Unlikely hero sends OU to Big 12 opening W

OKLAHOMA CITY — Third baseman Garrett Carey picked a pretty good time for his first homer of the season and as a Sooner.

The Sooner with the second-fewest hits in the starting lineup and worst average, hitting just .210 on the year, drilled a 1-1 delivery from Oklahoma State Cowboys ace hurler Andrew Heaney into the left field bleachers, ending a thrilling 1-0 pitchers duel early Wednesday morning in the Big 12 Tournament opener.

"You know, got ahead 1-1 and inside pitch that I could handle," Carey said. "You know, Coach has been working with me at the plate a little bit. Like you said, my numbers were struggling, but luckily my barrel found the ball and the rest is history."

History in one of the most balanced, even, competitive games all-time in the Big 12 Tourney.

"That game right there at 9 in the morning, are you kidding me? That's one of the best games ever in this tournament," said Oklahoma State head coach Frank Anderson.

A relentless pitchers battle, including Heaney, Sooner starter Dillon Overton and closer Steven Okert, featured just the one earned run in 17-plus innings.

"You're gonna be hard pressed to go back and find a [better] duel of quality pitches," said OU head coach Sunny Golloway.

Heaney, touched for just his second loss of the season, struck out eight Sooners while allowing just the one earned run on three hits and a walk.

But the Sooner staff was just a little bit better in key situations, as Overton exited in the seventh after throwing 7.1 innings of shutout ball and dealing eight strikeouts, six hits and no walks.

Okert picked him up at the biggest time.

With runners on first and second and one out in the top of the eighth, he rung up Cowboy center fielder Saulyer Saxon and forced shortstop Hunter Bailey into a fielder's choice.

"I came in, Dillon threw his tail off like Coach said," Okert said. "When he throws like that, it just helps me come out of the pen with more confidence. And I knew our defense was playing really good, so I just trusted them and knew they'd have my back no matter what."

Speaking of the defense, it came through big time, most notably in the top of the seventh.

For the first time in the game, a team put its leadoff hitter on base when Oklahoma State second baseman Robbie Rea lined a single back through the box.

But Cowboy head coach Frank Anderson took a gamble that turned out to backfire, electing not to bunt with his designated hitter, Randy McCurry.

Instead, Sooner second baseman Jack Mayfield snared his sharply hit ground ball, brilliantly flipped it to shortstop Caleb Bushyhead, who fired to first for a dazzling double play.

That made a single moments later that would have scored a run meaningless.

"Big time," Golloway said. "The fact that he stabbed it so quick and released it with his glove was just pretty amazing. Dillon's in the dugout saying, ‘I bet we're gonna see that on ESPN tonight.'"

Anderson concurred.

"The play of the game was the dive that Mayfield made right there," Anderson said. "I mean, with no hesitation to flip it with his glove and you'll see that tonight."

Mayfield made a nice diving staff and both teams played errorless ball throughout the entire course of the contest.

Oklahoma State actually outhit OU, recording six singles to three for OU.

But the only extra base hit of the day, Carey's slam in the ninth, proved to be the only one that mattered.

"The best thing Garrett's done, he's been tough all year," Golloway said. "And, you know, we continue to make adjustments at the plate and he buys in. He never questions what we ask him to do. And when the ball left the yard, he came around third, that's what I told him is, ‘How ‘bout you, good for you,' because it's neat to see somebody that the numbers aren't what they want to be but they just stayed tough and keep battling and keep battling."

Left fielder Erik Ross and center fielder Max White were the only other Sooners with hits in the contest, while Oklahoma State third baseman Mark Ginther went 2-for-3 to lead the Cowboys.

Okert earned his seventh win of the season, improving to 7-6, while Heaney fell to 8-1 despite throwing just 89 pitches.

The Sooners will now take on the winner of the Baylor-Kansas State game at 4 p.m. Thursday.

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