By Eric Olson, sports writer for the Associated Press
OMAHA, NE (AP) – The Oklahoma baseball players came to the College World Series, calling themselves “a bunch of Davids,” a reference to their embrace of the vulnerable identity they adopted after a disappointing start to the season.
It was David Sandlin who took most of the credit on Wednesday in defeating Texas A&M, the last seeded National in the NCAA Tournament.
Sandlin kept the Aggies in one run and hit a career high of 12 in seven rounds, while Jimmy Crooks pulled off three runs in the first round, and Oklahoma advanced to the CWS Finals with a 5-1 victory.
In an effort to complete a baseball and softball title sweep, the Sooners (45-22) have won three consecutive games at Charles Schwab Field by no fewer than four runs and will play in their first National Championship since 1994.
The Oklahoma opponent in the top three finals starting Saturday will be either Arkansas or Mississippi. Arkansas beat Ole Miss 3-2 on Wednesday night to force another game on Thursday.
Sooners fans chanted “OU! OU!” Triffin closer Michael hit Brett Minich to end the match against the Aggies. The celebration was muted.
“I think these kids are focused,” said coach Skip Johnson. “I don’t know if it’s dog pooch or whatever… It’s kind of weird sometimes. I’m not telling them not to pile dog, I can tell you that.”
Texas A&M (44-20) finished 2-2 in the CWS under first-year coach Jim Schlossnagle after winning 29-27, winning only nine games in the Southeast Conference and not even qualifying for the league championship in 2021.
The Sooners didn’t look like the NCAA Tournament after losing two of their first three Big 12 series and started from 18 to 12. They’ve won 27 of 37, including 12 of 14 since the end of the regular season.
Sandlin, in his first season with the Sooners after transferring from a junior college, had provided a third of a break in the Sooners’ 13-8 win over the Agies on Friday. He was flagged for four runs.
This look was intended to prepare Sandlin for the aggravating atmosphere. It turned out to be a good plan. Sandlin said he tried hard in his short appearance and took a different approach on Wednesday.
“I just trusted my preparations,” he said. “I feel like today was more muscle memory than anything else. Just getting out there and it’s just execution, you don’t think about things too much.”
Sandlin (9-4), who allowed five hits and walked one in a 100-court outing, worked effectively on the outer half of the board using a sharp slider and a high speed ball.
He hit the first three hits he faced, five of the first eight and 10 of the first 20. He got into trouble in the fourth inning when the first two hitters reached the base. He then cheered for Troy Clanch, Brett Minich and Jordan Thompson across 12 pitches.
“He’s just able to mix all his shows,” Clanch said. “He was able to go ahead early with the fast balls, then next time he was able to mingle and throw whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.”
Texas A&M player Ryan Prager (1-4) allowed four runs, three wins, in 2 1/3 runs. Jacob Balish went the rest of the way, delivered three hits and ran and hit eight.
The Aggies beat Texas and Notre Dame to reach the final in two brackets. But they weren’t able to score against Sandlin until Dylan Rock came left-of-center ahead of sixth.
Sandlin then retired the last six players he faced and turned the match over to closest Trevin Michael to start eighth.
The Sooners led 3-0 at first in the Crooks’ fourth NCAA Championship, and ninth of the season, and added singles runs in the third and fifth. OU has not been late for its CWS Games.
“They have proven over the past six or seven days that they are the best team in our group — at least they play the best baseball game,” Schlossnagel said. “Very consistent start, defence, hits at the right time.”
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