NORMAN – Before the end of the fourth inning Wednesday night, Oklahoma Sooners pitcher Jake Irvin would have covered up the white-blocked ‘Oklahoma’ on the outfield wall in left center field with ‘Ks’ – if Sooners’ fans hung signs over the outfield wall for strikeouts.
In his first experience with Bedlam, the freshman from Minnesota had one of the best performances of his young career, striking out 10 batters in 5 1/3 innings of work, including six-straight strikeouts the first time through the Oklahoma State batting order. Freshmen have accounted for 12 of Oklahoma’s 18 wins this season, but the best performance of Irvin’s young career was let down by the Sooners’ offense, which ranks in the bottom half of the Big 12 in every major category except for home runs.
Irvin walked off the mound with a one-run lead and two runners on base. The performance probably should have been enough.
The Sooners went 21 plate appearances from the second inning to the eighth inning without a hit, extending their losing streak to four games with a 4-3 Bedlam defeat.
“When you jump out and get a lead, you've got to keep building and creating opportunities for yourself and you've got to get a big hit every once in awhile, and we didn't get that hit and they did,” Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes said. “. . . That ball was in play and opportunistic hits and productive outs, that was the story of the game.”
Oklahoma (18-19-1), which plays only seven home games the rest of the season, was swept by TCU over the weekend. It was the second time this season that the Sooners were swept by a Big 12 Conference opponent.
The Sooners lost their 12th game in 16 tries over the last four years to Oklahoma State (23-13).
It didn’t come without a stalwart effort from Irvin.
“He gets better every outing,” Hughes said. “He's a talented freshman. He threw a lot of strikes and he handled a big venue and controlled his adrenaline. You get 10 strikeouts, one walk, that's a pretty good outing by a freshman to put his team in a position to win a game.”
After a game-opening walk, Irvin struck out six-straight batters and seven of eight the first time through the Cowboys’ batting order. He struck out three more before a rocky sixth inning in which he allowed back-to-back hits before leaving the game at his highest pitch count of the season. Both runners scored and were credited to Irvin.
The Sooners managed just six hits against a barrage of eight different pitchers used by the Cowboys. Sheldon Neuse, who ranks in the top 100 nationally in five major batting categories, had two of Oklahoma’s six hits.
“You’re going to go out there and the ball is going to cross the plate at some point,” Neuse said. “It doesn’t really matter who they run out there. It’s a little different. I think that’s the first time they’ve done that on us, thrown a bunch of difference guys out there on us. I think it’s going to help us in the long run when we play them in the series.”
Oklahoma rallied in the ninth inning and even got the winning run to the plate before Cody Thomas struck out swinging and third baseman Cade Harris lined out to third to end the game.