NORMAN — Ethan Carnes’ audition for the No. 3 spot in Oklahoma’s pitching rotation got off to a rocky start Sunday. The way it finished, however, may keep him in the job.
Carnes didn’t give up a hit over the final four innings in the Sooners’ 14-3 run-rule victory over New Orleans Sunday at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The victory gave OU (31-10) a sweep over the Privateers (6-36). It was the expected outcome. No matter what happened on the mound, the Sooners had enough firepower in their lineup to ensure victory. Matt Oberste, Colt Bickerstaff and Jack Mayfield all homered to help power the victory.
Still, finding a No. 3 starting pitcher was an essential element of the series. Carnes, who made his second start of the season and his 11th appearance Sunday, showed he has the stuff to do it from the second inning forward. He allowed three runs on six hits and struck out five. Four of those hits and all the runs came in the first inning.
“I love starting, but I’m going to do whatever this team needs,” Carnes said after improving to 2-1 on the season. “Whatever gets us to Omaha is fine with me.”
Solidifying a third starting pitcher is the top priority. Freshman Adam Choplick and Corey Copping have both struggled in the role of late. Ralph Garza Jr. threw a complete game in his only start this season, but OU coach Sunny Golloway wants to get him in a setup role.
What Golloway was hoping to find in Carnes was a pitcher who could throw effectively over extended innings, while keeping the ball in the strike zone battling through jams.
“The way he stayed in there and the way he pitched after that first inning was a good argument that he needs to pitch on Sundays,” Golloway said.
The trouble Carnes got into the top of the first inning was more bad luck than anything else. New Orleans plated three runs on four hits, despite nothing being hit hard. The inning was kick-started after Mayfield, the Sooners shortstop, dropped a throw from Carnes trying to force out New Orleans’ Chaz Boyer on a sacrifice bunt.
Giving up three first-inning runs marked the first time OU trailed in the series. It didn’t last long.
Oberste cranked a two-run home run — his 10th of the season in the second inning — to put OU up 4-3. The Sooners put the game away with seven runs in the fourth inning. Bickerstaff’s three-run blast with Hunter Haley and Max White was the big hit.
Stone Speer (1-7) took the loss for New Orleans. He allowed 10 runs on nine hits over 31⁄3 innings.
OU collected 14 hits. Oberste, who went 3 for 4, finished a triple short of hitting for the cycle. Anthony Hermelyn went 2 for 3 and drove in three runs and Mayfield went 2 for 4 and drove in two.
Follow me @john_shinn