OU baseball, Cade Horton 'laid the foundation for the future' with College World Series run

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

OMAHA, Neb. — It was only right that Cade Horton got the nod on Sunday.

After dropping Game 1 of the College World Series Finals to Ole Miss the day before, OU found itself in need of a win to keep its national championship hopes alive. With its season on the line, the team turned to the only Norman native on its roster.

Horton started the game on the mound. And while the Sooners' season ultimately came to an end with a 4-2 loss, the redshirt freshman pitcher delivered on college baseball's biggest stage.

Horton finished with a career-high 13 strikeouts and allowed just four hits in 7 ⅓ innings pitched. OU held a 2-1 lead when he handed the ball over Trevin Michael in the bottom of the eighth inning.

"Sooner or later, we as coaches and as pitching coach as I am, I got to take the ball out of his hand because he's going to go until he can't go anymore," OU coach Skip Johnson said. "That's in his DNA. He's going to battle you."

More: OU baseball 2022 College World Series Game 2 highlights vs. Ole Miss

OU starter Cade Horton career-high 13 strikeouts and allowed just four hits in 7 ⅓ innings pitched Sunday against Ole Miss.
OU starter Cade Horton career-high 13 strikeouts and allowed just four hits in 7 ⅓ innings pitched Sunday against Ole Miss.

Just getting the start with the season on the line was an honor for Horton, who called it "a dream come true for me."

"We made it here, and we accomplished a lot this year," Horton said. "But we'll be back. I know that because this team laid the foundation for the future of Oklahoma baseball."

Despite only being a redshirt freshman, Horton's college career already features multiple twists and turns.

He originally committed to Ole Miss, of all places, as a freshman at Norman High but flipped to OU during his junior year. Horton, who was also the star quarterback at his school, wanted to be a dual-sport athlete.

Ole Miss was hesitant to offer Horton a spot on its football team. But OU was not, and Horton decided to attend his hometown college as a result.

It's a decision that ultimately cost him a national championship on Sunday, but the lifelong Oklahoman holds no regrets.

"This team is second to none," Horton said. "I'll remember these guys for the rest of my life. It's a close-knit group."

Horton emerged as OU's most promising young prospect this season, but not without a major obstacle he had to overcome.

Prior to the start of last season, the then-true freshman suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow that required season-ending Tommy John surgery.

It wasn't until March 29 in a game against Oklahoma State, 13 months after his surgery, that Horton made his pitching debut for OU.

He hasn't looked back.

Horton (5-2) finished his redshirt freshman campaign with a 4.86 ERA, although that number doesn't reflect how dominant he was down the stretch.

In his four NCAA tournament appearances, Horton recorded 40 strikeouts and allowed just 18 hits in 25 ⅔ innings pitched.

"I still don't think he's a finished product," Johnson said. "He's really good. I get it. But he's got poise. He's got demeanor. He understands — he's regurgitating everything that we talk about, one pitch at a time, going to releases, taking deep breaths, staying in his routines. He's talking like a guy that's a professional, and he's still got a lot to grow in that area.

"And I'm so proud of him. That's what we talk about. That's what the University of Oklahoma is about. It's about developing young men in that role."

Carlson: College World Series 'what ifs' shouldn't cloud OU baseball's amazing season

Sixth-inning swing

In a game where runs came at a premium, the Sooners saw one get taken off the board.

OU and Ole Miss were both still scoreless in the top of the sixth inning when the Sooners looked to have broken the drought.

John Spikerman began the play in question by laying down a bunt up the middle. Ole Miss pitcher Hunter Elliott scooped it up and opted not to try to throw out Jackson Nicklaus, who was already sliding into home.

Elliott instead threw the ball to first, and the catch was mishandled by Ole Miss second baseman Peyton Chatagnier.

OU's fans at Charles Schwab Field rejoiced as the Sooners took their first lead of the series, but those cheers turned to jeers when Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco challenged the play for runner interference.

The call was overturned, and Spikerman was called out. To make matters worse, OU's run was also taken off the board.

According to Rule 2-51 in the NCAA Rules Book, all runners must return to the base last occupied at the time of the pitch if the batter-runner has not touched first base the time of the interference call.

Ole Miss then took a 1-0 lead of its own in the bottom of the frame on a solo home run by Jacob Gonalez.

The two-run swing proved to be a key momentum shifter in OU's 4-2 loss, and Johnson chimed in on it after the game.

"If we take out the human element of the umpires, this game is not ever going to be any good," Johnson said. "That's what I also love about the game is the human element. I have tons of respect for the umpires.

"If we mess with the fabric of the game by getting computer umpires, I think I'll just go fishing."

More: Kimrey Family increases OU baseball support to more than $5 million

Oklahoma, right, and Mississippi stand for the national anthem before playing Game 2 of the NCAA College World Series baseball finals, Sunday, June 26, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)
Oklahoma, right, and Mississippi stand for the national anthem before playing Game 2 of the NCAA College World Series baseball finals, Sunday, June 26, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

College World Series postgame quick hits

► OU's Peyton Graham, Tanner Tredaway and Horton were selected to the College World Series All-Tournament team.

► Bianco on the interference call: "Thank God for the Jumbotron. I don't look at the Jumbotron a lot. I just looked up, not because of that, and I went, 'My gosh, he's out of the running lane. Credit goes to the scoreboard guy."

► Johnson on his team responding to the interference call by scoring two runs in the seventh: "They're going to fight. That's one thing that they've done. They've fought and fought. They've battled and battled. This is part of their DNA. This is part of what the University of Oklahoma has taught them to do."

► Horton on how OU turned its season around: "I think looking back at the beginning of the year, we didn't know how to win yet. We kind of learned and got through that, learned how to win, started believing in each other and it kind of just took off from there."

► Horton on his performance: "I just stuck to what I've been doing the last few starts, and that was just taking it one pitch at a time. I just wanted to put my team in a position to win and get ahead and throw strikes."

Justin Martinez can be reached at jmartinez@oklahoman.com or @JTheSportsDude on Twitter. Make sure to subscribe to The Oklahoman to stay up to date with all local sports.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU baseball, Cade Horton 'laid the foundation for the future' in CWS