The Norman Transcript

April 18, 2014

Offense disappears in shutout loss to Mountaineers

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Everything Oklahoma did Thursday night looked rushed. It fell behind quickly, hacked at pitches early in counts and even recorded outs in a time-efficient manner.

Under that scenario, the 7-0 loss to West Virginia taking slightly over two hours wasn’t a surprise.

The plan was not to speed through the series opener with the Mountaineers.

OU (24-15, 4-6 Big 12) wanted to get into West Virginia’s bullpen by wearing down starting pitcher John Means.

Then again, most plans don’t include a contingency for trailing by five runs before the leadoff batter ever reaches for the pine tar.

The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6) seized control of the game and the series by pummeling OU starting pitcher Corey Copping with five runs on six hits in the top of the first inning, including a two-run double by left fielder Jacob Rice.

“Chase,” OU coach Pete Hughes said. “That’s what we’ve been doing a lot of.”

Early deficits have been a constant for the Sooners, who have lost five of their last six games. Those deficits alter any offensive plan. It’s harder to hit-and-run or steal bases because you can’t do anything that could negate a big inning.

All that’s left is station-to-station baseball and hoping four or five hits can be strung together.

The Sooners only had seven on the night with none going for extra bases and just one coming with a runner in scoring position.

“Their pitcher did a really good job of keeping us off balance and putting up a lot of zeroes,” OU catcher Mac James said.

Ironically, Copping accomplished one thing OU desperately needed: he pitched seven innings and gave a bullpen still healing from Tuesday’s 18-inning game at Oklahoma State another day to rest.

Outside of that first inning, Copping (2-1) had an effective night. He gave up 13 hits, but he also struck out six and only issued one walk.

However, the struggle to get the first three outs is impossible to ignore.

Trying to make up that deficit affected everything the Sooners did at the plate. They had seven hits, but were 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position and grounded into four double plays.

“We can talk about the first inning all you want,” Hughes said. “We’ve got to score one run to win a game.”

The shutout loss was OU’s fourth of the season, all in the last 15 games.

The Sooners hoped the offensive slump was over after the 12-9 win at Oklahoma State Tuesday night. Means (5-1) put it back in place. The left-hander struck out six against one walk and only needed 88 pitches to get through eight innings.

“We came out aggressive. We had confidence going in because we scored 12 runs on Tuesday,” said OU right fielder Taylor Alspaugh, who went 2 for 3. “Nothing really fell for us tonight.”

The pressure isn’t going anywhere. The teams return to L. Dale Mitchell Park at 6 p.m. today for Game 2 of the series.

The Sooners have dropped their last four conference games and gone from tied for first to sixth in the process.

“I thought we were ready to play. I don’t know how many more win-one-for-the-Gipper speeches I have in me,” Hughes said. “These guys are old enough and we’re at the stage in the season where we have to make a run. They know that.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com

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