OU's Big 12 Hopes Scratched by Wildcats

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Sooners' conference tournament run is over and their regional hosting hopes may very well be out the window, as the Kansas State Wildcats dealt them a 4-3 elimination blow Friday night at Redhawks Field in the Big 12 Tournament, their second one-run loss to the Wildcats in three nights.

"I'm really proud of the way our student-athletes fought and represented our university," said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. "We go the double-elimination format, and we were excited about playing today. It just wasn't our day. Some things didn't go our way, and that's baseball."

And again, the theme of the season came center stage: close but not quite.

"It's been a week of almost for us," Golloway said. "The good Lord prepares you for the things ahead, and we've been tested. We've probably been beyond tested as far as baseball goes with the Baylor series and here. It has to be preparing us for something. We're going to be excited and await for that opportunity, whatever it is, and control the things we can control, which is going back and working out.

"We've got some kinks we need to work out, and our number is five offensively. We have to find a way to score five runs in a ballgame, and we know if we can do that with our pitching and defense, we have a chance to advance."

The problem is throughout the season, the Sooners have had the same reoccurring issues with plating runners in scoring position.

In the first, they left the sacks jacked, preventing them from taking a stranglehold on the game early.

In the fourth, the Sooners stranded designated hitter Evan Mistich at second.

In the sixth, a double play left runners at second and third.

And in the ninth, OU had the tying runner in scoring position and couldn't manufacture it to tie the game.

But one thing the Sooners can't be faulted for is their lack of effort to produce, as evidenced by center fielder Erik Ross' 16-pitch battle with KSU closer James Allen.

"I don't know that I've seen a strikeout that was good," Golloway said. "That would be a tough call, but I'm proud of the way he fought and proud of the way he kept fouling balls off. I could hear from down the hallway the crowd get into it, and I thought that was pretty special. I wish the outcome was a little different, but it wasn't, but it would have been huge. It could have been huge."

The potential optimistic view to another symbolic night of the 2011 season is perhaps the Sooners have experienced barely falling short enough that they're just that--experienced--and they'll finally come through in the postseason.

That, and they have an opportunity for completely new life in the NCAA Tournament.

"Now, we'll be left with the task to get some practice in and get our head up and head to the NCAA Tournament," Golloway said. "I feel very fortunate and comfortable that our body of work will get us in the NCAA Tournament, and we'll look forward to representing the University of Oklahoma. We have some outstanding student-athletes with a lot of character, so it's going to be fun to coach them in the tournament next week."

On this night, however, it was one of frustration, despite starting off well.

The Sooners quickly got on the board first when they took advantage of a couple two-out walks by pitcher Shane Conlon.

Third baseman Garrett Buechele and catcher Tyler Ogle each reached, and then first baseman Cameron Seitzer singled through the right side to bring Buechele home.

But after a third walk loaded the bases, the Sooners stranded the sacks full.

The Wildcats repaid the favor in the bottom of the first, but they did manage to tie the game on a bases loaded walk issued by Sooner starter Dillon Overton, who eventually lasted only 4 1/3 innings and gave up three earned runs.

"It was probably a tough start for him in the Big 12 Tournament as a freshman," Golloway said.

After a scoreless second, KSU took its first lead of the game at 2-1 in the bottom of the third when first baseman Matt Giller put down a successful squeeze bunt to score left fielder Kent Urban, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning.

OU stormed back in the top of the fourth with one of its own, as Seitzer smashed a double to dead center, and Mistich ripped an RBI single into right center.

It stayed that way until the bottom of the fifth, when KSU scored a pair of runs by virtue of a couple questionable calls.

First, on an 0-2 offering from Overton, home plate umpire Mike Morris charged Ogle with catcher's interference, loading up the bases and drawing ire from the Sooner faithful and Golloway, who rushed out to argue the call.

Overton walked in the next batter, ending his day in favor of Tyson Seng, and allowing KSU to regain the 3-2 lead.

Then, Seng's first batter, shortstop Tanner Witt, dropped down a bunt right in front of home plate, and Ogle appeared to touch the dish and toss to first for an inning-ending double play.

But Morris ruled Ogle, in fact, did not step on the plate, which extended KSU's lead to 4-2.

That brought out Golloway again from the dugout, and he exploded in the umpire's face and threw his cap onto the dirt en route to ejection.

"Well, I'm not going to comment on it," Golloway said. "I'm not allowed really to probably go past the vantage point, so I'd rather not even get started on the viewpoint."

It lit a fire in the Sooners in the upcoming innings.

Second baseman Cale Ellis led off the seventh with a walk, and Ross, who pinch hit for Blair, scorched a single to left.

On the play, Urban threw errantly to the third baseman and Ellis scored while Ross advanced to second.

"There were some big plays in the ballgame and I'm proud of our execution," Golloway said. "I saw some at-bats that were huge at-bats. I saw Tyler Ogle show some real leadership and regroup on an at-bat, and I saw Erik Ross battle his tail off. There were some huge plays in the ballgame, and baseball is just that way. Sometimes you make plays, and sometimes you don't."

Again after narrowing KSU's lead to 4-3 in that seventh, OU couldn't push anything more across with a great opportunity.

After Bushyhead started the top of the ninth with a single and pinch hitter Chris Ellison bunted him over, Ross struck out valiantly and left fielder Casey Johnson fanned to end the game.

Overton suffered his fourth loss of the season, dropping him to 8-4, while KSU's Conlon improved to 4-1.

Allen recorded his 17th save of the year, while pitcher Evan Marshall picked up the hold for the Wildcats.

One of the bright spots for the Sooners certainly was Seng, who dealt 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball with four strikeouts to just a pair of hits and no walks.

"He was very special, and I want to point that out," Golloway said.

The Sooners now await their NCAA destination, which will likely be in Fayetteville, Ark., or Houston, Texas, but could still be in Norman with some luck and love from the selection committee.

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories