OKLAHOMA CITY— Oklahoma’s chances at making the NCAA Baseball Tournament took a hit on Wednesday.
Entering the weekend’s Big 12 Tournament, the Sooners likely needed a strong showing to sneak into the tournament.
But they were unable to overcome their in-state rivals in their Big 12 opener on Wednesday night, falling 9-5 at the Bricktown Ballpark.
Skip Johnson led with his newly-converted ace, Jason Ruffcorn, but he was unable to repel the Cowboys long enough for the Sooner offense to get anything rolling.
Entering the fifth inning down 2-0, things unraveled for the Sooners.
In the top of the frame, OU finally put a pair of base runners aboard, the first two Sooners not named Peyton Graham to reach base on OSU pitcher Justin Campbell. With the runners positioned on first and second, left fielder Kendall Pettis made good contact, but drilled the ball straight to Cowboy center fielder Caeden Trenkle to end the top half of the fifth.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand started the Cowboy barrage in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff double. Ruffcorn then issued a pair of walks to Jake Thompson and Cade Cabbiness to load up the bases and set the table for Marcus Brown to drive home Encarnacion-Strand with an RBI single. Ruffcorn then surrendered another run when he hit Brock Mathis before Johnson turned to Wyatt Olds out of the bullpen.
"I thought Ruffcorn was really good early," Johnson said in a Zoom press conference after the game. "Battled for four or five innings there and kind of ran out of gas. We didn’t make one play that we probably should have made there and it kind of spun out of control."
Matt Golda and Trenkle wouldn’t hit the ball out of the infield off of Olds in the next two at-bats, but Golda’s fielder’s choice drove in another runner before Conor McKenna mishandled Trenkle’s grounder to allow the fourth and final run of the inning to score, pushing the OSU lead to 6-0.
The Cowboys tacked on another three runs in the bottom of the seventh, falling a run short of run ruling the Sooners.
A wild pitch and a pair of walks with the bases loaded brought in three runs for the Sooners in the top of the ninth, and a two-out single from Graham cut the lead to 9-5.
Graham finished the night 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs.
"Really proud of the guys for fighting back in the ninth and for giving us a chance to keep playing," Johnson said. "The biggest thing for us is we’ve gotta keep playing nine innings and one pitch at a time for nine innings.
"I was really proud of them for that."
OU's bats never got going with the season on the line, as Oklahoma only logged five base runners before the ninth inning.
The Sooners squandered a golden chance to set themselves up for a deep tournament run with the loss. Eighth-seeded West Virginia upset top-seeded Texas earlier in the day on Wednesday, with the winner of Bedlam set to meet the Mountaineers on Thursday.
Instead, Oklahoma fell to 2-4 against the Cowboys on the year, and will have to battle the Longhorns to keep their Big 12 Tournament hopes alive.
Thursday’s elimination game between the Sooners and the Longhorns is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at the Bricktown Ballpark. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Johnson said the team will have to focus on taking things one pitch at a time against the Longhorns, but that the scheduling for tomorrow's elimination game doesn't make much sense.
"Someone might want to look at the bracket and understand that you don’t play a nine o’clock game and then you turn around a play a noon game," he said. "That’s not very smart on the bracket side since we’re trying to promote student athletes and fairness. So we’ll see what happens tomorrow."