OKLAHOMA CITY – For the third time in the weekend Bedlam baseball series the Oklahoma Sooners jumped out to an early lead Sunday on the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Playing in front of the smallest crowd of the weekend, a still very respectable 9,406 at the Bricktown Ballpark, the Cowboys rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning for an 8-7 victory on Ty Wright's game-winning single.
The trick for Oklahoma on Sunday was trying to overcome the mental hurdle that the Cowboys weren’t going to come back and spoil the day. They did, but in the top of the ninth the Sooners looked like they had come up with their own late game heroics as they scored two runs to take a 7-5 lead. However, that sinking feeling that every Sooner and Sooner fan must feel this time every spring came back in the bottom of the ninth.
In the bottom of the ninth Cowboy Matt Mangini walked and that was the end of the afternoon for reliever Nich Conaway. OU head coach Sunny Galloway brought on fastball pitcher Garrett Richards and he promptly walked Jordy Mercer to put runners on first and second.
Matt Lopez used the threat of a bunt to work a full count and on the telling pitch with two strikes Lopez still bunted the ball back to the pitcher. For the second time in the game a Sooner pitcher threw the ball away attempting to get the lead runner at third. That allowed Mangini to score and in the scramble down the left field line against the wall in the short corner Mercer also came around to score and tie the game at 7-7.
After Ryan Pittman made a perfect sacrifice bunt to move pinch runner Steve Ptak to third, Ty Wright launched a fly ball to right that the Sooners right fielder Devin Shepherd didn’t even bother to field and Ptak scored to give OSU the win and the Bedlam sweep by the score of 8-7.
“Anytime you win a game like that, if you’re not happy then what is the point? I mean what are you here for? What’s the point?” said Wright about his feelings after having the game-winning hit. “I knew it (his game-winning hit) was deep enough especially with Steve (Ptak) running at third. It was a relief and hard to explain. It was very exciting, but a very hard fought weekend.”
“We were fortunate and had some things go our way for us to win today,” said Oklahoma State head coach Frank Anderson. “That (ninth inning) had to happen for us to get back in it and Ty had to put the ball into play and he got it into the outfield for us to win.”
Jordy Mercer was the truly fortunate winning pitcher running his record to 2-0 on the season, while Richards took the loss for the Sooners.
The final and deciding rally came, as previously mentioned, after it look like the Sooners had put themselves in the win column in the top half of the ninth. OU catcher Jackson Williams, who had the best weekend of any Sooner hitter, singled in Aaron Ivey, who had singled and stole second prior to Williams' game-winning RBI single. The next hitter Aaron Baker provided some insurance with a double to the Bricktown Ballpark’s tight corner down the line in right field as Williams came around to score and make it 7-5 Oklahoma.
The Cowboys recovered quickly from being swept by Texas a week ago for the Bedlam sweep and are now 13-8 in Big 12 play and have a 34-13 mark overall.
Anderson said after the game that they would look to pick up some midweek games this week, but none were scheduled as of yet. The Cowboys are on the road against Texas Tech next weekend before closing out the regular season at home with Missouri.
Oklahoma fell to 8-13 in the Big 12 and 28-20 overall on the season. OU has major work to do in its final two conference series at home with Missouri next weekend and on the road at Texas Tech to close out the regular campaign.
Wright was asked if the Cowboys, even when they went down on the scoreboard late, had a mental edge after winning the first two games in the series and having swept OU last season too.
“Through a nine-inning game, a nine-inning span, we have a team that is capable of going nine innings mentally,” he said. “That is tough especially for guys that have not been in this environment. We are very lucky that we have the older guys, the players that have played in this situation, the last two or three years, and I think it really rubbed off on the younger players. If the mental is there then the physical will be there. If you are willing to dig down deep and do it then you will. Mental aspect, that is all this weekend was.”
All three Bedlam games had two things in common. The obvious was Oklahoma State winning all three, but the other was Oklahoma taking the first lead in each and leading more innings overall on the weekend.
Oklahoma jumped out from the beginning again on Sunday. After Rebel Ridling made a backhand grab on a ground ball at first to open the game with an out, the wind cursed third baseman Matt Mangini’s effort to field Aaron Reza’s infield fly ball. OU catcher Jackson Williams has been solid all weekend and he greeted Cowboy lefty Joe Kent’s first pitch and drove it over the head of center fielder Keanon Simon. The ball bounced off the wall at the 400-foot sign and Reza and Williams bounced into third and second, respectively. A dribble down the third base line scored Reza and Oklahoma led 1-0.
The Cowboys wasted no time in tying it up as Wright, who got an early exit on Saturday night for throwing an elbow at the end of a rundown, drilled the ball to deep right field and strolled in for a double. A few hitters later, with Wright moved over to third, Tyler Mach hit a sacrifice fly to right field and the score was even at 1-1. For Wright the hit extended his hitting streak to 24 games.
The Sooners came back to take the lead again in the top of the third inning and ran O-State starter Joe Kent out of the game. Kent got himself in trouble not throwing strikes and had to leave the game with runners on first and second. Jackson Williams again was the catalyst for the Sooners as he drove a single to left center to knock in one run. Reliever Robbie Weinhardt continued to struggle and with the bases loaded Brandon Moss singled to center field scoring one, but Williams also tried to score from second and the throw to catcher Ryan Pittman was in time to get the sliding Williams. The next batter Joe Dunigan delivered another single to center and that scored a run to put OU in front 4-1.
The major negative for the Cowboys was that the first four runners that scored for Oklahoma got on by error, walks, or by being hit by pitch. The law of baseball is that it’s those runners you put on base for your opponent usually come home to roost.
The Cowboys MO has been to answer back when teams strike and waste no time in doing so. Tyler Mach singled on a blooper to left center. Then it was time for the fireworks as Corey Brown hit the ball a ton as it flew out over the right field wall in a hurry for a two-run homer. Rebel Ridling, up next, pulled the Cowboys to even as he took the first delivery from the OU lefty Joseph Hughes and sent it straight out over the 400-foot sign in center field. For Brown it was home run number 18 on the season and his 59th and 60th RBIs. Ridling, who had the game-tying homer in Tulsa on Friday, reached double digits with his shot to center and it was his 55th RBI.
A base hit by Mangini and then Hughes hitting Jordy Mercer caused OU to make a pitching change to Friday’s loser Nich Conaway. Conaway gave up back-to-home runs to Rdiling and Mercer to take the loss in the Bedlam opener. Conaway fared better when he came in Sunday as he got two ground balls to end the inning with the score tied 4-4.
Oklahoma took a 5-4 lead in top of the fourth on a solo home run by second baseman Aljay Davis and that ran Weinhardt out of the game in favor of Martin Beno.
A two-out rally for the Cowboys fizzled in the sixth when Tyler Mach grounded out to the shortstop with two runners on. The Cowboys got another threat going in the bottom of the seventh when Conaway walked Corey Brown to start the frame and then Rebel Ridling blooped a single into right field. The rally took a hit when Matt Mangini worked Conaway to a full count before striking out on a big rip. With the runners going, the proclaimed “Sooner killer” Jordy Mercer hit into a double play.
In the eighth, Matt Lopez, who had just come in for Jordy Mercer at short as Mercer moved to the mound, hit the ball off the shin of OU third baseman Jarod Freeman to get on by an error. Catcher Ryan Pittman delivered with his second hit of the day, a clutch single right back up the middle, to give the Cowboys runners on first and second with no outs. Wright got the bunt down too hard back to the pitcher giving him plenty of time to throw out the lead runner at third but Conaway threw the ball away at third allowing Lopez to score and Pittman and Wright to move to third and second.
Keanon Simon struck out for the first out in the inning. Tyler Mach was nailed in the back of the helmet by Conaway to load the bases. It was at that point the mostly orange crowd of Oklahoma State fans really started making noise. Unfortunately for the noisemakers, Corey Brown hit a dribbler down the third base line that Freeman fielded and wheeled home to Sooner catcher Jackson Williams for the force on Pittman and the second out. The next Cowboy hitter, Rebel Ridling, worked a full count and then with the runners moving swung through a fastball for the third out. The game went to the ninth inning tied 5-5 leading to both teams heroics and blunders.