No. 9 Horns, Howell Lower Boom On Sooners, 10-2

The No. 9 Texas baseball team rode <B>Eric Sultemeier's </b>four RBI performance<B> </b>and starting pitcher <B>J.P. Howell's </b>one-run effort<B> </b>to pummel Oklahoma at Disch-Falk Field Saturday. Howell has a spotless 6-0 mark, as the USC-transfer is clearly the ace on this year's staff. The seventh straight win for Texas improved its record to 28-11 overall and a league-leading 11-3 in the Big 12. The Sooners dropped to 13-18 on the season and (no joke) 1-10 in Big 12 play.

Why are the Sooners getting roughed up on the diamond these days? For starters, they rank dead last in the conference in both batting and fielding. (This, despite a press release in their baseball media guide boasting of the Texas high school talent that the program is now allegedly siphoning.)

Matt Arkison's leadoff, inside-the-park home run in the top of the third gave OU an early 1-0 advantage.

"I wasn't putting the ball in the strike zone early on," Howell said, "but after I got going I was putting it right there. And the defense was really backing me up."

The Horns took their first lead of the game, 2-1, in the bottom of the fourth starting with back-to-back singles from Dustin Majewski and Curtis Thigpen. Sophomore DH J.D. Reininger's RBI-groundout scored Majewski while Taylor Teagarden's plated Thigpen.

Texas upped its lead to 4-1 in the fifth as Sultemeier's sixth home run of the year (matching his single-season career-best) also scored Omar Quintanilla who reached first on a walk. Texas separated themselves from the Sooners in the next frame. With the bases loaded and one gone, singles from Quintanilla and Sultemeier as well as a Thigpen sacrifice fly produced four runs and put this one out of reach, 8-1.

Texas added two more runs in the seventh, including a solo round-tripper from Teagarden. The freshman came within a double of hitting for the cycle.

"I saw the ball well today and got lucky, I guess," Teagarden said. "I hit a change-up. I got under it and it went out."

Teagarden and Majewski each had three hits while combining for three runs scored and a RBI. Meanwhile, Oklahoma scratched across an unearned score in the top of the ninth, but Jesen Merle closed out the 10-2 Longhorns' win.

A UT sports publicist conducted a sports media straw poll in the top of the ninth to see if we thought a high throw from Huston Street to first base should be credited as a Longhorn error or as a Sooner basehit. (The verdict was a 5-2 decision for the hit, with Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls and ‘yours truly' opting for the miscue. Street, in his sixth straight appearance at the hot corner, would later cast the third vote for the throwing error -- as would the box score).

"We've got a lot to improve on and we've got to keep getting better if we want to compete come championship time," Street said, "but I think we're gelling as a team. We've always believed in each other. We never held any doubts in out minds. I think now we're in mid-season form and we've come together as a team. And you're seeing the results."

Justin Simmons, last year's ace at 16-1, is slated to take the mound, 1 p.m., Sunday in the final of the three-game series. The sophomore appears to have found his All-American touch but, at the midway point of the conference season, stands at 3-4 with a 4.79 ERA.

Howell, expected to be USC's pitching ace this year, improved on his 2.34 ERA in 6.2 innings of work.

"They're a team that can get you if you're not ready to play," Howell said, "so we're going to come out tomorrow and try to get the sweep."

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