OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Cade Horton struck out a career-high 11 in six innings, Tanner Tredaway continued his torrid postseason with three hits and Oklahoma took control of its bracket in the College World Series with a 6-2 victory over Notre Dame on Sunday night.
The Sooners (44-22) need one more win to advance to the best-of-three finals starting Saturday. They’ll play Wednesday against the winner of a Tuesday elimination game between Notre Dame (41-16) and Texas A&M. The Aggies beat Texas 10-2 on Sunday.
With three freshmen, five sophomores and a senior in the everyday lineup and picked to finish sixth in the Big 12, Oklahoma wasn’t expected to be in this position. The Sooners got hot the second half of the regular season, won the conference tournament and went on the road to win its regional and super regional.
“Winning the national championship has always been the goal, and we’ve had that from the very beginning,” freshman third baseman Wallace Clark said. “It’s not a new idea. Even when we would lose a mid-week game, we would talk about it. The idea behind it was we’re going to win the whole damn thing.”
Horton, who had Tommy John surgery 16 months ago and didn’t pitch until March 29, went at least six innings for a third straight start. The redshirt freshman held the Irish scoreless on three singles the first five innings.
Horton (5-2) gave up David LaManna’s two-run homer to left in the sixth and didn’t come out for the seventh. He threw a season-high 100 pitches.
“When you have mid 90s, you have a good slider, you have a curveball, and he flashed a changeup periodically… That was a lot. Clearly we didn’t recognize it,” Irish coach Link Jarrett said.
Tredaway continued to be a catalyst for the Sooners. He’s now batting .513 (20 of 39) in the NCAA Tournament after going 3 for 4 and extending his hitting streak to 16 games. He drove in two runs and scored twice.
“I really like to keep things simple,” Tredaway said. “I get in patterns like this where I can go on a long stretch and do pretty well. I try not to get out of my zone. I think the two-strike approach has been really good for me the last couple weeks. I’m trying to hit good pitches and do my thing and be on time.”
Notre Dame starter Austin Temple walked three of the eight batters he faced and was pulled with one out in the second.
Reliever Aidan Tyrell (5-2) got out of the inning but encountered trouble in the third. Peyton Graham legged out an infield single, stole second and scored on Tredaway’s base hit. Tredaway took second on a passed ball and came home on Clark’s single.
The Sooners added three more runs in the sixth to go up 5-0. Two of those scored on Clark’s bunt on the safety squeeze. Tredaway came home from third, and Jimmy Crooks followed him in from first when Carter Putz picked up the ball and threw wildly to Jared Miller covering the bag.
Putz had four of the Irish’s seven hits, his last one leading off the eighth inning and prompting the players in the Notre Dame dugout to grab their “rally bananas.”
The Irish have been getting the bananas out during the postseason when they need positive mojo in the late innings. If something good happens, the players take a bite. But Jack Zyska hit into a double play and LaManna flew out to end the eighth.
The Irish got their first two batters on base in the ninth, but Clark stepped on the bag at third and threw to first for a double play when Zack Prajzner grounded to him. Trevin Michael struck out Ryan Cole to end the game.
The Oklahoma fourth inning ended on a crazy play after Peyton Graham had singled into right field and OU’s John Spikerman rounded second and headed to third.
Right fielder Brooks Coetzee threw to third to get Spikerman, but the ball popped out of Jack Brannigan’s glove as he tried to put on the tag. The ball deflected off third-base coach Clay Van Hook and came to rest next to Brannigan. He picked it up and tagged Spikerman, who didn’t realize the ball came out of the glove and had turned to return to the dugout.
The game started with some excitement as OU first baseman Blake Robertson flipped over the Notre Dame dugout rail while catching Cole’s pop foul on the first pitch of the game. Robertson raised his glove to show umpires he hung onto the ball.