OU baseball: Sooners complete comeback to sweep TCU in first Big 12 series
Astrud Reed, The Oklahoma Daily
The No. 17 Oklahoma baseball team made its first statement toward Big 12 supremacy after defeating TCU, 4-3, in 10 innings Sunday to take the series sweep.
The conference’s coaches voted the Sooners (22-4, 3-0 Big 12) and Horned Frogs (9-14, 1-5 Big 12) during the preseason to finish first in second in the conference, with the Sooners tabbed to take home the Big 12 crown. And when the two teams met this weekend, it was coach Sunny Golloway’s squad that came out on top.
The Sooners completed the mission they set out to accomplish, sweeping the series — winning 3-2 in 12 innings Friday and 3-1 Saturday — as a step toward, as many players said Saturday and Sunday, winning the Big 12 championship.
“(The Horned Frogs) came in expecting to be the big dog, and we put it on them three games in a row,” freshman left fielder Hunter Haley said.
Haley sent Sooner fans home happy in the bottom of the 10th when he lifted a 1-2 pitch into deep center to score junior first baseman Matt Oberste for the game-winning run.
“I was trying a little too hard the first two swings,” said Haley, who finished the day with two hits. “The last one, I had two strikes; I just shortened it up like I normally do and put a good swing on it.”
After falling behind, 3-0, through four innings and diving into the bullpen early, the Sooners found themselves in a do-or-die situation when the Horned Frogs loaded the bases to start the fifth. Senior pitcher Jake Fisher got out of the jam by recording three straight outs to start the turn of the tide.
The bats completed the momentum swing, thanks to speed.
Freshman center fielder Craig Aikin plated OU’s first run on a two-out infield single that continued the fifth inning. If he did not beat out the slow roller to second, the run would not have scored, and the Sooners may not have scored the three runs needed to force extras.
“That’s just speed,” Golloway said. “That’s just God-given ability the way Aikin gets down the line.”
Freshman catcher Anthony Hermelyn drove in the game-tying run in the sixth inning with a two-run double to left-center field, and the bullpen — a combination of Fisher, junior Ethan Carnes and freshman Jacob Evans — held TCU’s stagnant bats at bay.
The reason the bullpen was needed during crucial middle and late-inning situations was because freshman Adam Choplick was pulled after allowing two runs on two hits through three innings of work.
His outing was not in line with Friday and Saturday’s starters — junior pitchers Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton. The two combined to allow three runs — two earned — on 10 hits while striking out 16 batters.
Overton’s outing was cut short because he continues to be battling a blister on his middle throwing finger, but it’s just something he is going to have to fight through, Overton said.
“I was just trying to gut through it for the most part and try to go as long as I could for my team,” he said. “It heals over time, and you just got to gut through it. It happens; it’s baseball.
“I’m just going to let it heal and do its course.”
What may be overlooked this weekend is Gray’s outing. He threw nine innings of three-hit ball while striking out 12 batters, which tied a career high that he set against Northwestern State on March 15.
While Saturday’s game saw a quick celebration for what seemed to be Oberste setting the program’s all-time hit streak record, Sunday afternoon saw that record go away as a technical error was discovered.
Last season’s Super Regional stats were not recognized in OU’s computer system, so Oberste’s three straight games with a hit in the Regionals were the last stats recorded. He did not get a hit in either Super Regional game against South Carolina, so his hit streak record dropped from 28 games to 25 games.
But Oberste’s efforts of reclaiming the record did not fall short. His single in the bottom of the seventh Sunday extended his hit streak to 26 games, which is one game shy of tying former OU player Marty Neff’s record of 27 straight games that was set in 1991.
No comment was made about the matter.
The weekend series concluded OU’s 10-game homestand in which it went perfect, extending its win streak to 10 games.
The Sooners head to the road for a midweek matchup against Oral Roberts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Tulsa. A starting pitcher has not been named yet.