LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It wasn’t a continuation of the night before. Oklahoma’s players had put that behind them, they said.
Whatever the reason, Sunday’s game began in rocky fashion, maybe rockier than anyone of the Sooners could have imagined.
It wound up costing Oklahoma its season.
Xavier scored all but three of its runs in the first inning of an 11-0 win over OU, bouncing the Sooners in an elimination game at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Advancing through the NCAA regional in Louisville was already a tough journey in the losers’ bracket, after OU gave up 10 runs over the final two innings of a loss to Louisville the night before.
It seemed nearly impossible after Xavier’s early 8-0 surge.
“Credit to them,” OU center fielder Steele Walker said. “They came out and attacked us.”
OU committed two errors that opened the door for seven unearned runs in the first inning. That was more than enough for Xavier pitcher Trent Astle, who scattered seven hits and walked just one during his eight-inning outing.
Astle, a senior left-hander, made his third NCAA regional start. That experience paid off.
His off-speed approach was a stark contrast to the pitching OU saw from Lousiville’s Brendan McKay a day earlier and Xavier’s Zac Lowther on Friday.
“[Astle] was awesome, competed like crazy,” OU coach Pete Hughes said. “In a win-or-go-home situation, that kid made every single pitch.”
OU sophomore pitcher Kyle Tyler was new to the stage, making his first NCAA regional appearance. He fought control issues, hitting three batsmen during the disastrous first inning, and didn’t receive much help behind him.
Austin O’Brien committed just two errors before this week, but didn’t get a glove down on a grounder at first base and two runs scored.
Jack Flansburg saw a ball go under his glove at third base, bringing another Musketeer home.
"I think we all made our own bed in the first inning — at every position," Hughes said.
Xavier sent 13 to the plate and pounded out five hits. Dating back to the night before, OU surrendered 18 runs over a three-inning span.
The first inning Sunday was every bit as debilitating as Louisville’s seven-run eighth the night before, but the two had nothing to do with each other, OU catcher Renae Martinez said.
“We came out ready to play,” he said. “They capitalized on us early.”
Things unfolded somewhat unconventionally, Hughes said. A few things didn’t go the Sooners’ way, then everything snowballed.
“We hit three guys, you know? They had a couple of hits that didn’t leave the infield, then they get a big hit. I don’t know how much last night has to do with that,” Hughes said. “My kids are mentally tough enough not to let a loss hang over their head in a win-or-go-home situation.”
Xavier tacked on two more runs in the third on Rylan Bannon’s two-run home run to left-center field against freshman reliever Nathan Wiles, upping OU's deficit to 10-0. The Musketeers finished with 14 hits.
OU wound up leaving nine runners on base, struggling to break through against Astle.
“The perfect thing happened for them,” Hughes said. “They jumped out to a lead. When you get out of your comfort zone and out of your approach and you’re chasing a lead — whether it’s in the first inning, fifth or sixth — you can’t chase a kid who lives off [Astle’s] style of pitching.”
It was a sour finish to OU's first NCAA regional appearance since 2013. There were high hopes after a win over Xavier on Friday, which snapped a four-game losing streak.
The Sooners have seen their share of early deficits. The final one this season was too much to overcome.
"You're down by a lot," Walker said. "You're thinking, 'I need a home run here or we're not gonna come back.' You need the opposite mindset when you're facing a guy [like Astle], who's unconventional and gets you off balance, but I mean, hat's off to him. He did a really good job."