansburg couldn't help the Big Red cause, going 0-fer tonight for Oklahoma.Clean-up hitter Jack Flansburg (42) couldn’t help the Big Red cause, going 0-fer tonight for Oklahoma.

OU starter Jake Elliot, a projected top-five-round draftee, was hit hard throughout his 4.2 innings of work. He gave up three runs in the first inning as USC came out hyper-aggressive, swinging early and often on the 6-foot-7 Sooner slinger. The Sooners were able to scrape back into the game with a run in the third inning on an Alex Wise RBI single and then two more in the fifth inning, including an RBI single from Hunter Haley and an RBI double by Sheldon Neuse in back-to-back at-bats.

But the game changed for good when USC started the sixth inning with singles by A.J. Ramirez and Adalberto Carrillo, who both eventually came around to score on and RBI flyout by Dillon Paulson and an RBI single from Lars Nootbaar.

A. J. Ramirez led the Trojans tonight with three hits and two runs batted in.A. J. Ramirez led the Trojans tonight with three hits and two runs batted in.

A parade of USC relievers ended up holding down the fort but not before a lot of hairy moments in the late innings. OU got a run in the eighth inning to pull within 5-4, but stranded the tying run 90 feet away when the inning ended.

Assistant coach Mike Anderson and his cohorts figure their gameplan against another USC bullpenner.Assistant coach Mike Anderson and his cohorts strategize their gameplan against another USC bullpenner.

The ninth inning saw the tying run get 90 feet away once again when reliever Marc Huberman loaded the bases with three straight walks. Eek! right?

Well all’s well that ends well as the fifth reliever of the night, Brad Wegman, came on with the bags loaded and one out, threw one pitch and got a double play out of it to end the game. No muss, no fuss.

USC second-baseman Frankie Rios turns the fateful double-play that ended Oklahoma's bid for a win in Los Angeles tonight.USC second-baseman Frankie Rios turns the fateful double-play that ended Oklahoma’s bid for a win in Los Angeles tonight.

Yep, the Sooners appear to have plenty of athleticism and pop in their batting order, despite their boney-armed batting average coming into the game. Neuse, one of the more potent bats in the country, hit just .275 last season. A huge key to OU’s fortunes on offense will be getting him clicking this season. And so far so good in that department as he came into the game hitting .355 and had a .512 on-base percentage. The Sooners just seem to be more unlucky than anything right now.

And USC didn’t mind seeing that continue tonight at all.

The Sooners leave the game dejected after another narrow loss.The Sooners leave the game dejected after another narrow loss.

THREE UP
The best of the day in college baseball

1- Clark Kent Schmidt
South Carolina got the jump on in-state rival Clemson with today’s runaway 8-1 win in Columbia. Clark Schmidt went a career-high 8.0 innings toeing the rubber and had a career-high nine strikeouts as well. The Gamecock bats broke the game open with five runs in the fifth inning, giving Schmidt all the run support he would need and also giving the Cocks a vital first game win over their in-state rivals… their first REAL test of the season.

2- Cal State Fullerton
The Titans actually have one of the tougher assignments in the country this weekend, going to far-flung Texas Tech and playing a much-improved Red Raider team. But don’t tell Blake Quinn that. The Titan righty set a career-high with 10 strikeouts in just 5.2 innings of work to set Fullerton on its way to a big 7-3 win at Rip Griffin Park. The Titans sent four relievers to the mound and had built up a 7-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. A few window dressing runs is all they allowed before Dylan Prohoroff finally shut the door on Double-T by getting the final two outs. Good start to the Titans weekend in the panhandle.

3- Party Like It’s 2013
UCLA is at it again. The last time we saw the Bruins playing Mississippi State they were completely squashing them in two straight games in Omaha to win the national title in 2013. Tonight, they reprised their role of Bulldog tormentors by holding MSU to five hits and one run in a 2-1 win at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Bruin starter Griffin Canning got 26 of the 27 outs in the game and jacked up the Dogs for 12 strikeouts along the way. His only hiccup was not finishing the game. Also, the Bruins are now 14-0 in games that Canning has in his career.

Honorable Mentions
– The Perfect 10
It may be off the radar a bit but Gardner-Webb has improved to a perfect 10-0 on the season after today’s 6-1 win over Rider. On the mound, Brad Haymes struck out 12 Bronco batters as the former closer threw a career-high 8.0 innings. Keep it up Dogs.

– Hey, Whaddya’ Know, Oklahoma State WINS A One-Run Game.
Since four of their five losses had been by a single run, including all three coming in jog-off fashion in last weekend’s sweep at the hands of North Carolina, the Cowboys had to be sick of the close shaves they’d been suffering. Today, the Pokes won a 1-0 pitcher’s duel with Indiana State to even their record at 5-5. Thomas Hatch (7.0inns.), Tyler Buffett (1.0inns. zero hits) and Trey Cobb (1.0inns.) combined on the six-hitter with eight Ks.

– Giving The Gauchos A Lump Of Cole
Oregon starting pitcher Cole Irvin threw 8.0 innings of five-hit ball allowing the Ducks offense to explode for 13 runs in a 13-1 rout of UC Santa Barbara at PK Park. Irvin also allowed just one walk and zero hit batsmen to improve to 2-0 on the season.

– Gopher Gold
Minnesota starting pitcher Matt Fielder tossed a complete-game two-hitter in the Gophers 3-0 win at Georgia State. Fielder didn’t allow his first hit until the sixth inning and collected six Ks altogether. The U improves to a surprising 6-2 with the win.

– Laren’d
Indiana finally had an impressive outing, clubbing Illinois State mercilessly in a 14-1 rout. Sophomore Laren Eustace had a career day, going 5-for-6 with a home run, four RBI and two stolen bases. Frosh Ryan Fineman added four hits and an RBI. With the win IU improves to 2-6. Also, starting Hoosier pitcher Kyle Hart notched 10 strikeouts and giving up three hits in his six innings of work.

– Kel Johnson
Georgia Tech’s sophomore slugger had quite a day in the Jackets’ 5-4 win over Western Carolina. Johnson finished the night with four hits, including the game-winner in jog-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth inning. With the win, Tech has its first 9-0 start since 2006.

– Another four-hit, winning-hit night. 
Like Johnson above, High Point’s Hunter Lee also had a four-hit night and also accounted for a jog-off game-winning hit as his bases loaded single in the bottom of the ninth supplied the winning run as the Panthers out-gunned Dayton 10-9.

THREE DOWN
The worst of the day in college baseball

1- Coastal Carolina
The 18th-ranked Chanticleers dropped a 10-7 decision to formerly winless Cincinnati. That’s a pretty bad home loss to a not-so-good team. To make it worse, the Bearcats actually had a 9-2 advantage through six innings before the Chants made a little noise late in the game.

2- Damn Utes.
Utah has had a frustrating start to the season, as their 2-7 mark will attest. Tonight things got a little more aggravating as the Utes dropped a 2-1 decision to Houston Baptist. How did they lose the game in the 10th inning? Due to a throwing error on a bunt, allowing a Husky runner from second base to come around to score the winning run. On top of that, UU had the bases loaded in the seventh and ninth innings but could not score a run. Arrrrrrgh.

3- Every Kiss Begins Without Kay
Ooof. Not a good day for the UConn All-American pitcher Anthony Kay. Connecticut lost 8-5 to the Flames and Mr. Kay had a rather rough outing, giving up seven runs in eight hits in his 5.0 innings of work. Yuck. Kay only watched five strikeouts while also issuing two walks as UC dropped to 4-3 on the year.

Dishonorable Mentions
– Nick Senzel, Tennessee.
This week has been tough enough for the Volunteers after they found out their staff ace Kyle Serrano would be lost for the season. But Senzel, a potential All American third baseman, had the tying run at third and the winning run at second in the bottom of the ninth inning when he went to the plate in a 10-9 deficit to Maryland. But he came up snake-eyes by ending the game via a struck out looking. Ouch.

– What, Luken Baker is HUMAN?
Yes people, TCU actually lost a game that super-frosh mound stud Luken Baker started on the mound. To his credit, Baker lasted 5.1 innings, giving up five hits and two runs while striking out only two Zag batters. But he got pulled in the sixth inning and the Zags jumped on Frogs reliever Preston Guillory for two runs in the seventh inning to pull out the W. Gonzaga won 4-3 in Fort Worth.

Okay, that’s enough for now StitchHeads.

G’night.

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