Sunny's Sooners Break Out the Brooms

The No. 15 Sooners couldn't ask for a better time to sweep its first series during Big 12 play, as they swept the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kan., this weekend and with some help secured second place in the Big 12 standings.

The Sooners (42-14, 15-10 Big 12), who trailed at one point during each game, won Friday's opener 14-4 before winning the final two games 9-8 and 9-6 with ninth-inning heroics by sophomore catcher Tyler Ogle. The three wins were complemented by Kansas State's two losses and Texas Tech's three losses to help OU jump the Wildcats in the standings and drop the Red Raiders to fifth place.

The series opener didn't start off ideally as the Sooners trailed 3-1 through the first five innings against Kansas, but they exploded for four runs in the sixth inning to take the lead before junior pitcher Zach Neal (8-2, 4.25 ERA) gave up a run in the seven to close OU's lead to 5-4. Neal was pulled during the innings, ending his night after allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out six batters in 6 1/3 innings of work.

But the score didn't remain close for very long. The Sooners struck for three runs in the eighth and pulled away with six runs in the ninth to take the 10-run win and the series lead.

Kansas State won its weekend opener against Texas A&M in extra innings, so game two in Kansas was vital for OU to keep pace for the race for second. Freshman pitcher Jack Mayfield has been on the mound in each of the past two weekend series when the Sooners needed a key victories – against Oklahoma State and Memphis – but what had made him so successful in those first two games was not there Saturday.

Mayfield allowed seven runs (four earned) on eight hits in three innings, and OU trailed 7-2 after four innings. Senior pitcher J.R. Robinson (2-3, 4.17 ERA) came into the game with one job, keep the Jayhawks' bats at bay long enough to allow his teammates to mount a comeback.

And that was exactly what he did. Robinson threw five scoreless innings while the offense pulled within three runs by plating two runs – one in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively. The run scored in the sixth inning came when sophomore third baseman Garrett Buechele launched his 13th home run of the season.

But OU still had a lot of ground to gain going into the ninth inning. It trailed 7-4 entering the inning with the nine-hole hitter, sophomore center fielder Chris Ellison, coming to the plate.

Ellison reached base on a drag bunt and was later driven in by Buechele, who ended the game with two hits and four RBIs, and the next two batters reached to load the bases. Ogle unloaded the bases with a three-run double, his only hit of the game, to cap off a four-run ninth and take an 8-7 lead.

Junior pitcher Jeremy Erben (6-1, 3.99 ERA) closed the game by throwing a scoreless ninth inning.

To add to the good news of winning a huge game, OU found out shortly after concluding its Saturday battle that Kansas State had lost its matchup with Texas A&M. The win-loss combination gave OU a half-game lead over the Wildcats for second place, meaning the Sooners had control of their own fate.

OU got out to an early 2-0 lead Sunday with junior pitcher Bobby Shore starting, but the right hander couldn't maintain that lead. He gave up five runs (four earned) through 3 2/3 innings, and the Sooners found themselves trailing 5-2 after four.

OU's offense mounted its comeback with a four-run seventh inning to take a one-run lead that would only last the half inning. Sophomore first baseman Cameron Seitzer hit a three-run homer in the seventh to give him a team-high 14 homers.

Tied 6-6 in the ninth inning, Ogle came to the plate once again to drive in the game-winning run, and once again he ended the at-bat with a three-run hit. He drove a three-run homer that wound up being the difference before Erben picked up his second save of the weekend and third of the season to seal the sweep.

The Sooners had second place wrapped up before the final pitch of their game was thrown, though. Texas A&M defeated Kansas State 3-2 in a game that ended minutes before OU celebrated its second straight second place finish in the Big 12.

So, the Sooners' reward for finishing second in the conference is to play Kansas for a fourth straight time. The two teams will square off in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

Junior pitcher Michael Rocha should start in that first game, giving Neal and the rest of the pitching staff rest before taking the field at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Baylor and 4 p.m. Saturday against Kansas State.

OU's seven-game winning streak entering the tournament may be enough momentum for the Sooners to find themselves in a good position to face Texas in the finals Sunday and a regional host, but they have to stay hot if they want to prevent the Longhorns from capturing their third straight Big 12 Tournament championship.

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