Oklahoma rally falls short to TCU

Teams combine for six home runs, but it's the Horned Frogs that delivered more clutch hits in their Big 12 Conference series opener
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NORMAN — Oklahoma pitchers gave up three home runs and the Sooners continued to struggle at the plate in clutch situations as No. 22 TCU rolled to an 11-7 victory at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

TCU won its seventh straight to improve to 18-7 overall and 4-0 and first place in the Big 12 Conference, while Oklahoma dropped to 13-12 and 1-3.

After a tough start, OU scored all of its runs in the last four innings.

“I thought the last four innings was probably our best baseball we played in probably a week,” said coach Skip Johnson. “And so that was good.”

Sophomore Wyatt Olds (1-3) scuffled on the hill for the Sooners. He only walked one and struck out six, but was tagged for nine hits and hit two batters as he allowed seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. Olds threw 106 pitches on the night and gave up two home runs to TCU’s Gene Wood and Brayden Taylor.

Ledgend Smith and Jett Lodes backed Olds in relief. Smith pitched 1 2/3 innings and gave up a two-run home run to Wood in the seventh that put the Frogs up 9-2, and Lodes ran into trouble in the ninth.

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But pitching wasn’t OU’s only problems on a chilly, windy night.

After a dismal clutch-hitting performance in Tuesday’s nonconference loss at Oklahoma State (the Sooners were 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position in a 5-4 loss) things didn’t get much better against the Horned Frogs until the late innings.

The Sooners struck out 12 times and didn’t get their first hit with runners in scoring position until the bottom of the eighth — Tanner Tredaway’s two-out single up the middle that made it 9-4.

Brandon Zaragoza’s single to left then scored Tredaway to cut it to 9-5 heading to the ninth inning.

TCU left-hander Russell Smith (4-1), a 6-foot-9 sophomore, pitched seven strong innings, giving up just three runs on four hits and two walks while striking out eight.

“Friday night games in the Big 12, it gets tough,” Johnson said. “I mean, there's reason why those guys are Friday night starters.”

OU finally got on the board against Smith in the sixth inning, trailing 7-0, when Tyler Hardman’s two-run home run made it 7-2.

After TCU scored twice more in the top of the seventh, Diego Muniz landed a solo home run that cut it to 9-3.

“We were kind of disconnected most of the first half of that game,” Johnson said.

Lodes, a freshman from Yukon, OK, was strong at first but gave up two more runs in the top of the ninth on three singles, a fielder’s choice, a sacrifice fly, a stolen base, a throwing error, a wild pitch and a walk that put the Horned Frogs up 11-5.

OU picked up two more runs in the bottom of the ninth when Peyton Graham was hit by pitch and Hardman blasted his sixth home run of the season — and second of the night — past the scoreboard in left field.

Scoring all seven runs in the final four innings could provide the OU lineup confidence to regain the offensive spark that pushed the Sooners to a six-game winning streak earlier in the season. OU averaged 12 runs per game from March 9 to March 21.

“You just gotta go out and stay in the process,” Johnson said, “and we've got to do a better job of staying in the process and understanding, you know, having quality at-bats in our offensive game plan, as we go through it.”

Saturday’s Game 2 begins at 4 p.m., and Sunday’s finale starts at 2.