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OU Baseball: Revamped Rotation Earns Weekend Sweep

By: Dave Myrick

Norman

The Oklahoma baseball team (21-14, 11-4 in Big 12) has ridden the roller-coaster this season. From beating a top 5 Tennessee team in Arlington, to losing at home to Lamar… three times in a row. Its been frustrating for the fans, who have twice packed L. Dale Mitchell park after OU has swept conference foes ready to see their team continue their winning ways, but this is baseball. It doesn’t work like that. Losses happen. You can beat the best team in your league 20-0 on a Friday, then lose 1-0 on Saturday. Thats the way it goes in this sport. College Baseball is unique in the fact you can lose a whole bunch of games, and have it really not matter in the end. The goal is the goal. Keeping the main thing the main thing, so to speak. Fans want teams to win, duh. This is known. And get mad when they lose, also known. The baseball side of Collegiate Athletics separates itself due to the fact you can and will lose games and series, and still make it where you want to be: The NCAA Tournament.

Oklahoma pitcher Brendan Girton (30) throws during an NCAA baseball game against Tennessee on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Arlington, Texas. Oklahoma won 5-1 in 10 innings. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

UT Arlington

Oklahoma hosted The Mavericks of UT Arlington at the Dale Tuesday night, April 9th, to kick off a four-game home-stand. Did I mention roller-coaster ? Oklahoma would explode out of the gate, facing former Sooners hurler Aaron Calhoun. Calhoun, who transferred to UTA after a season in Norman, struggled mightily with control early, and OU took advantage scoring four runs in the bottom of the first to stake OU starter Carson Atwood to a 4-0 lead beginning the second. The thing was, the starter didn’t start the second. Instead Will Carsten would come in and pitch two shut out innings of ball, with three strikeouts.

By the time it was said and done, 11 (ELEVEN) OU pitchers would throw in this one. Malachi Witherspoon, Dylan Crooks, Ryan Lambert (picked up the win, though I am still not sure how), Jason Bollman, Jett Lodes, Reid Hensley, Jacob Gholston, Brad Pruett and Brendan Girton would all throw. Girton picking up his first save of the season. With Oklahoma up 11-5 headed to the top of the ninth, needing three outs to close victory, things would get real as OU would walk the bases loaded. Walk in a run, then give up a grand-slam. After the way the Oklahoma State series had ended, and was still fresh on everyones mind, the unthinkable for a second was more than plausible as UTA would bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth. Girton would get the out he needed, however, and OU survived 11-9 to start the week off with a win.

Kansas State

Friday night OU welcomed former skipper Pete Hughes and his KSU Wildcats to Norman. Kansas State, tied for second in the Big 12 standings at the time, came in scuffling in league play as of late. OU would start normal Friday night starter Braden Davis against the Cats, and he was outstanding. Davis would throw 5.2 innings of shut-out ball. Striking out seven with two walks. He would receive plenty of offensive support in this one after a quiet first inning for the OU offense, they raced out to a 9-0 lead after two full. Mudler got the party started with a single in the second, plating Michael Snyder. What would follow was incredible to watch, as Madron singled. Carmichael singled. Mackenzie singled and Snyder singled… all in a row. Nicklaus would reach on an error. And finally Kendall Pettis doubled to plate Snyder, the second time he crossed home-plate in the inning.

Oklahoma would tack on three more in the fourth to make it 12-0 OU. From then it was a matter of counting outs. Jett Lodes would relieve Braden Davis in the sixth and Dylan Crooks finished off the final two frames as OU would go on to win the series opener 12-5. Davis would get the win to move to 3-3 on the year.

Saturday

Kyson Witherspoon got the start on a breezy afternoon in Norman, and was outstanding. Kyson, who would pick up his third win of the season (3-2), threw 5 innings of shut-out ball. He was brought back in the sixth with a pitch count over 90 and things would get a little rocky. By then OU had built a 6-0 lead thanks to a Michael Snyder home-run in the third, a Jason Walk home-run in the fourth, and an Anthony Mackenzie home-run in the fifth. Mudler would also bang a two-out RBI double to plate Kendall Pettis in the fifth to make it 6-0 OU. Kansas State would finally get something going in the top half of the sixth when pre-season All-American Kaelen Culpepper tripled and knocked in two. An RBI single, and RBI ground-out in the inning made it 6-4 OU headed to the seventh. Oklahoma would put the game away in the eighth. A perfectly executed squeeze by Freshman Jason Walk plated Scott Mudler, Easton Carmichael would hit an RBI double to bring Walk and Jaxon Willits around to make it 9-4. A Mackenzie single would bring Easton Carmichael home, and an error would plate Mackenzie to make it 11-4 OU headed to the ninth. Thats where it would end as Malachi Witherspoon slammed the door shut on the Cats, and a series win for Oklahoma.

Sunday

With the series secured, OU took to the field Sunday relaxed and care free. Yeah, right. This entire weekend was personal, and it was felt. Oklahoma was out for blood and wanted the sweep against a former coach and team who did nothing but whine as OU found themselves in the NCAA tournament last season over Kansas State.

Grant Stevens would get his second Sunday start of the year, and again was very good. Stevens would go 4.0 full, scattering five hits, two earned-runs and striking out five. For the fourth time in as many games Oklahoma would jump out to the lead. A key theme when this club wins. Jaxon Willits continued his amazing week, hitting his fourth home-run in seven days in the second to give OU a 2-0 lead through two. Scott Mudler, also extremely hot of late, would single in Easton Carmichael in the third, and that man again, Jaxon Willits would go yard again to make it 6-0 Oklahoma through three full.

It would remain quiet as both pitchers settled into a groove. In the fifth KSU scratched four across on a home-run and a weird pop fly that landed in no-man’s land turning into an RBI double. They would add another in the seventh to make it 6-5, and an RBI groundout eventually tied things up at six a piece headed to the eighth. After Isiah Lane got on board in the eighth, none other than John Spikerman made his first appearance since the TCU series to pinch-run. Rocc-Garza Gongora reached on an error and Spikerman raced home from second to give OU a one run lead headed to the top of the ninth. Carson Atwood would be brought on to try and record the final three outs. KSU left-fielder Chuck Ingram had other ideas and took the first pitch he saw from Atwood in the ninth over the RF wall to once again tie the game. James Hitt was brought on for .01 an inning, and Ryan Lambert followed to keep the game tied headed to the bottom of the ninth. Lambert would pick up the win to move to 3-0 on the year.

The ninth started innocently enough for OU as the first two Sooner batters were retired with relative ease, which brought Anthony Mackenzie to the dish with two away. Mackenzie, facing one of the best pitchers in America in KSU’s Tyson Neighbors, fell behind almost immediately to an 0-2 count. He would then turn on a Neighbors fastball and shoot it up the alley for a two-out double. Scott Mudler, who has been on an absolute tear of late stepped in next and called game. After spitting on a few pitches he calmly lined one to RC to plate Mackenzie and walk OU off as Sunday winners, sweeping the series.

Conclusion

Playing with a lead has been vital to this team when they win. It has almost been the key indicator as to whats going to happen in every game they’ve played. It won’t be any different as they travel to Provo, Utah to take on BYU this weekend. BYU, up and down for most of the year, has a series victory over the Texas Longhorns, in Austin. And boast a couple of the better relievers around, which makes playing from out front even more important.

As the title says, OU revamped their weekend rotation the past three weeks, and seem to be finding their groove. The starters all went five plus this weekend, when they can consistently do that with few walks and a defense not committing errors behind them, they are tough to beat with a very balanced and fast offense. That offense looks to be getting even faster as Junior John Spikerman appears very close to a return. That will once again provide them with the good problem of depth, because at this point you almost have to keep getting Jason Walk at-bats. The true Freshman has earned it. Junior Jackon Nicklaus, a key component to the entire season, pulled a hamstring swiping third base on Saturday. He is going to be re-evaluated throughout the week, and is considered day-to-day.

Up Next: No midweek game for OU, they return to action Thursday, April 18th vs BYU 7 CST