NORMAN — All Jordan John needed to do Friday was break a sweat. The south Texas native loves warm and muggy nights.
“When the weather starts warming up, it’s my element,” the Sooner pitcher said. “I love it when it gets hot and humid. Once I get that lather going, it gets easier for me.”
John made it look trouble-free, tossing a complete-game six-hitter in OU’s 5-1 victory over Kansas State at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The win lifted OU to 17-10 overall and 3-4 in the Big 12 Conference. More importantly, for the first time since conference play started two weeks ago, the Sooners will roll into today’s Game 2 meeting with the Wildcats (13-12, 2-5) trying to secure the series instead of climbing out of a hole.
That was the reason OU coach Sunny Golloway shifted John to the Friday night starter role last week. He felt like the left-hander had been the Sooners’ best pitcher. He needed someone who could get wins and go deep into the game. John (4-3) has thrown 161⁄3 innings in his last two starts.
“You could tell, late in the game he clearly wanted to finish it,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said.
John threw a career-high 127 pitches, but he only faced serious trouble in the first and ninth innings. Kansas State took the lead in the bottom of the first on Wade Hinkle’s RBI single.
John put up the zeros the rest of the way and picked his 10th and 11th strikeouts to finish the game.
“He pitched great,” said OU centerfielder Erik Ross, who returned to the lineup after missing the last seven games with a hamstring injury. “He did what we want pitchers to do day-in and day-out. If we can put up runs like we did tonight, we can win a lot of games.”
Ross, who went 1 for 3, plated OU’s first run with a sacrifice bunt in the third inning. The brunt of damage against Kansas State pitcher Matt Applegate came in the fourth. Hunter Lockwood drilled an RBI single to give the Sooners a 2-1 lead. Three batters later he and Caleb Bushyhead both scored when Kansas State third baseman Matt Giller and shortstop Jake Brown both committed errors on the same play.
Applegate (2-3) went the distance for the Wildcats. He scattered seven hits over eight innings and struck out five.
OU added its final run on Jack Mayfield’s solo home run in the seventh inning.
The Wildcats weren’t much of a threat to rally. They didn’t put a runner in scoring position in the middle seven innings of the game. John was too good.
Any questions about who’s going to pitch the openers of conference series ended with Friday’s performance.
“If you can step in those shoes and perform and put my team in position to win Friday night, it makes the rest of the weekend pretty easy,” John said. “I’m thankful of the opportunity. Hopefully, I get to keep my job.”
“I think it’s pretty safe,” Golloway said.
John Shinn 366-3536 firstname.lastname@example.org