Oklahoma baseball: Unexpected Sooner success deserves celebration

Jun 19, 2022; Omaha, NE, USA; Oklahoma Sooners center fielder Tanner Tredaway (10) celebrates with second baseman Jackson Nicklaus (15) after making a diving catch in the eighth inning against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Charles Schwab Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2022; Omaha, NE, USA; Oklahoma Sooners center fielder Tanner Tredaway (10) celebrates with second baseman Jackson Nicklaus (15) after making a diving catch in the eighth inning against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Charles Schwab Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

Ole Miss was the team celebrating when the final out was recorded in Men’s College World Series on Sunday, but that should in no way diminish the remarkable achievements of the Oklahoma baseball Sooners in this improbable 2022 season.

They say no one remembers who finishes in second place, but believe me, there are plenty of unforgettable moments and memories from what this Sooners’ team was able to accomplish this season to last a lifetime.

Granted, the Sooners’ came up short in their quest to achieve college baseball’s ultimate season prize, but instead of hanging their heads, they should be holding them sky high.

Ole Miss was the better team in the best-two-of-three championship series, and the Rebels deserved to win the national championship. The Sooners could never get into an offensive rhythm and were overmatched by an especially strong Ole Miss pitching performance that did not even include the Rebels’ ace, junior right-hander Dylan DeLucia, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the Men’s College World Series but never threw one pitch against Oklahoma.

Ole Miss starting pitching was stellar in the two-game championship series against OU, but so too was the performance turned in by the Sooners’ Cade Horton on Sunday. Ironically, Horton had originally committed to Ole Miss as a freshman at Norman High School but flipped that commitment to Oklahoma as a junior.

Horton turned in what may have been his best performance of the season, just when the Sooners’ needed it most. The redshirt-freshman, whose MLB draft stock has been steadily rising over the past month. struck out five of the first five hitters he faced on Sunday and ended up with a career-high 13 for the game. He had struck out 11 in his previous MCWS start against Notre Dame.

The hard-throwing Sooner right-hander gave it everything he had, going 7 1/3 innings and allowing two runs on four hits, 13 Ks and no walks. He did everything that was asked of him and definitely deserved a better fate on Sunday than being on the losing end of a brilliant performance.

In two MCWS appearances, Horton pitched 13 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on nine hits while striking out 24.

This Oklahoma team is loaded with underclassmen, certainly one of the youngest teams to make the eight-team MCWS field in the 2022 season. Only two players in the Sooner starting lineup that began the championship series against Ole Miss were above their second season of college eligibility.

OU won 45 games this season. That is 18 more wins than the team won a year ago in putting together a sub-.500 27-28 overall record and the most by a Sooner team since going 50-18 in 2010, which was Oklahoma’s last trip to the College World Series.

Head coach Skip Johnson and all of the Sooner players will tell you that their goal this season, as it is every season, was to win a national championship. And they came amazingly close to achieving that goal. But, realistically speaking, no one really expected Oklahoma to be one of the final two teams standing when it came time to play the 2022 MCWS championship series.


Two months into the season, Oklahoma’s record was 18-12 and the team had lost two of its first two Big 12 series (to Texas and Oklahoma State). From that point forward, however, the season completely turned around for the Sooners. OU won 15 of its final 23 regular-season games, including five consecutive Big 12 series.

Oklahoma finished the regular season in a second-place tie in the conference standings and earned the No. 3 seed in the postseason Big 12 Championship. The Sooners proceeded to sweep their way to the tournament championship with a win over Texas.

Although hopeful of becoming a regional host site in the NCAA Tournament by virtue of their late-season surge, the Sooners were snubbed and were sent instead to Gainesville, Florida, as the No. 2 seed in that regional. OU surprised many by winning the Gainesville Regional over host Florida.

The regional win over Florida sent Oklahoma up the coast to a Super Regional date with an even more challenging Virginia Tech team, the No, 4 national seed. While plenty of folks were pleasantly surprised that the Sooners prevailed over Florida, no one realistically thought they would accomplish the same at Virginia Tech. But they did — as they had done the entire second half of the season — and all of a sudden Oklahoma found itself headed to Omaha and its first College World Series appearance in 12 long years.

Once again, though the Oklahoma players and coaches believed their chances were as good as anybody’s, expectations of a deep championship run by the unseeded Sooners were not especially high among the oddsmakers.

Oklahoma had been viewed as underdogs most of the season, and the players fed off that as motivation to prove all the naysayers wrong. And this group of Sooners did that all the way to the bitter and disappointing end.

At the end of the line, only two teams were left standing on college baseball’s biggest stage, and one of those was the Oklahoma Sooners. That’s something no one will ever be able to take away from this group of Sooners. Some 300 other NCAA Division I baseball schools would be willing to give up almost anything to trade places. And that’s something even the 2022 MCWS runners-up can truly be proud of.

The destination is where the pot of gold will always exist, but in the case of the 2022 Oklahoma baseball team, it has been the journey that made this season incredibly special.

Candidly, this relatively young group of Sooners probably overachieved, but in doing so they forged a solid foundation and a highly optimistic outlook for next season.

"“Obviously, that was our goal coming into it,” said Cade Horton in the OU postgame press conference about winning the national championship.“We made it here (to Omaha and the MCWS), and we accomplished a lot this year. But we’ll be back,” he said. “I know that because this team laid the foundation for the future of Oklahoma baseball.”"

The Sooners this season went from wanting to win baseball games to finding creative ways and expecting to win every game. That comes from playing together and for each other and developing a winning attitude.

This wasn’t the greatest or most accomplished Oklahoma baseball team ever assembled, but it is right up there as one of the most fun to watch and one whose whole was greater than the sum of the parts.