PENSACOLA, FL – The Oklahoma Sooners opened their 2020 season with a series win over the Virginia Cavaliers in the Wahoos Classic.
After dropping the first game to the Cavaliers Friday night 6-0, the Sooners bounced back to sweep a doubleheader on Saturday after the third game was moved up a day due to impending inclement weather.
Here is summary of each game followed by some reaction to the opening series win for Oklahoma:
Friday – Game 1 (Virginia 6-0)
The season didn’t get off to the best start for Oklahoma as they were blanked by Virginia on opening day 6-0.
Oklahoma ace Cade Cavalli had a solid first outing, but did get in a quick hole after allowing Cavalier Second Baseman Max Cotier to single home a first inning run.
Cavalli would then settle in with three consecutive scoreless frames, but the Sooner offense wasn’t able to scratch anything across.
After Devin Ortiz doubled in a run to make it 2-0 Virginia in the 5th, Cavalli was pulled in favor of Ledgend Smith. Cavalli finished his day after 4 2/3 IP allowing 2 Runs, 4 Hits, and striking out 8.
The Sooner bullpen would then proceed to allow four more runs in the late innings, with two being charged to Carson Carter while Jaret Godman and Brad Demco split the other two.
Meanwhile the Sooner offense managed just two hits total on the night – one from Justin Mitchell and one from Tyler Hardman.
Saturday – Game 2 (Oklahoma 7-2)
After Game 1’s empty offensive output, Skip Johnson elected to make some changes to the lineup for the second game – most notably putting Jordan Vujovich into the starting nine at the leadoff spot.
He had immediate impact starting off with a double, and then was knocked in by Brady Harlan to quickly get Oklahoma up 1-0. He then hit a sacrifice fly in the second inning to add another run.
The star of the game, though, was the highly-touted freshman Peyton Graham. He went 3-5 on the day with two doubles including one that drove in a run.
Lefty stud Levi Prater was solid in his season debut going 4 1/3 innings allowing just 2 runs.
Zack Matthews was fantastic out of the bullpen in relief of Prater, offering up 2 2/3 scoreless to help lock down the 7-2 Sooner win.
Saturday – Game 3 (Oklahoma 5-1)
It’s very hard to win both ends of a doubleheader but OU did just that behind a stellar start from the JUCO transfer Dane Acker.
Acker gave up just 1 run on 1 hit over 5 innings, and the Sooners needed every bit of it with the game being tied at just 1-1 heading into the 7th inning.
I posed the question on Twitter at this point of who would it be to step up for Oklahoma with the bat when they needed it – the answer was quickly given to be Tyler Hardman.
Hardman stepped up with a wildy clutch 2-run home run to give the Sooners a lead they would not give up.
Wyatt Olds was a beast out of the bullpen going 3 innings with 6 strikeouts allowing no runs. Jason Ruffcorn then came in for the final three outs to finish it off and get OU the series victory.
Thoughts and Reaction
This was a really good series win for Oklahoma.
With all the factors considered: the difficulty of the upcoming schedule, facing a quality opponent, dropping the first game, and being forced to play a doubleheader – winning this series is extremely impressive and important.
The first game had some of the concerns realized with Cavalli putting out a quality outing but the offense not providing anything on the scoreboard and the game slipping away late.
The second and third games were the other end of the spectrum, however, with what many think this Oklahoma team could be. The starting pitching was good, the offense got some runs on the board, and the bullpen locked it down.
The first game wasn’t great, but I think the overall takeaway from this opening weekend has to be overwhelmingly positive for Skip Johnson’s club.
The Sooners will now head back to Norman at 2-1 for a 6-game homestand, starting with a 2-game set with Texas Southern starting on Tuesday afternoon.