OKLAHOMA CITY – Alec Hansen hit the first two batters he faced, walked another and allowed a two-RBI single in the first inning. It seemed as though Oklahoma Sooners coach Pete Hughes had rolled the dice on his enigmatic and highly talented right-hander and lost.
Then, Hansen settled in – something he has struggled to do for much of his career.
Over the next five innings, Hansen allowed just four base runners and faced the minimum number of batters in four-straight innings. An offensive explosion in the early innings helped keep Oklahoma afloat when things got rocky late.
Oklahoma got the outing it needed and stayed alive for at least one more day with a 13-7 victory against Kansas State on Thursday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
“He’s been to the other side, and it’s miserable over there,” Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes said of Hansen. “You might as well try something else to have a better result. I think that’s what he’s doing. . . . He’s approaching the game differently because he knows he has to do it. The results are terrible, and he doesn’t want to go back there.”
Seventeen batters stepped to the plate in the combined second and third innings for Oklahoma (29-26-1). All but Alex Wise scored during the stretch, but he had four RBI in the two innings. Third baseman Cade Harris was the only one without a hit, but he walked twice and eventually picked up a base hit in the sixth inning.
Wise scored in the ninth inning as every Oklahoma starter picked up at least one hit and scored a run.
It was a big improvement after matching a season-low two hits Wednesday morning against West Virginia.
"It was really all about energy and execution," Hughes said. "That's all I wanted. Then I said, 'You'll live to see tomorrow.' I thought we did that for the most part."
No. 5 Oklahoma will play the winner between No. 1 Texas Tech and No. 4 West Virginia at 3:15 p.m. Friday.
Sheldon Neuse opened the second inning with a single to center and the next three batters all reached base. The only non-hits came on a pair of sacrifices that turned into runs. Neuse scored again in the third behind a two-out rally that nearly included a four-batter cycle.
Wise capped the 10-run, two-inning surge with a three-run triple to center field after Kansas State intentionally walked freshman Cade Harris to load the bases with two outs.
"You live for moments like that," Wise said. "At-bats are limited these days because the days are running short now. It was one of those deals where I was just trying to get a pitch I could hit and drive and hopefully bring a couple runs in."
Hansen, who has now had three strong showings in his last four outings, threw a three-hit shutout less than three weeks ago against Kansas State that started his re-emergence on the mound.
Thursday didn’t start all that well for Hansen, but by the time Oklahoma had its lead, Hansen had Kansas State (26-31) a bit baffled.
He located his fastball and threw nearly 60 percent of his pitches for strikes after making a minor mechanical tweak to keep his offerings down in the strike zone. Hansen struck out seven batters before the seventh inning, when he walked the first two batters before being removed from the game.
"I know a couple adjustments I can make when I’m on the mound," Hansen said. "I think I made those when I was in the windup. I also stayed relaxed. I know there’s two ways it can go. It’s gone bad before and it’s win or go home. I had to give it my all."