Oral Roberts’ Dream Season Ends At Men’s College World Series But Will Long Be Remembered


OMAHA—Oral Roberts’ magical season was always likely to come to an unsatisfying end. There can be only one team that ends its season in a dogpile at Charles Schwab Field before hoisting the national championship trophy, after all.

But as the Golden Eagles were flying through the second half of the season and then the NCAA Tournament, the dream season kept getting more and more real. They carried that dream all the way to the College World Series, becoming just the third No. 4 seed in the super regional era (since 1999) to advance to Omaha.

On Tuesday, however, ORU’s season met its end when it lost, 6-1, to TCU in an elimination game. The Golden Eagles fought to the end, loading the bases with two outs in the ninth inning, but their final rally ended when Matt Hogan was called out on strikes, ending the game.

“Just obviously not the way we want it to end,” coach Ryan Folmar said. “But a little bit bittersweet in the fact that it does end in Omaha. I think if it’s ever going to end, this is where you want it to end.

“But, man, proud of the way our guys competed all year long. I don’t think today is by any way going to define our season. But, man, what a great run. I’m so thankful to be part of such a historic group that made a run like this.”

The 2023 season will be remembered forever in ORU program history and beyond. The Golden Eagles made their second College World Series trip in program history and the first since 1978. They went 52-14, setting a program record for wins and recording their first 50-win season since 2004. They went 23-1 in Summit League play before sweeping through the conference tournament. They piled up a 21-game winning streak, the longest in the nation this season.

During the NCAA Tournament, ORU hit another level. It swept through the Stillwater Regional, beating Oklahoma State, Dallas Baptist and Washington. It was down to its final two outs in the Eugene Super Regional before coming back to beat Oregon. In Omaha, it took down TCU in the tournament’s opening game before losing a one-run game to Florida in the winner’s bracket game and then losing to TCU in Tuesday’s elimination game.

ORU has long been the Summit League’s powerhouse. The Golden Eagles have made the NCAA Tournament 30 times in their 58 years of baseball and have won 25 conference titles. But the Summit League is well outside the sport’s traditional strongholds.

Within the sport and the region, ORU’s strength as a program has been well known. This year’s run, however, could lift it to a new level.

“In terms of gaining national attention, this is probably something that’s going to propel our program for the next 10 to 15 years, I would say,” first baseman Jake McMurray said. “So, that’s huge. And just for our athletic department in general is just something that is very special.”

Closer Cade Denton said the Golden Eagles came together as well as any team he had been around. Their collective carried them a long way this spring, but their individual talent cannot be overlooked as well.

Denton is tied for the national lead in saves (15) and was named Summit League pitcher of the year. He went 3-1, 1.83 with 86 strikeouts and 15 walks in 64 innings.  

Outfielder Jonah Cox emerged as the team’s star in the lineup after transferring from Eastern Oklahoma State JC. He ran off a 47-game hitting streak, the third longest in Division I history. Only Oklahoma State’s Robin Ventura (58 games, 1987) and Florida International’s Garrett Wittles (56, 2010) had longer streaks. He hit .412/.470/.646 with 11 home runs and 28 stolen bases. Hogan, a Vanderbilt transfer, hit .320/.460/.662 with 19 home runs, while McMurray hit .326/.420/.449.

“The way that we performed out on the field every single day and especially in that last half of the season during the win streak, I mean I’ve never seen baseball played so fundamentally well,” Denton said. “It was exciting baseball and obviously to get here and win a game—didn’t go the way we wanted it the last two games—but I can’t fault any of these guys. They’ve had a great year and it’s been fun.”

McMurray grew up in Tulsa and has spent the last five years in the program. He’s started all but one game for the Golden Eagles over the last three seasons and finishes his career hitting .311/.411/.413.

For him to be a part of this team and this run meant a lot and was representative of the program’s strengths.

“I grew up going to ORU games,” McMurray said. “I wasn’t a highly recruited guy coming out of high school. Coach Folmar and his staff was the only staff in the country to give me a shot. So, to be able to put this uniform on every day and represent this university is very special.”

This season will go down as the best in program history. ORU more than proved itself on the sport’s biggest stage and earned its place among the top underdog runs in NCAA Tournament history. So, even if ORU goes home with a slightly bittersweet taste, it can be sure that it’s season will be long remembered.

“It was a lot of fun to watch, too,” Folmar said. “I’ve said this, I’ve had the best seat in the house all year long. And what a fun group to be able to be a part of.”

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