Oklahoma got just what it needed from Bedlam: a Big 12 series win.
Brett Squires hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning Saturday at L. Dale Mitchell Park, and OU got an iron man relief appearance from Jason Ruffcorn to take a 5-3 victory over Oklahoma State in Norman.
Oklahoma — which had lost eight of its last nine against OSU, hadn’t beaten the Cowboys in a series since 2016, and had lost three of its first four Big 12 series this season — hit four home runs to win Friday’s opener in Stillwater 16-2.
“Being able to take the series from them,” Ruffcorn said, “that was obviously huge for us.”
Ruffcorn, previously the Sooners’ closer, has embraced his broader role of doing whatever coach Skip Johnson needs. Ruffcorn’s previous career-long outing was 3 2/3 innings, but he pitched the final 6 2/3 innings and struck out 10. That included striking out the side in the ninth inning. He also walked just one while scattering four hits.
“I thought the matchups were better for Ruffcorn,” Johnson said. “We’ve been trying to push him in that role, just tried to extend him a little bit.”
Ruffcorn threw 111 pitches (76 strikes), and his 95 mph fastballs at the end were among the hardest pitches he threw all day. He said having to finish the ninth felt like second nature.
“I just kept telling myself, I’ve done this for a while,” Ruffcorn said. “All I need is three outs. I can do this.
“I was just planning on going as long as I could while being effective.”
“That’s the thing,” Johnson said, “when he gets tired, he’s still got a lot of life (movement on his fastball).”
The Sooners (22-19 overall, 6-8 Big 12) got on the scoreboard first in the second inning when Peyton Graham drew a bases-loaded walk to score Brandon Zaragoza and Jimmy Crooks drove home Connor Beichler with a single to right field.
OU had more opportunities in the inning, but Beichler’s single to right with runners on first and second and nobody out resulted in Justin Mitchell being thrown out at home by OSU right fielder Cade Cabbiness.
OSU got going in the third when Christian Encarnacion-Strand’s sacrifice fly to center field scored Caeden Trenkle.
In the fourth, Justin Campbell — the Cowboys’ starting pitcher — took an 0-2 pitch from OU reliever Jason Ruffcorn over the wall in left field for a solo home run that tied it at 2-2.
The Cowboys (24-14-1, 7-10) took the lead against Ruffcorn in the fifth inning with a solo home run to left-center by Max Hewitt.
OU regained the lead on a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh. Graham led off with a single up the middle, and after Crooks struck out and Tyler Hardman flied out to right, Squires hammered a two-out, two-run home run over the wall in left-center field off OSU reliever Kade Davis.
“He hadn’t been really healthy,” Johnson said. “He’s starting to get more healthy every day. The thing about Brett, he’s a baseball player. He can play anywhere on the infield. And we know he’s gonna give you competitive at-bats, and that’s good.”
The Sooners added an insurance run in the eighth when Connor McKenna’s two-out double scored Zaragoza from second base. Zaragoza started the rally with a one-out double.
“It’s huge for us because we’ve been fighting and fighting all year longer and stuff hasn’t gone our way,” Johnson said. “But we’ve never made any excuses about it. We go to practice every day to win the game and to try to execute our game plan.”
The series finale unfolds Sunday in Norman. First pitch is 4 p.m. and the game will be broadcast by ESPNU.