The Norman Transcript

March 7, 2014

Pitching bails out OU against ACU

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma tested the baseball gods on Thursday. It committed four errors and only put eight runners on base all afternoon.

Claiming a 3-1 victory to complete a two-game sweep at L. Dale Mitchell Park was not due to angelic intervention. Timely hitting and some solid pitching was enough to overcome the obvious deficiencies.

“That was a tough game. That was a grinder. You look at the stat sheet and we don’t win that game, I would imagine,” OU coach Pete Hughes said.

But Connor Buchmann and Jacob Evans combined to blank Abilene Christian (6-4) over the first seven innings and Ralph Garza Jr. pitched a perfect 12⁄3 innings to get his third save of the season.

The pitching effort allowed OU’s three-run third inning to be enough offense to overcome the lack of defense.

The pitching was a welcome surprise. Buchmann made just his third appearance of the season. He walked two and gave up five hits, but he struck out five before he exited due to a 75-pitch limit.

Evans, who picked up the victory to improve to 1-2, had his best outing the season. The sophomore left-hander lost his spot in the weekend rotation due to control issues (six hit batters in his first two starts and giving up 10 hits in his first 71⁄3 innings).

He gave up five hits Thursday, but he also struck out a season-high six.

“I thought Buchmann was good,” Hughes said. “I thought we got them out of there at the right time. The best thing that came out of today was Jacob Evans feeling good about himself and having a quality outing, pitching in pressured situations and key situations and getting us out.

“I’m happy for Jacob. It’s good for our team and Ralph is so dependable. He’s going to throw strikes. He’s going to throw strikes with two pitches. He’s going to work fast. He’s going to compete like crazy. He matched up good for us.”

The Sooners (9-4) only had seven hits. Three came from catcher Mac James, who lifted his batting average to .457 with a 3-for-3 afternoon.

He ignited the three-run fourth inning with an RBI double. Taylor Alspaugh and Keach Ballard lifted OU’s lead to 3-0 with RBI singles.

The Sooners will take the win. They’ve won four of their last five games and are two games into a five-games-in-five-days stretch. They open a three-game series with Rutgers with a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. today.

OU will need more than seven hits to keep that winning streak going. Against Abilene Christian, pitching carried the Sooners.

“When you only put five or six runs, it tough,” James said. “But our pitching really came through.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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