OU Baseball: Oklahoma's Season Ends With Loss to Connecticut

The Sooners were the top seed in the Norman Regional and had a memorable season, but the setback against the Huskies was a bitter way to end a once-promising year.
Oklahoma Sooners Michael Snyder and  Jackson Nicklaus (15).
Oklahoma Sooners Michael Snyder and Jackson Nicklaus (15). / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s baseball season came to an unceremonious end on Monday night in an ugly loss to Connecticut in the winner-take-all championship game of the Norman Regional.

OU, the top seed in the bracket and a regional host for the first time in 14 years, fell 7-1 to Connecticut at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

UConn (35-24) advances to the super regional round next week in Tallahassee against Florida State. The Seminoles earned the No. 8 national seed in this year’s tournament, while OU was seeded No. 9. FSU beat UCF on Sunday to advance.

OU, on the other hand, finishes the 2024 season at 40-21.

"We just picked a bad day to play bad," said OU coach Skip Johnson.

The 3-seed Huskies, loaded with an older, experienced roster that also stunned the Sooners in a 3-1 upset on Saturday, rolled out graduate senior and left hander Gabe Van Emon, who came in with a 2-5 record and a 6.71 earned run average.


Despite his numbers — he had made just four appearances in the month of May, all in relief — Van Emon looked more than ready against one of college baseball’s most dynamic lineups. In his 10th start of the year, he struck out two, walked two, lived with a 91-mph fastball in the strike zone — 69 of his 109 pitches were strikes — and let his talented defense work for him. UConn outfielders made five defensive gems, including two that ended OU rallies and one up against the left field wall in the eighth inning.

"I wanted to go as long as I could," Van Emon said. "I believed in myself. I believe in my teammates. ... I just I just wanted to go as long as I could to help the team win. It helps me have ... everybody out there, just amazing fielders making plays for you all night long."

Van Emon got through 7 1/3 shutout innings and scattered just five hits. His sixth inning was replete with drama, as Easton Carmichael singled and took third on Michael Snyder’s hard single to center. With two out, Jaxon Willits hit a rocket off Van Emon that deflected to second baseman Bryan Padilla, who threw to first to get Willits by half a step.

"We recruit guys out of high school that, I want to know how long they've been the ace on their team," UConn coach Jim Penders said. "How long have they been counted on by their teammates to be the ace? That's more important to me than spin rate, velocity vertical break, horizontal break. Those all have a place. But how many times has that young man been counted on by his teammates to be the man? Gabe has that experience, so I had no hesitation with the ball today. It was his turn."

Running a little short on starting pitching this deep into the postseason, Johnson turned to senior right hander Carson Atwood to make just his fourth start of the season. Atwood’s longest outing of the year had been just 3 1/3 innings, and he lasted 3 2/3 on Monday before getting the hook.

Atwood had just recorded his third strikeout in a veritable pitchers’ duel with Van Emon when trouble arrived.

With Paul Tammaro on first after a single up the middle, Huskies cleanup hitter Korey Morton pounded a line drive over the wall in left center field for a 2-0 Connecticut lead.

Padilla then created more trouble for the Sooners when OU catcher Scott Mudler dropped a third strike, couldn’t corral it, then threw it into right field, allowing Padilla to go to all the way to third base.

That chased Atwood, who went 3 2/3 innings with four strikeouts, no walks and three earned runs on three hits.

Left hander Carter Campbell, who threw three shutout innings against Oral Roberts on Friday night, immediately gave up a two-run home run to Maddix Dalena as the Huskies seized a 4-0 lead.

Snyder got things going briefly in the bottom of the fourth with a rocket single to right field, but he was out almost immediately when Willits’ sharp grounder through the right side hit Snyder in the leg on his way to second base for the second out. Jackson Nicklaus then flied out to right to end the threat.

"It's been kind of weird all weekend," Johnson said.

UConn extended its lead to 5-0 in the top of the fifth when Luke Broadhurst singled up the middle to score 9-hole hitter T.C. Simmons, who had led off with a walk off Campbell and eventually got to third on a balk. After a pitching change and with Tammaro on third, Morton singled to center to bring him home for a 6-0 lead.

UConn made it 7-0 in the eighth when Padilla singled off Dylan Crooks, went to second on a hit batter and scored on Simmons' single off James Hitt.

Oklahoma loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth on singles by Carmichael and Snyder and Willits reached on an error, but Nicklaus hit into a double play and a groundout ended it.

Despite the stumble, Johnson’s seventh OU team put a memorable season in the ledger.

Now off to the SEC, the Sooners won their first-ever Big 12 Conference regular-season championship with a wire-to-wire sprint and made it to the Big 12 Tournament title game. They also hosted a regional for the first time since most of the current roster was in grade school and recorded the program’s 25th season of at least 40 wins. 

The Sooners ranked in the top 30 nationally in batting average, runs per game, hits, triples and on-base percentage.

They also swept six Big 12 series (a program record) and won 23 games in conference play (also a program record and one off the Big 12 record).

And OU fans came around with big, raucous crowds, filling up Mitchell Park with more than 4,500. Monday's attendance was a booming 3,828.

"We had a good year," Johnson said. "Proud of the coaches proud all these (players) right here. They set a mark on the program. The fans were incredible. I mean, that's what it takes to be an SEC. If you got to have that kind of fan support like we did the last half of the year. I'm so excited about that moving forward."

Now Johnson must repeat what he did two years ago: replace most of a talented, experienced roster that includes 10 seniors and as many as seven draft-eligible juniors.

"You can hang your head down, we lost the championship of regional," Johnson said. "Our watermark is what we plan and my vision was to go to Omaha every year and that's what we practice every day for is to win the last game of the year.

"Our culture is really good. We get after it and play hard and that's what we're about."

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John E. Hoover


John is an award-winning journalist whose work spans five decades in Oklahoma, with multiple state, regional and national awards as a sportswriter at various newspapers. During his newspaper career, John covered the Dallas Cowboys, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oklahoma Sooners, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Arkansas Razorbacks and much more. In 2016, John changed careers, migrating into radio and launching a YouTube channel, and has built a successful independent media company, DanCam Media. From there, John has written under the banners of Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Fan Nation and a handful of local and national magazines while hosting daily sports talk radio shows in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and statewide. John has also spoken on Capitol Hill in Oklahoma City in a successful effort to put more certified athletic trainers in Oklahoma public high schools. Among the dozens of awards he has won, John most cherishes his national "Beat Writer of the Year" from the Associated Press Sports Editors, Oklahoma's "Best Sports Column" from the Society of Professional Journalists, and Two "Excellence in Sports Medicine Reporting" Awards from the National Athletic Trainers Association. John holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications from East Central University in Ada, OK. Born and raised in North Pole, Alaska, John played football and wrote for the school paper at Ada High School in Ada, OK. He enjoys books, movies and travel, and lives in Broken Arrow, OK, with his wife and two kids.