Sooners Position Themselves For a Late Run

The No. 15 baseball team didn't improve its standings in the Big 12 after taking two of three games from the No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats this weekend at L. Dale Mitchell Park, but it did put itself in good position to make a move with two conference series left.

The Sooners (32-12, 10-9 Big 12) won the series opener 14-3 Friday, lost a hard-fought second game 14-9 Saturday and came back to win the rubber game 15-11 Sunday.

In the high-scoring series where the Sooners plated 38 runs compared to the Wildcats' 28, junior pitcher Zach Neal was the only starter who had a quality outing.

Neal threw 82 pitches in six-plus innings of work and allowed two runs on nine hits Friday evening. He threw that few pitches because the Sooners had a 13-1 lead – the second run was credited to him after the only batter he faced in the seventh inning reach base and came around to score when he turned the game over to the bullpen – and he had thrown over 100 pitches in each of his past few starts, head coach Sunny Golloway said.

But other than Neal, the series was a weekend for the hitters.

The Sooners and Wildcats combined to collect 86 hits - 48 by OU and 38 by Kansas State. They hit 21 doubles, three triples (two by sophomore third baseman Garrett Buechele) and 10 home runs – including seven in the series finale.

The momentum during the final two games exchanged between the two teams just about as many times as the big hits did.

Kansas State held most of the momentum during the second game after going ahead 6-1 in the third inning, but the Sooners would not go away. Whenever OU found itself down, the bats woke up and struck for multiple runs, but the Wildcats would respond with runs of their own to put the game away.

Always getting so close to tying the game but having the bullpen give up runs almost just as quickly as OU scored them was frustrating, Buechele said, but the Sooners would get their turn to do the same in the series finale.

Kansas State tried mounting comebacks four times throughout the finale, but could never narrow OU's lead to two runs.

But the fireworks didn't end with both team's bats. Players, coaches and fans were upset with the umpiring during the series, mainly during the final two games, and it was OU's coaching staff that paid the biggest price for questioning calls.

Head coach Sunny Golloway and pitching coach Mike Bell were ejected early in the second game for criticizing home plate umpire Ken McQueen's strike zone. The Sooners were left with two coaches in the dugout for the final six innings of the game.

OU has two weekend series remaining to improve its standing in the Big 12, but before the Sooners get a chance to do so they have to get through the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans at 7 p.m. Tuesday at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

After facing the Trojans, OU will face Bedlam foe Oklahoma State in a three game set – one game in Tulsa and two games in Oklahoma City – starting Friday. The Cowboys defeated the Sooners 7-6 in extra innings in a non-conference affair on April 13 in Stillwater.

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