Sophomore right-hander Jake Elliott got the University of Oklahoma baseball team off on the right foot with seven shutout innings in a 6-1 win over Notre Dame in front of 1,283 on opening night at L. Dale Mitchell Park. Elliott, whose career-long outing was 7.1 innings as a freshman, struck out four and allowed just two hits.
“That is as good as it gets,” second-year head coach Pete Hughes said of his starting pitcher. “He had 64 pitches in the sixth inning and he said he wanted to go into the 8th and 9th inning and I said, ‘why? We have a five game series that he needs to get stretched into for tomorrow.' So we got him to 90 [pitches] and he was out by 91.”
The Sooner offense backed Elliott's effort with a three-run third on four hits. Junior left fielder Alex Wise made an immediate impact in his OU debut with a one-out triple to left-center and scored on a base hit to left by junior center fielder Craig Aikin to plate the first run of the season. A pair of groundballs; first an infield single by sophomore shortstop Sheldon Neuse and a groundout by sophomore first baseman Austin O'Brien chased in two more runs.
“Elliot allowed everyone to get settled in,” continued Hughes. “Look at our first-at-bats for the game; too slow, weak contact. Second time around, Jake does not allow any runs, allows everyone to get comfortable in the box and the bat starts finding the baseball. Everything comes off a good start and we got a really good one tonight.”
Oklahoma had a chance to blow the game wide open in the seventh, but the Fighting Irish (1-1) bullpen limited the Sooners to just one run on one hit as it escaped a bases loaded, no out jam. Aikin drove in Wise for the second time in the game with a base hit.
“Big hits, big RBIs; I thought [Aikin] played great with his legs too. It worked out really well at the top of the lineup. It is a really good combination. [Wise] is a super dynamic player. A guy who can run and also hit for power but you saw mentality tonight. It takes a lot of pressure out of Craig, too, who is super comfortable in there and it opens up some seems in the right side of the infield if Alex is on first base with Craig up. I like that combination.”
In relief of Elliott, junior lefty Jacob Evans, who started on opening day in 2014, pitched the final two innings. He struck out four and allowed one unearned run on a hit and a walk.
Aikin, junior Anthony Hermelyn, who made his first career start at third base, and redshirt-senior right fielder Taylor Alspaugh all recorded two-hit games for the Sooners.
Right-hander Scott Kerrigan (0-1) took the loss in a six-inning start for Notre Dame. He allowed five runs, four earned, on nine hits and two walks with a pair of strikeouts.
The Sooners return to action tomorrow with a doubleheader beginning at 1:00 pm against SIU-Edwardsville. They then face the Irish in the nightcap. Right-handers Corey Copping (Temple City, Calif.) and Alec Hansen (Loveland, Colo.) are scheduled to start on the mound.
· Craig Aikin, Anthony Hermelyn and Kolbey Carpenter each made their third opening day start. Carpenter has started at three different positions; 1B, DH, 2B.
· The Sooners lead the all-time series against Notre Dame; 3-1.
· Oklahoma is 36-18 on opening day since 1962 and 23-2 in such games at home. OU is also 33-1 in home openers at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
· Elliott became the first right-handed starter on opening day for the Sooners since Michael Rocha in 2011.
· Aikin improved his career-best hitting streak to 13 games. He is hitting .508 (30-for-59) over that stretch.