By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
TULSA — The dogpile Oklahoma did not want to see happened in the most agonizing way possible Friday. It came with Oklahoma State claiming a 2-1 victory with the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning and the excitement of the Cowboys claiming the Big 12 title.
The shift east to ONEOK Field didn’t do anything to solve the Sooners’ hitting woes and a season-long defensive issue reared its head again.
“When you’re playing those tight games two things are going to happen to win it: Someone is going to get a big hit or someone is going to make a big error,” OU coach Pete Hughes.
The Cowboys (41-13, 18-5 Big 12) had the enormous hit. The Sooners (27-27, 7-16) made the colossal error.
The error came at the worst possible time — the bottom of the ninth inning. With Craig McConaughy at second base and one out, Saulyer Saxon hit a dribbler up the middle that was a legitimate infield single. OU second baseman Kolbey Carpenter knocked the ball down, but bobbled it as Saxon raced for the plate. He scored easily.
It was the game-winning run because Donnie Walton put the Cowboys up 1-0 in the bottom of third inning with a solo homer off Sooner starter Jake Elliott.
The Sooners out-hit the Cowboys, 6-5, but none of OU’s hits went for extra bases.
Making matters worse, OU had one of its best pitching performances of the season. The homer to Walton was the only run starter Elliott allowed. He was on a short leash and exited after 69 pitches.
Left-hander Adam Choplick dominated for four innings, giving up just one hit and striking out eight.
“Fastball was working really well and I had good movement on it,” Choplick said. “The slider, I was getting a lot of 0-2, 1-2 counts and a lot of people were rolling over on sliders and got some swings and misses. Both pitches were working well tonight.”
Neither factored into the decision.
OSU starting pitcher Tyler Buffett held OU scoreless over seven innings and only gave up four hits. The Sooners’ only run was manufactured in the bottom of the eighth.
Hits by Kolbey Carpenter and Craig Aikin, a sacrifice bunt by Hector Lorenzana and a sacrifice fly by Colt Bickerstaff was enough to tie the game.
But in the ninth inning, reliever Robert Tasin committed one of baseball’s cardinal sins. He hit McConaughy to start the inning.
“You can’t let the leadoff guy get on in any inning, let alone the bottom of the ninth in a tie game,” Hughes said. “That was the story of that inning.”
Tasin (4-5) took the loss. He didn’t give up a hit over 1 1/3 innings. But the lone base runner was enough.
Jeffrey Curran gave up the bouncer up the middle by Saxon that emptied the OSU dugout and into a dogpile up the first-base line from home plate.
Vince Wheeland (8-0) entered for Buffett in the eighth inning. He gave up the tying run in the eighth, but retired OU in order in the ninth to get the win.
The teams will meet for the final time in the regular season at 7 p.m. today. Friday’s outcome guaranteed they’ll meet again on Wednesday in the Big 12 tournament.
Hughes was thinking about the tournament before the Bedlam series began. OU has to win it to get into the NCAA tournament. A win today would give his team a tiny bit of momentum even though Friday’s loss gave the Cowboys the series.
“We need to get back to our winning ways and feeling good going into that tournament,” he said. “I think our bullpen is rested enough that we can have a solid outing tomorrow.”
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