Sorenson: Sooners Bury Baylor LateAnalysis
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WACO, Texas — Wow. What a day in college baseball. I know it got overshadowed by March Madness going on in Men’s and Women’s basketball and of course I also had an eye on what was happening in college hockey’s NCAA Tournament as well. But this was a pretty epic day in our sport of college baseball. We’ll get to that in a bit, first let me tell you about the game I saw in Waco, Texas between resurgent Oklahoma and resurgent Baylor.
With the high-quality of baseball that Oklahoma and Baylor have been playing so far this season, the last thing I expected was an offensive explosion that led to a blowout win. But that’s what I got tonight at Baylor Ballpark in Waco as the Sooners rallied from behind to make this a woodshed job in an 11-3 win on the road.
I have to admit, even though tonight’s game was not a close game, I am very happy for both programs to be put back into a position of relevance this season. Baylor came into the game as the third-ranked team in the RPI, playing the seventh toughest schedule in the country thus far. The Sooners came in with an RPI of No. 54 (and a S.O.S. at No. 205) but left the yard with a much better feeling for themselves after tonight’s display. Here’s how it panned out.
Oklahoma U. – 001 004 204 – 11 8 0
Baylor Bears – 200 010 000 – 3 9 3
WP: Austin Kerns, 2-2
LP: Kyle Lewis, 3-2
– Blake Brewster, 1-for-4, 3RBI HR
– Steele Walker, 1-for-5, RBI HR
– Shea Langeliers, 3-for-4
– Aaron Dodson, 4-for-5, 2RBI
– Oklahoma, 22-4
– Baylor, 17-5
HOW IT WENT DOWN:
First off, it’s good to see these two programs back to their winning ways, coming in with 21-4 and 17-4 records, respectively. It was weird to see the Big 12 have so much success last year and having it NOT involve either the Sooners or the Bears (and I suppose the Longhorns too, of course). I feel like it’s almost *important* to have them be teams that can compete for the conference title.
The quality of these two teams coming into this weekend was obvious, especially the pitching and defense. OU came in 9th in the country with a 2.61 team ERA and 34th in fielding at .979. BU followed with the 24th-ranked team ERA at 3.02 and the 11th-best defense at .982.
The one big difference between the teams? Their offenses. OU came in hitting .309 as a unit, compared to Baylor’s .287. It showed tonight.
But it was an inauspicious start for Sooner starting pitcher Dylan Grove, who struggled in the bottom of the first inning, walking the first three Baylor batters and plunking a batter with the bases loaded for the first run of the game, followed by an RBI single from six-hole hitter Aaron Dodson.
In all, Grove threw 42 pitches in the first inning alone, which gave the Bears a 2-0 lead. But other than that hiccup, the Sooners looked good tonight. Initially it looked like Baylor would be in control behind starting pitcher Nick Lewis, who staked the Bears to a 3-1 lead through five innings by steadily using a three-pitch mix to keep OU off balance.
But the game changed completely in the top of the sixth inning as the Sooners were able to park a pair of home runs off of the BU starter to take the game over. Steele Walker’s solo shot led off the inning and then nine-hole hitter Blake Brewster sliced a three-run home run to right field a couple batters later, giving the Sooners a 5-3 lead and signaling the end of Lewis’ night for the Bears.
An inning later, the Sooners would load the bases on two walks and a single off of reliever Kyle Hill. An infield RBI single from Renae Martinez and a bases-loaded walk from Brewster would account for a 7-3 lead and also send Hill to the showers as well.
The game became a boat race from there, as the Sooners added to the Bear misery with four more runs in the top of the ninth inning, including a bases-loaded plunking and an RBI single Jack Flansburg, among the scoring.
OU reliever Austin Kerns picked up the W with 2/3 of an inning of relief. J.B. Olson kept the Bears at bay with 3.0 innings of scoreless work, despite giving up five hits.
– Light crowd due to March Madness.
The crowd at Baylor Ballpark wasn’t a very big one, but that’s understandable since their basketball team was playing in the NCAA Tournament against South Carolina at the same time. Perhaps the roundballers could’ve used some of the baseball teams’ defense as they went down to the Gamecocks 70-50 in a game that never was that competitive. On a brighter note, the Bears women’s team beat Louisville in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
– OU without its best hitter.
Austin O’Brien was injured in the ninth inning of last Sunday’s 14-4 win at Kennesaw State, wrecking a knee running to first base. O’Brien was leading the team with a stout .373 average, along with 15 RBIs and a perfect 4-for-4 on steals.
Caught up with Oklahoma assistant coach Mike Anderson before the game. I was asking him what the key was to this year’s big turnaround for the Big Red.
“We’ve just been waiting for our young guys to get experienced,” Anderson said. “The last few years we’ve been young but we knew once these guys grew up a bit they’d be pretty good. And they have been. From an offensive standpoint, they’re doing everything we have asked of them and it shows. I’d say since about the halfway point of last year, they’ve been doing things the right way and having much better at-bats. Early last year, it was like pulling teeth to get them to do something for us. So it’s much easier now and that’s made a huge difference.”
I also asked him about the possibility of becoming a head coach again. The former Nebraska head honcho said, “I still love it here (at OU). I do. The main thing is, I have a daughter in high school and I don’t want to have to move and take her out of her situation. So I’m happy where I am right now. Oklahoma is a great place and coaching with Pete (Hughes, the head coach) has been phenomenal.”
Some more images from tonight’s game in Waco.
Now on to what else happened in college baseball today…
The best of the day in college baseball
1- The 4-3 Thrillers In The Beaver State
It’s hard to beat the pair of games that took place between Washington and Oregon in Eugene and Arizona and Oregon State in Corvallis. I had given serious thought to going up there this weekend until I found out that Frank Piliere was already set to jet there and report on the acton. Well it was GOOD today in Bigfoot Country, for sure. Oregon State outlasted Arizona 4-3 in jog-off fashion as K.J. Harrison knocked in Adley Rutschman from third on an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning. Meanwhile, in Eugene, the Ducks edged Washington 4-3 in a back-and-forth affair as Gabe Matthews drove in three runs for the Ducks as part of a 2-for-4 night where he smacked a pair of doubles to lead the UO offense. Duck starter David Peterson went 7.0 innings, giving up six hits and one earned run, but did see his 22.1 inning scoreless streak snapped in the first inning vs. the Huskies.
2- The Big Labosky, Duke
The Blue Devil cleanup hitter only had two hits on the day vs. Virginia, but boy howdy what a pair of hits. Jack Labosky hit two three-run home runs in the first two innings vs. the Cavs to turn this one into a laugher early on in a 19-3 rout. Griffin Conine should be given a bit of props as well for going 3-for-6 with five RBI including a double and a home run of his own. Duke improved to 13-11 on the season.
3- Lloyd… I mean, LLOYD!
From seeing Indiana play twice at Hawaii last weekend, I realized the Hoosiers have a really good closer in Matt Lloyd. But what I didn’t realize is that they’ve also got a really good designated hitter in Matt Lloyd. In fact, today, he hit four home runs, three of them in game one of a doubleheader sweep at Northwestern, 13-9 and 6-5. On top of that, Lloyd also threw a scoreless ninth inning on the mound to lock down the game one win.
– The Two Alex’s.
Alex Faedo and Alex Lange put on a pretty good pitching clinic in Florida’s 1-0 win over LSU. Faedo went 7.0 innings, gave up seven hits with seven strikeouts, no walks and, obviously, no runs. Lange, finally pitching to his vast potential, threw a complete game, six-hitter with seven Ks. JJ Schwarz’s RBI flyout in the sixth was the difference. Deacon Liput went 3-for-4 and scored the winning run.
– Way to go Cunningham
With all the strife that we’ve laid on Coastal Carolina for its very pedestrian start to this season, at least Alex Cunningham heard us and got up and did something about it. Today Cunningham fired a complete-game one-hitter with 10 Ks in the Chanticleers 5-0 win over visiting Arkansas State. Of his 114 pitches, 77 went for strikes as he issued only two walks along the way.
The worst of the day in college baseball
The Black Knights jumped out to an 18-4 record coming into this weekend and was getting all kinds of props for a great start under new head coach Greg Lovelady. But tonight was a clunker. The Knights were out-hit 10-to-5 and committed three crucial errors in a 4-3 loss to Dartmouth. The game-winning run crossed home in the top of the ninth inning thanks to a throwing error by UCF.
As mentioned above, the 21st-ranked Cavaliers got “pantsed” tonight with a 19-3 loss to Duke, at home no less. The Wahoo arms corps came into the night with a 3.99 team ERA but starting pitcher Daniel Lynch gave up 10 runs (all earned) on 12 hits in 2.1 innings of work to get the avalanche started.
3- Louisville’s offense.
The Cardinals got a 14-strikeout performance from Brendan McKay on the mound, but lost 3-1 at N.C. State. They actually out-hit the Pack 7-to-6, but couldn’t come up with the clutch hit. McKay did his part getting a pair of walks in his four at-bats.
– South Carolina losing to Alabama.
Not even a home crowd could help the Gamecocks put down the lowly Tide in a 4-2 loss. Hell, Oral Roberts was able to sweep Bama in Tuscaloosa. This one, on a Friday night, is a head-scratcher.
– UNLV pitching waves a white flag
First off, the Rebels lost 29-8 to New Mexico tonight. They also helped the Lobo cause by issuing 14 walks, throwing four wild pitches and hitting three more batters. Oof! Oh, and on top of that the Lobos also scratched off 24 hits on the night. This was New Mexico’s second straight game going absolutely bonkers at the plate. Back on Wednesday they beat Grand Canyon 22-3.