The loss drops OU to 1-1 during pool play, but it doesn't have a shot of making Sunday's championship game because the Bears improved to 2-0. Even if the Sooners (43-15) win against Kansas State and Baylor falls to Kansas tomorrow to make both teams 2-1, the Bears would advance because they hold the head-to-head tie breaker.
"We seemed flat; we just didn't seem ourselves today," head coach Sunny Golloway said. "So we realize mathematically we're eliminated, so we'll play tomorrow at 4 o'clock and then we'll go home."
OU lost because of two main reasons.
First, junior pitcher Zach Neal didn't bring his A-game.
The right hander from Flower Mound, Texas, gave up five runs on four hits in three innings while walking three batters. All five runs scored with two outs in the third inning.
After sophomore right fielder Cody Reine scored on a wild pitch in the top half of the inning to take a 1-0 lead and getting the leadoff hitter in the inning to ground out, Neal fell apart. He walked freshman designated hitter Josh Turley, who is mainly a pitcher and had four at-bats all season coming into the game, gave up a single to the nine-hole hitter before recording the inning's second out.
Neal loaded the bases after hitting a batter, and then the flood gates opened. The Bears not only drove in the three runners on base, but also plated the two batters who drove in the initial three runs.
None of the base hits in the inning were hit very hard, but they hurt OU just as badly as a base hit off the wall would have.
"[Weak hits] are part of it, though," Neal said. "They deserved to find holes."
Baylor ended the inning with the 5-1 lead, but sophomore catcher Tyler Ogle narrowed the gap to 5-3 after he launched a two-run homer in the fifth inning.
The runs scored on that homer were the last ones the Sooners would plate. The Bears' bullpen threw four shutout innings while their bats scored one run in the sixth and two in the seventh to take the commanding 8-3 lead.
The other reason why OU lost was because it left nine runners on base, including seven in scoring position, compared to the three the Bears left on base.
"It's just not something you like to see especially when you're trying to get momentum going into a regional," said Ogle, who struck out twice with runners in scoring position. "You want to get those runs in."
The Sooners have had little problems scoring runs with runners in scoring position and have been very successful doing so during clutch situations. They have 23 come-from-behind victories this season, but a 24th just wasn't in the cards tonight.
Now that OU's Big 12 Championship dreams have been dashed and its final game tomorrow has turned into one for pride, the Sooners consider Saturday to be one of their most important games of the season.
With OU's fate of hosting a regional round still in the balance, the game could either help or hurt the Sooners make that fate a reality, Golloway said.
"Tomorrow's game could very well be the game that swings it either way," Golloway said. "That's what I'm trying to convince the team, and that's what I'm going to believe.
"We need to go find victory tomorrow because it could be the difference between Oklahoma hosting or going on the road. Let's make it really mean something tomorrow."
No. 3 Kansas State 10, No. 7 Kansas 5
No. 6 Baylor 8, No. 2 OU 3
No. 5 Texas Tech v. No. 8 Missouri, 9 a.m.
No. 1 Texas v. No. 4 Texas A&M, 12:30 p.m.
No. 2 OU v. No. 3 Kansas State, 4 p.m.
No. 6 Baylor v. No. 7 Kansas, 7:30 p.m.
No. 6 Baylor v. No. 4 Texas A&M, 1 p.m. on FSN*All rankings are according to tournament seeding