NORMAN – The heavy, sustained wind that blew a layer of dark ominous clouds over L. Dale Mitchell Park brought the same despair to the Oklahoma Sooners postseason hopes Friday evening.
TCU hit three home runs in the fourth inning – all aided in some way by the heavy wind that kept the center-field flags taut toward the left field fence. Oklahoma benefited from one blast, but the Sooners couldn’t keep up as TCU, the Big 12’s leader in batting average, scored in five of the final six innings.
The 11-9 loss all but sealed Oklahoma’s postseason fate – win the Big 12 Tournament or watch the NCAA regionals from home for the second-straight season.
“We have to win (Saturday), then we have to make some hay in the Big 12 Tournament,” said Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes, whose team closes its series against TCU at 2 p.m. Saturday. “It all starts with momentum. We have to get the momentum going (Saturday).”
Oklahoma (32-24, 13-10) got off to the start it wanted, scoring two runs in the first inning and watching starting pitcher Robert Tasin carry a no-hitter into the fourth.
The hits quickly became runs after that.
No. 3 TCU, which hit just 19 home runs in the first 50 games of the season, hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth and knocked three balls over the fence in just six at-bats in the inning.
“ Normally, the team that hits more line drives or ground balls gets paid off,” Hughes said. “The team who elevated tonight was the team that got paid off.”
By no fault of its own, Oklahoma clinched the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, which begins on Tuesday. The Sooners will play at 4:30 p.m. against an opponent yet to be determined. Texas, West Virginia, Kansas State or Baylor could each earn the sixth seed – one will also miss the tournament entirely.
Oklahoma took two of three from the Longhorns, Mountaineers and Kansas State this season but lost the series at Baylor.
Where it missed chances in the series opener Thursday night, Oklahoma came through in the clutch Friday. The Sooners had seven two-out RBI – three from catcher Anthony Hermelyn.
“Two-out RBIs win ballgames,” Hermelyn said. “If you can get clutch ABs like that, you have a good chance to win games.”
TCU (42-9, 17-5) was just able to string together hits. Four-straight batters reached base for the Horned Frogs in the fourth. Four-straight again in a two-run sixth and six-straight batters reached in the game-clinching three-run eighth inning.
“We just needed to string together some shut-down innings to go along with that,” Hughes said. “It was one of those games where it was so offensive that you don’t scoreboard watch. You just try to go out there and win each inning. TCU won more innings than we did tonight. I thought they had a good game plan against us.”
Not that it needed it, but TCU got a little help from the wind also. One home run bounced off the top of the left-center field wall and another would-have-been-routine fly ball just missed the top of the fence in left field.
Oklahoma had no such luck outside of Hermelyn’s home run. The Sooners will need some now if they want the season to extend beyond next weekend.
“You know what you have to do,” Aikin said. “It’s not Plan A or Plan B, this is what’s gonna have to happen.”