By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — A slow start wasn’t Oklahoma’s problem on Saturday. Perhaps that issue has been rectified. What was evident after its 9-5 loss to West Virginia is it has more problems than solutions.
The loss, which dropped the Sooners to 25-15 overall and 4-6 in the Big 12 Conference, was confounding. Mainly, because the Sooners, who have played from behind a lot this season, had a four-run lead in the sixth inning.
Relief pitching which has been a calming presence since opening day, inflamed a West Virginia rally instead of dousing one.
A team that once thrived on scoring runs late in games was outscored 6-1 in the final three innings.
“When you have a chance to really build on a lead and take the wind out of someone’s sails, which we were capable of doing because we left that many guys out there, it’s deflating,” OU coach Pete Hughes said. “We missed our opportunity.”
The Sooners only left six base runners stranded, but grounded or lined into four double plays. It was the second time in three games the Mountaineers turned four double plays.
Each sucked more momentum away from the Sooners.
The last came in the eighth inning when Sheldon Neuse worked a leadoff walk and OU appeared to have something going. James hit a sharp grounder to second that resulted in an easy double play.
The Sooners didn’t turn any. They would’ve have come in handy. Only one of West Virginia’s runs came via a two-out hit.
Saturday started as well as possibly could. Mac James put OU up 2-0 in the first inning with his second two-run homer in the series. Hunter Haley followed with a solo shot.
The RBI single Craig Aikin delivered in the second inning gave the impression OU was rolling.
It was for a while.
Left-hander Jacob Evans gave up 11 hits, but he put up five scoreless innings. The only serious mistake he made was the pitched he hang to West Virginia catcher Cameron O’Brien that he deposited over the left-field wall.
OU still had the lead when it turned to its best middle reliever — Kindle Ladd.
It was gone by the time he left. The Mountaineers (19-15, 4-7) belted just about everything it saw Saturday. They finished the day with 18 hits — a season high against the Sooners — and scored nine unanswered runs.
O’Brien drove in five of the runs, adding a two-run double in the top of the ninth inning.
Ladd (3-2) took the loss. He allowed three runs on four hits in his one inning of work.
Ryan Tezak (2-0) picked up the win for the Mountaineers. He took over for Walter Corey in the fifth inning and pitched 22⁄3 scoreless inning. Sean Carley pitched the final 21⁄3 innings to get his first save.
It was the classic case of letting a team hang around and paying for it in the end.
“We got out to the early lead. One thing we’ve learned from being in those early holes is that you can’t let off,” Aikin said. “Teams have let off on us and we’ve come back and gotten wins. That’s one thing we have to learn from this game.”
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