By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — Everything that doomed Oklahoma in the Bedlam series’ first two games, was erased Sunday afternoon at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The Sooners avoided the sweep against Oklahoma State with a 5-4 victory. This one, which snapped a season-high four-game losing streak, came under tough circumstances.
OU won despite an early four-run deficit and rocky start from one of the pillars of its pitching staff.
“We’ve got a motto about being mentally tough, and I believe that’s what wins in college baseball,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said. “It doesn’t necessarily win every day, but it will over the long haul.”
Dillon Overton, who made his first start since April 20 due to elbow inflammation, threw a season low four innings. He also gave up all four runs on eight hits.
Most games, that would have been a knockout blow. The Sooners were 10-2 in the prior games Overton had started. They scored three runs or less in both games.
OU’s bullpen got some breaks, which, combined with timely hits, made all the difference.
Kyle Hayes, Ralph Garza, who picked up the win to improve to 4-0, and Jacob Evans, who threw the final two innings to get his ninth save, held the Cowboys (36-13, 11-9 Big 12) scoreless over the final five innings.
“Credit OU, they played a much better fifth-sixth-seventh-eighth-ninth inning than we did,” OSU coach Josh Holliday said. “Obviously, they deserved that win.”
The Sooners (35-16, 12-9) had to have it. After falling into a tie for fourth in the Big 12 Conference after dropping a second straight 4-3 decision to Cowboys Saturday, OU jumped into a tie for second place with West Virginia in the league standings. Kansas State holds a two-game lead with three Big 12 games left. The Wildcats are against the Sooners and the series begins Friday in Manhattan, Kan.
OU has a chance to still win the league because it came up with critical hits. Hector Lorenzana went 1 for 3, scored two runs and ran his Bedlam series RBI total to six with an RBI double in the fourth inning.
“I like getting put into pressure situations. I love hitting with runners on base because I normally clutch up. My goal is to score guys,” said Lorenzana, who went 5 for 11 in the series.
But the huge day came from designated hitter Kolbey Carpenter, who went 3 for 4 and drove in the tying run in the sixth inning.
The freshman, who missed five games last month to return to his hometown of West, Texas, to help with relief efforts after an explosion at a fertilizer plant left 14 dead and damaged half the town, also had an RBI single in the Sooners’ three-run fourth inning.
“I’m starting to see the ball a little better and I’m seeing it pretty good at the plate. Hopefully I can keep it up,” Carpenter said.
The breaks didn’t hurt either. OU threw out two OSU base runners at the plate. The last came in the top of the eighth inning when Aaron Cornell was thrown out trying to score from second base on a wild pitch. OSU coach Josh Holliday was ejected after arguing with home plate umpire Randy Wetzel after the call.
The other came in the fifth inning when OU right fielder Max White threw out Zach Fish trying to score on Robbie Rea’s single.
Vince Wheeland (8-1) took the loss. He entered in the fourth inning after OSU starter Mark Robinette abruptly ran out of gas. He gave up three runs on four hits over 3 1-3 innings. Wheeland allowed two runs on two hits over 1 2-3 frames.
The Sooners still lost the series, but Sunday’s victory meant they avoided a complete disaster. Rallying from four runs down and showing composure after gaining the lead made it possible.
“We have to go into Kansas State and sweep to have a chance to win the conference,” Golloway said. “If you told these guys you’d have a chance to win the conference title the last weekend, there’s not a team in the league that would say they don’t want that.
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For the record: Oklahoma improved to 35-16 overall and 12-9 in the Big 12 Conference with Sunday’s 5-4 victory over Oklahoma State in final game of the Bedlam series at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The Cowboys dropped to 36-13 and 11-9.
Starting point: Dillon Overton had his roughest outing of the season. The junior left-hander avoided the loss because OU’s bullpen and the lineup came through with a four-run rally.
Still, Overton thought Sunday’s 82-pitch performance, which included eight hits and three strike outs, was a big first step back from the elbow inflammation that caused him to miss two starts.
“I felt great,” Overton said. “When I was warming up in the bullpen, it was the best I felt in a month. As the game went on, I haven’t thrown in two and a half weeks, you get tired and your arm gets tired. At that point, we decided it was enough for me. Overall, I felt pretty good.”
OU coach Sunny Golloway said Overton’s target pitch count was 75 pitches or five innings. Overton went a little over it because he was able to get out of a fourth-inning jam.
Golloway admitted the lefty has some rust that must be removed.
“He battled his tail off, but it just wasn’t typical him,” the coach said. “When he gets two strikes on guys and he puts them away. He couldn’t put them away.”
Better view: The opinion of Jacob Evans is biased, but he believes he got the tag down on OSU’s Aaron Cornell in the top of eighth-inning controversial play at the plate.
Evans was on the mound when OSU’s Cage Green stole home in the eighth inning for the game-winning run in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Cowboys.
“A little deja vu from yesterday,” Evans said when asked what went through his mind when he saw the ball get away from OU catcher Anthony Hermelyn Sunday. “I saw him. He got the ball right to me and he slid right into me.”
Better production behind the plate: Hermelyn went 2 for 4 Sunday. It was huge for OU because he went 1 for 12 in the West Virginia series last weekend and was 0 for 7 in the Bedlam series prior to Sunday.
Banged up ump: Home plate umpire Randy Wetzel made both the controversial calls at home that went OU’s way. The payoff: he was nearly knocked out in the seventh inning when Matt Oberste launched a ball just outside the left-field foul pole, but caught Wetzel with has bat as he left the batter’s box.
The game stopped for several minutes while trainers helped the umpire.
Up next: OU plays its final game at L. Dale Mitchell Park at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday against Dallas Baptist.