Can't pitch, can't win the story of Sooners' series opening Bedlam loss
Writer’s note: The first beat I ever had at The Norman Transcript was Sooner baseball and I’m back on it for three days, the Bedlam opener coming Thursday night at L. Dale Mitchell Park. I’ll be The Transcript’s only writer all three days, offering game stories as only I can write them from Thursday and Friday, and something more like a column from Saturday’s series finale. As a special to my readers here, I’m including my story or column each day, as well as the precise notepad I used to demand of my writers from such games — baseball and softball — but which only I’m demanding of myself over these three days. Also, FYI, this story’s about 600 words. The game finished at 10 p.m. I turned it into the paper at 10:58 p.m., and a few minutes of that time was spent talking to OU coach Skip Johnson outside the Sooner dugout with other media around 10:10 p.m.
By Clay Horning
For The Transcript
It’s hard to beat anybody without pitching and it’s particularly difficult to stop your ranked-and-slated-to-be-a-regional-host intrastate rival without pitching and that, regrettably, is what Oklahoma got Thursday night in its Bedlam series opener against 25th-ranked Oklahoma State inside L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The final score was 13-2, but the score after just four innings was most of that — 11-1 — thanks to a couple defensive miscues, but primarily thanks to Sooner starting pitcher Braxton Douthit’s inability to make the Cowboys earn their way on base.
“You lose the momentum when you give free bases and you don’t play defense,” OU coach Skip Johnson said.
The poor defense belonged to Sooner second baseman Jackson Nicklaus, who played a double-play ball into a single out in the first inning and whose second-inning error created two unearned runs.
Still, the baserunners were Douthit’s, many by walks and plunks.
Officially, Douthit worked three innings, but three of OSU’s four fourth-inning runs were also charged to him, making his final line the nine outs he got, 10 runs, eight earned and five hits, along with four strikeouts, four walks and three bit by pitches. His earned run average jumped from 4.77 to 5.61.
Carson Atwood, Aaron Calhoun, Julien Hachem, Peyton Olejnik and Colton Sundloff followed Douthit, the last three not allowing a run. Still, between the lot, OU issued nine walks and hit five batters.
If the Sooners had any chance to jump back into the game it came in the second and third innings, loading the bases with one out in both against OSU starter Nolan McLean.
In the second, McLean escaped by striking out Rocco Garza-Gongora and getting Anthony Mackenzie to foul out to third baseman Tyler Wulfert.
In the third, McLean sported OU a run by walking Easton Carmichael, but came back to strike Nicklaus out looking before getting Sebastian Orduno to ground out.
“I think we got a little tighter [at the plate] with men in scoring position,” Johnson said. “We didn’t swing at strikes, [we] swung at balls out of the zone and that’s what happened.”
Stupendously, OU outhit OSU 12 to 10, yet a lot of difference that makes when one team gets its first three batters on base in three of the first four innings, which is exactly what the Cowboys did in the first, third and fourth frames, seven of those nine batters eventually coming around to score.
The Sooners got two hits each from Dakota Harris, Kendall Pettis and Carmichael.
The Cowboys’ big hits belonged to Colin Brueggemann, who went 2 for 5 with two home runs and drove in five; Wulfert, who went 2 for 4, hit a home run, drove in two and scored three runs; and Roc Riggio, who went 2 for 5, drove in two and scored a run.
McLean entered with a 1.65 earned run average and the Sooners made him work. He threw 72 pitches in three innings and yielded eight baserunners. Still, just one crossed and soon enough Evan O’Toole was in to relieve, getting the win after throwing five scoreless innings.
The loss dropped the Sooners to 29-23 overall and 10-12 in the Big 12 Conference. The Cowboys improved to 36-15 and 14-8.
The two teams are back on the field at 6:30 p.m. today, the series’ finale arriving at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“You have to start winning innings, like we’ve been doing,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got to get back to winning innings and keeping momentum on our side.”
Inside the game
The first rule in sports and most other things is do no harm, yet Oklahoma could not follow it during Thursday night’s 13-2 Bedlam series opening loss to Oklahoma State.
Indeed, OSU’s first three runs could have been avoided had OU second baseman Jackson Nicklaus made two routine plays.
The first, coming with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the first inning was a custom made double-play ball Nicklaus could not field cleanly. He got the out at first base and was thus not charged with an error. Still, he botched what should have been a twin-killing, leading to the Cowboys’ first run.
In the second inning, though the play would have been close, Nicklaus failed to come up with a chopper allowing David Mendham to reach. Three batters later, OSU’s Roc Riggio lashed a two-run single to right field making the score 3-0, neither run earned.
It didn’t help either that starting pitcher Brandon Douthit walked the first batter he faced and plunked two others the first two frames, but he did that, too, leaving OU to face yet another uphill battle on the first night of a Big 12 Conference series.
• OU entered the Bedlam Series No. 35 in the RPI according to D1Baseball.com and No. 36 according to WarrenNolan.com. Additionally, according to D1Baseball’s bracketology, the Sooners are among the last three teams in the NCAA draw. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State entered the series No. 22 in the RPI by both services, and is being projected to be the NCAA’s 14th overall seed.
If OU can win the series’ remaining two games, it might nail down its NCAA spot no matter what happens at the Big 12 tourney. If it loses one or both, its NCAA chances may depend on the conference tourney. Simultaneously, OSU appears to be in position to both play itself out of being a regional host or into being a regional host and super regional host, too.
• This season marks the first time since 1982 all three games of the Bedlam series will have been played on the Sooner campus.
• Though OU finished with 12 hits, only one went for extra bases, a double from Dakota Harris. Four of OSU’s 10 hits were for extra bases, three of them home runs and a double from Carson Benge.
• Officially, OU drew 2,571 to the ballpark Thursday. At Texas’ Disch Falk Field, where the Longhorns topped No. 7 West Virginia 12-2, 6,662 filled the park.
• The two teams are bak at it at 6:30 p.m. today.
OU will enter 29-23 and 10-12 against Big 12 Conference foes. OSU will enter 36-15 and 14-8 against conference competition.
• If OSU wins again and West Virginia drops another game in Austin, the Cowboys and Mountaineers will have identical 15-8 conference records with one conference game remaining.
— Clay Horning
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