Strikeouts, grand slam power Oklahoma to first win of the season

Sooner pitchers rack up 17 Ks, but it's Conor McKenna's eighth-inning grand slam that was the difference this time
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NORMAN — Conor McKenna picked a good time to blast his first home run in almost two years.

Oklahoma pitchers struck out 17 batters, and McKenna’s grand slam in the eighth inning powered the No. 22-ranked Sooners to their first win of the season Monday, an 8-5 victory over Nebraska-Omaha.

OU (1-1) got even after dropping Sunday’s season-opener 6-3 to the Mavericks.

The game was tied in the top of the eighth after UNO’s Ryan Doran homered off OU’s Javier Ramos, but pinch-hitter Diego Muniz put the Sooners back on top with an RBI single.

McKenna then took a 1-0 count before raking his fourth career home run — his first since the 2019 Big 12 Tournament against Baylor on May 22, 2019 — to left field off reliever Zach Munson.

OU also showed patience and capitalized on Omaha mistakes to generate early offense.

Omaha led 1-0 early but in the third inning, Kendall Pettis singled and raced to second on an outfield error, then moved to third on a groundout. Pettis scored on Brandon Zaragoza’s sacrifice fly to left to tie it.

UNO led 2-1 in the fifth but Tyler Hardman drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a balk by starter Richie Holetz, advanced to third on a popup, then scored on a balk by reliever Easton Smith.

And in the seventh, OU took a 3-2 lead when Hardman singled, moved to third on Logan Kohler’s double, and scored on a wild pitch by Smith.

Left hander Jake Bennett started for Oklahoma and gave up just two hits and a walk over five innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts. Bennett and relievers Carson Carter, Ramos and Christian Ruebeck scattered six hits and walked two but controlled things with the 17 strikeouts.

OU next visits Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX, for a pair of 7:30 p.m. games against Stephen F. Austin Tuesday and UT-Arlington Wednesday, before heading south for the Round Rock Classic to face Auburn on Friday (noon), Texas A&M Saturday (6 p.m.) and Big 12 contender Baylor Sunday (5 p.m.).