Baseball: Sooners win by a walk-off homerun
If you spent the weekend at L. Dale Mitchell Park, you got to see the No. 19 baseball team win in just about every kind of way it could.
The Sooners (4-0) won Friday’s opener with ease, 10-4, both of Saturday’s games by one run each — a 3-2 pitchers’ duel and an 11-10 come-from-behind extra-innings affair — and a 7-4 walk-off victory in which OU allowed Hofstra to tie the game late.
“It’s just a big confidence booster to start the season,” said senior infielder/outfielder Max White, who went 6-for-14 with three RBIs and spent time in both left and right fields this weekend. “We just kept our heads straight, and leadership really pulled us through.”
Junior first baseman Matt Oberste was the team’s hero in game two of Saturday’s double-header and was consistent all weekend. He collected six hits and nine RBIs this weekend, including a clutch two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings in a game the Sooners eventually would win and a three-run, walk-off homer over the right-field fence Sunday.
“Last year, I had a few (late-inning at-bats); I was kind of nervous because I just got here,” Oberste said following the game-winning homer Sunday. “I was just trying to look for a pitch early, and I knew I could get it done.”
The last time the Sooners won back-to-back games in walk-off fashion was during last season’s Big 12 Tournament that eventually helped them reach the tournament championship game.
OU’s first two starters — juniors Dillon Overton and Jonathan Gray — were as good as promised in their first starts of the year.
Despite multiple errors by his defense, Overton tossed a solid season opener. He lasted seven innings, allowed one unearned run on two hits and struck out seven batters.
Gray went 6 2/3 innings of two-run, three-hit baseball with his major blemish being a two-run homer allowed in the seventh inning. He admitted the reason why he struggled in the seventh inning after cruising through the first six innings was because he simply ran out of gas.
“I’ve never pitched that much this year until today, so I really think I hit a wall today and got tired,” said Gray, who threw 102 2/3 innings in 2012. “I was pretty happy with (the first six innings); I’ve just got to develop the rest of it.
“It’ll come along as it goes.”
Coach Sunny Golloway said before the weekend that although junior transfer pitcher Billy Waltrip was the favorite to be the team’s Sunday starter, the job was still up for grabs.
And that job belongs to someone else — freshman pitcher Corey Copping — after the drastic difference between the two pitchers’ performances against Hofstra.
“Right now, Copping will start the game on Sundays,” Golloway said. “Billy’s got to earn that spot back, and he’ll try to do that.”
Waltrip did not get out of the fourth inning as he allowed six runs — five earned — on three hits while walking five batters in his OU debut. The silver lining for Waltrip is he struck out five batters, meaning if he can get some control, he could be effective.
Copping, on the other hand, did not let a couple bad at-bats get to him. After walking a batter and hitting another, leading to a run in the second inning Sunday, he settled down and held Hofstra scoreless during his last five innings.
The righty lasted seven innings, allowed one run on two hits and struck out four batters.
“I’m proud of myself first game as a freshman,” Copping said about his debut. “The environment was great — way different than high school. I’m just glad I was able to start. I thought I did really good.”
Although the biggest question mark coming into the season was the Sooners’ hitting — they hit with a .302 clip and scored 31 runs during the weekend — the area in which they struggled the most was the field.
In the four-game series, OU committed 11 errors — four in the opener, six total in the double-header Saturday and one in Sunday’s finale — and although the mistakes in the field could have led to a couple losses this weekend, the bats were there when needed, White said.
“Our bats pulled through,” he said. “We know what we can do on defense … suring up those errors will help us win a lot of games.”
The Sooners conclude their six-game homestand with a two-game set against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Tuesday and Wednesday. Freshman pitcher Adam Choplick is tabbed to start Tuesday,and a starter has not been announced for Wednesday’s game.