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May 24, 2013

Gray lifts Sooners to victory in Big 12 opener

OKLAHOMA CITY — The last two times Jonathan Gray took the mound, Oklahoma lost. Gray made sure there wouldn’t be a three-peat Thursday in the first game of the Big 12 tournament at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

The Sooners’ ace threw a complete-game three-hitter to lead the Sooners to a 2-0 victory over Baylor.

“I thought, really, our performance today was about Jon Gray. I think that’s pretty clear,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said.

That could be seen even with storm clouds still hanging over the ballpark. The game started 3 1/2-hours late due to the morning thunderstorms that soaked Oklahoma City.

The delay might have been the reason Gray started the day with a wild streak. His first six pitches missed the strike zone, bringing an early visit from catcher Anthony Hermelyn.

“Sometimes you have to go out there and settle the big guy down,” the OU catcher said. “He’s got great stuff and you have to remind him he has great stuff and to have confidence with it. He showed the confidence throughout the game.”

It showed in the last two innings. Gray (9-2) struck out four of the last six Bears that came to the plate. The 12 strikeouts he notched matched his career high.

What was the difference between Gray on Thursday and his previous two starts?

“I felt like the big difference was just being mentally comfortable with everything,” Gray said. “It was not so much the game itself or how I feel. It was just building the confidence and keeping it throughout the game.”

Baylor (27-26) seemed more baffled by what they saw as the game went on.

“The guy throws 97 (miles per hour) but takes off on his fastball, which I thought was very effective against me,” Baylor right fielder Nathan Orf said. “You’re expecting a 97 mile-per-hour fastball and when you’re getting low-90s from the same arm slot, it makes it tough. He executed in and out, off-speed, just a great performance.”

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