Tahlequah Daily Press

June 8, 2013

Gray dominates, but OU loses Game 1 to LSU


— BATON ROUGE, La. — For seven innings, Jonathan Gray dominated a very potent LSU lineup. The Oklahoma pitcher racked up strikeouts in bunches and hadn’t even allowed a base runner to get into scoring position.

However, it only took one mistake to flip a game like the one the Sooners played against the Tigers Friday night at Alex Box Stadium. That one mistake was the difference in OU’s 2-0 loss that has its season one more loss away from ending.

Of the 118 pitches Gray threw, the one he wanted back was the 0-2 pitch to LSU’s Jacoby Jones with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. Gray challenged Jones with a fastball. Jones belted it into the right-center field gap for a triple.

Neither Gray or OU recovered.

“I left the ball up,” said Gray, who dropped to 10-3 despite only allowing five hits and striking out nine over 7 1-3 innings. “I threw it too close the (strike) zone and it got hit.”

Two pitches later, Tyler Moore came off the bench and lined a double to right field to give the Tigers (56-9) a one-run lead, ending Gray’s night and the epic pitchers’ duel he waged with LSU’s Aaron Nola. The insurance run Mark Laird tacked on with a single to score Moore was just icing on the cake for the Tigers.

 The LSU right-hander won because OU (43-20) couldn’t capitalize on the one mistake he made. Nola (12-0) threw a complete-game two-hitter. However, OU’s failure to capitalize on that first hit was the adrenaline rush Nola needed.

Matt Oberste led off the top of the fifth inning with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Hector Lorenzana.

Oberste didn’t get any closer to scoring that precious run. Anthony Hermelyn struck out and Colt Bickerstaff couldn’t leg out a chopper to second base.

It was a turning point in the game.

“It was disappointing at the time,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said. “I know Big Jon well and you’re gonna have to pry the ball out of his hand once we get the lead and he’s probably gonna be a little bit tougher. The adrenaline starts flowing and he’s a thoroughbred. When those guys start smelling the finish line, he probably becomes a lot more efficient.”

Gray had to be perfect with the confusion Nola caused throughout OU’s batting order. The Sooners only had three base runners all night. Their last hit came on a two-out single by Bickerstaff in the top of the eighth inning.

“Coming into the game, I knew it was going to be a pitchers’ duel,” Nola said. “All Gray has done this year is be outstanding. Our whole team knew it was going to be a pitching duel, and we were going to get deep in the game — both of us.”

The loss ended the Sooners’ eight-game winning streak, which stretched back to the regular-season finale at Kansas State. Gray picked up two of those victories — against Baylor in the Big 12 tournament’s opening game and Game 1 of last week’s Blacksburg Regional against Coastal Carolina — with complete games.

The difference between Friday night and Gray’s previous two starts and the previous eight games was the complete lack of run support.

“We need to get over it pretty quick because we need to come back tomorrow,” Oberste said. “You know, it’s a three-game series and you have to win two. Jonathan did a good job throwing. We have to do a better job as hitters to get runs across.”

The teams meet again at 6 p.m. today at Box Stadium. LSU can clinch a 16th trip to the College World Series with a victory. OU must win today to force a third game Sunday to get back Omaha for the 11th time.

After losing with Gray — OU’s definitive ace — it’s a steep climb.

OU baseball notebook

Oklahoma’s used to playing in front of record crowds. But when it’s a record crowd at LSU’s Box Stadium, it’s a lot easier to notice.

The 11,095 made the Tigers’ ballpark a deafening place whenever anything went LSU’s way.

“Out on the field it was very loud. It was hard to hear each other,” OU pitcher Jonathan Gray said. “We knew it was going to be like that so we worked on it in practice. We definitely started communicating at looking at each other more.”

The crowd, however, didn’t bother OU. Getting a hit off LSU pitcher Aaron Nola was the Sooners’ problem.

“I loved the atmosphere. It’s simple: we lost the ballgame to an outstanding program, an outstanding pitcher and a heckuva coach (Paul Maineri) and a lot of fans that support the program,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said. “We’re building a program at Oklahoma that will, hopefully, someday rival what you see at South Carolina and what we’ve seen here at LSU.

“It’s not throwing in the towel because this is far from over. If you want to put it as bulletin board material, go ahead. I don’t think those fans care. They’re gonna show up and yell at us anyway.”

Draft update: Gray was the No. 3 overall pick in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft and left-hander Dillon Overton went to the Oakland A’s with the 63rd overall pick in the second round Thursday.

Friday, Matt Oberste was selected by the New York Mets with the 206th pick in the 10th round.

“It feels great,” Oberste said. “I’ve never been drafted before. I was excited because my mom texted me — that's how I found out — as we were getting on the bus to come to the stadium.”

Three members of OU’s current recruiting class were also selected Friday. Infielder Drew Ward from Leedey was taken in the third round, 105th overall, by the Washington Nationals. Chris Kohler (Los Osos, Calif. High School) was taken by the A’s with the next selection. Jenks infielder Trey Michalczewski was drafted in the seventh round, 213th overall, by the Chicago White Sox.

Tossing and turning: OU coach Sunny Golloway admitted he would like a do-over on the fifth inning. After Matt Oberste led off with a double and moved to third on Hector Lorenzana’s sacrifice bunt, Golloway allowed Anthony Hermelyn to swing away. Hermelyn struck out.

“I’ll probably lay in bed tonight wishing I had squeeze bunted, but that’s just the baseball coach in me,” Golloway said.

It was the only scoring chance OU had in the game.

Moving up: OU center fielder Max White passed current OU assistant coach Rich Hills (1992-95) for second all-time in games played at OU. Friday was White’s 238th game. He’ll tie Keith Drumright (1973-76) for the top spot when OU and LSU meet for Game 2 of the Super Regional series at 6 p.m. tonight.

Second round duel: Overton (9-2, 2.91 ERA) will take the mound for the Sooners tonight. He’ll face LSU’s Ryan Eades (8-1, 2.81 ERA) tonight. Eades was selected by the Minnesota Twins with the 43rd overall pick Thursday.