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OU baseball; Ruffcorn goes long, Sooners score late, secure Bedlam series

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Ruffcorn

Sooner pitcher Jason Ruffcorn celebrates on the mound after getting the last out of Oklahoma’s 5-3 victory over Oklahoma State Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

The Sooners and their skipper are doing all they can to parlay the Bedlam Series into a season turnaround.

So far, so good.

Not that anybody saw what happened Saturday afternoon inside L. Dale Mitchell Park coming.

The final score was 5-3, giving Oklahoma (22-19, 6-8 Big 12) its first series victory over Oklahoma State (24-14-1, 7-10) since 2016, setting up today’s bid for its first sweep since 2000.

How OU did it on the mound was almost unthinkable.

A week ago, closer Jason Ruffcorn worked 3 2/3 innings, helping to secure the Sooners’ only victory of a three-game set against Georgia Southern.

Ruffcorn went longer than he’d gone all season, throwing 45 pitches.

It would appear he was just warming up.

OU coach Skip Johnson turned to Ruffcorn with one out in the third inning, Cowboys at the corners, the Sooners up 2-0.

Though he fell behind, he never left the mound and, thanks to a few timely hits from his teammates, Ruffcorn (4-1) wound up saving his own victory, working 6 2/3 innings, throwing 111 pitches, striking out 10, walking one.

If OU needs a closer today, it will have to look elsewhere. On the bright side, Johnson’s gamble worked and the Sooners find themselves on a three-game winning streak.

“I was kind of told, ‘Be ready early,’” Ruffcorn said. “I didn’t know about finishing the game. I was just going as hard as I could for as long as I could.”

Only getting better the longer he pitched, he may have made a case for himself as OU’s next starting pitcher.

The first batter he faced, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, lined out to left field, allowing Caeden Trinkle, who’d began the frame with a single off OU starter Jake Bennett, to tag up and score. Next up, Jake Thompson, flew out to the wall.

Ruffcorn allowed a solo home run to Justin Campbell in the fourth inning and a solo home run to Max Hewitt in the fifth.

From the sixth inning forward, he allowed one hit and struck out six, including the last three Cowboys he faced: Huesten Morrill, Brock Mathis, Trenkle.

He was even hitting 95 miles per hour with his fastball — as hard as he’d thrown all day — after reaching 100 pitches.

Ruffcorn offered one moment that appeared to bleed into what happened in the bottom half of the same frame, when OU took the lead for good in the seventh inning.

Originally ruled to have hit Thompson with a pitch, the Sooners won a video review that ruled it had been a foul ball instead. Ruffcorn then finished the sequence, striking Thompson out as the ballpark reached peak volume.

Ruffcorn and Johnson communicated during the review.

“He’s looking at me and I’m [telling him] ‘One pitch at a time, one pitch at a time,” Johnson said. “I kept telling him that.”

Peyton Graham began OU’s half of the inning with a single, before Brett Squires launched a two-run home run over left-center field off Cowboy reliever Kale Davis, putting the Sooners on top 4-3.

Eighth-inning doubles from Brandon Zaragoza and Conor McKenna gave OU its final run.

The long ball was Squires’ only hit, but it made him the only Sooner to register multiple RBIs. Zaragoza went 2 for 4 and scored twice.

OU’s first two runs were driven in by Peyton Graham and Jimmy Crooks in the second inning.

Johnson was asked what Ruffcorn’s role is now that he’s thrown a starter’s innings with a starter’s pitch count.

Given his Saturday workload, the next day he might possibly pitch won’t arrive until Friday at West Virginia.

“We’ll look at the matchups as we go into Morgantown,” Johnson said. “What I’m worried about right now is tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow” is now today, the day OU can sweep its Bedlam rival for the first time in 21 years.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning

cfhorning@normantranscript.com

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