Oklahoma Tops No. 1 Arizona State, 6-5

TEMPE, Arizona. - The 29th-ranked Oklahoma baseball team rallied for a run in the ninth inning to top No. 1 Arizona State, 6-5, and hand the Sun Devils only their second loss of the year in front of a Packard Stadium record crowd of 4,155 Friday night.


Senior center fielder Reggie Willits scored the decisive run in dramatic fashion as he slid around the tag at the plate and touched home for the winning run. Willits was called safe on the play after an attempt by the ASU first baseman to throw him out at the plate failed after fielding a shallow ball chopped down the first base line by OU junior third baseman Jay Yaconetti. Sophomore righthander Jarod McAuliff (1-0) worked the final two innings for the victory to notch his first win on the season and help the Sooners improve to 11-3. ASU dropped to 28-2 with the loss.


As the third Sooner pitcher to face the Sun Devils, McAuliff came on in relief of sophomore David Purcey in the eighth inning with a man at first and no outs. Despite allowing the inherited runner to score and tie the game at 5-5, McAuliff recovered and did not allow any further damage in the eighth and gave up only one more hit in the ninth before sealing the victory for the Sooners. It marked his seventh scoreless outing of the season.


A pair of two-run home runs by ASU's Jeremy West (3-for-5) and Rod Allen (1-for-3) in the fourth and seventh innings, respectively, kept the Sun Devils in the game. Arizona State tied the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the eighth inning as ASU third baseman Frank Mesa (2-for-4) reached second base on a throwing error by OU freshman second baseman Russell Raley (0-for-3) and scored two batters later on a single by pinch hitter Nick Walsh (1-for-1).


The Sooners jumped out to an early three run lead on two home runs of their own. After several Sooners drove ASU starter Ben Thurmond's offerings deep, but foul, to right field in the early innings, junior catcher Spencer Wyman (1-for-2) connected on a pitch and sent it deep to right in fair territory in the third frame for his fourth home run of the year.


Senior second baseman Eddie Cornejo (4-for-5) led off the next inning with one of his career high four base hits to put a runner on base for Yaconetti (1-for-5) who clubbed his team-leading sixth homer of the year to right-center field to give the Sooners a 3-0 lead.


Oklahoma chased Arizona State reliever Beau Vaughan from the game in the seventh inning by causing some two-out trouble. With sophomore first baseman Matt Bose (0-for-4) standing at second base and two away, Wyman began the rally with a walk. ASU first baseman Jeff Larish (1-for-5) booted the ball at first base to allow senior right fielder Matt Arkison (1-for-5) to reach base and Willits (2-for-5) to step to the plate and drive in Bose for the first run of the inning with a bloop hit to third base. Cornejo, the next batter, delivered a clutch base hit to deep shortstop to drive in another run and further pad the Sooners' lead at 5-2.


Junior righthander Mark Roberts started for the Sooners but did not factor into the decision, although he pitched well enough to win. Roberts worked 6.1 innings and scattererd nine hits, two of which went for two-run homers which were the only runs charged against the Owasso, Okla., native. He left the game after facing three batters in the seventh inning and a 5-4 lead.


OU and ASU will play the second game of the series Saturday  night at 8 p.m. (CST) at Packard Stadium. Junior southpaw Buddy Blair (2-1) will be starting for the Sooners and will be opposed by Sun Devil senior righthander Jered Liebeck (5-0).  James Hale will call the game on KREF 1400 AM Norman.

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