Woodward, Okla. —
By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
OKLAHOMA CITY — Everything that goes up must come down. Oklahoma is in the middle of a free fall after Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Oklahoma State in the middle game of the Bedlam Series at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The loss, which was the Sooners’ fifth in the last six games and guaranteed their second straight series loss, technically sank them into a tie for fourth in the Big 12 Conference with just four league games left. It is the first time this season OU (34-16, 11-9 Big 12) has been more than a half-game out of first place. OSU (36-12, 11-8) jumped up to third place.
“To me it’s simple: if we want to go on and play in the postseason we’re gonna have to play a lot better than we are right now,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said. “We’re not playing good enough to get to a super regional. We’re not playing good enough to get to Omaha. If we want to do those things, we have to play better.”
The Sooners continued to play like a middle-of-the-pack team Saturday.
The boost the Sooners hoped to get with Jonathan Gray on the mound backfired. Instead, their ace had one of his toughest outings of the season. The right-hander gave up three runs on three hits and threw 109 pitches over five laborious innings.
“It seemed like everything that could have gone bad went bad for me,” Gray said. “I take full credit for that loss. I didn’t give us a strong start.”
Of all the uncharacteristic things that have happened to the Sooners in the last six games. Gray struggling was the one that came out of left field. The loss, which dropped Gray to 8-2 on the season, was his first since March 2.
Gray struck out eight, but OSU made him scrap and fight for every one of them, fouling off pitch after pitch and coming through with a couple of timely hits.
Two came in the second inning when the Cowboys jumped out to a two-run lead on Victor Romero’s RBI double and Robbie Rea’s RBI triple down the right-field line.
The Sooners never caught up. It’s impossible to when going 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
Hector Lorenzana went 3 for 4 and drove in Jack Mayfield and Craig Aikin with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning. The last run came on Garrett Carey’s sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.
The Sooners only had seven hits on the day. Lorenzana was the only guy to have more than one.
Matt Oberste was hitless for the second straight game along with catcher Anthony Hermelyn and third baseman Garret Carey.
All three came to the plate in critical situations Saturday. Oberste struck out with the bases loaded right before Lorenzana finally gave the Sooners some runs in the sixth inning. The sixth inning ended on a Carey strikeout.
“You’re not going to get seven out of nine, but you hope you get four or five out of your nine swinging it good on a given day. We haven’t had that in some time,” Golloway said. “You look at our boxscores and there’s a couple guys who get hits and then there are O-fers scattered throughout. They’re scattered at times where it’s really hurting us.”
“I think I’m pressing a little too much; like coach said,” Oberste said. “I just have to relax at the plate — hit it the other way; like my approach has been in the past. Pressing isn’t working out. I need to be calm at the plate.”
The Cowboys were calm, cool, collected and opportunistic Saturday. The game-winning run came in the top of the eighth inning. OSU’s Gage Green’s indelible mark on this year’s Bedlam series grew when he stole home in the top of the eighth inning off OU closer Jacob Evans.
Evans had OU’s Saulyer Saxon in an 0-2 count. His pitch went over Hermelyn’s head.
“I’m not sure why they called it, but their risk was evidently to get it thrown away, because the ball was clearly going to beat him by three or four steps,” Golloway said. “You can do those things when you have the lead.”
Tyler Nurdin (3-2) picked up the victory. He held OU to two runs on three hits over 5 2-3 innings.
The teams return to Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark at 1 p.m. today for the series finale.