Tahlequah Daily Press

March 15, 2014

Oklahoma beats Belmont in extra innings

Sooners beat Belmont and the rain on Hermelyn's game-winning hit in the 11th inning

By JOHN SHINN
CNHI

— NORMAN — There’s no clock in baseball, but Oklahoma understood its time was dwindling Saturday at L. Dale Mitchell Park. The lightning bolt to the southwest as the bottom of the 11th inning began indicated that the Sooners options were down to scoring a run or settling for a tie against Belmont.

Plan A worked out when Anthony Hermelyn drove in Sheldon Neuse for a 6-5, 11-inning victory in a rain-soaked game.

The Sooners (14-5) have won three straight extra-inning games, starting with last Tuesday’s 10-inning triumph over Texas-Arlington.

The only difference between Saturday and the first two was this one was pushed to the 11th inning. What’s remained a constant is OU blowing chances for big innings until the latest possible moment.

“We haven’t been able to get the big knock early or in the middle of games. Late in games we’re getting them,” said Hermelyn, who went 2 for 4 and drove in three runs.

The Sooners stranded 13 base runners and were just 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Hermelyn’s shot to left-center field gap was nearly identical to Taylor Alspaugh’s in Friday night’s 5-4 win over the Bruins (7-11). That was also a game where OU squandered big-inning opportunities.

OU coach Pete Hughes’ disgust with his team’s offensive struggles until the final innings didn’t alter much either.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “We had an opportunity to really get this game going in our direction and just didn’t do it. We’ve got to be able to get the ball out of the infield and stay out of double plays in those key situations.”

The start time was pushed up to 11 a.m. due to threat of rain and there was still a 68-minute rain delay between the fifth and sixth innings.

The Sooners’ chance to blow the game open came when play resumed. They had the bases loaded and no outs twice against Belmont reliever James Buckelew. Hector Lorenzana, who went 2 for 4, delivered a game-tying RBI single, but that was all OU could muster.

Squandering those kinds of scoring opportunities is typically like a gut punch teams don’t recover from. It frustrates Hughes. Players don’t seem to dwell.

“Lately, it’s been miss a hit and miss a hit and eventually we get the big hit when we need it,” said third baseman Sheldon Neuse, who scored the game-winning run and went 2 for 6 with two triples.

OU’s won despite moderate clutch hitting because of its bullpen. Closer Ralph Garza Jr. (2-0) threw the final innings Saturday to get the win. He gave up one run (unearned) on one hit and struck out five.

Garza and Kindle Ladd combined for six innings of three-hit relief pitching.

Both starting pitchers — OU’s Adam Choplick and Belmont’s Dan Ludwig — exited after the rain delay.

Buckelew gave up two runs on four hits. Christopher Carroll gave up only Hermelyn’s game-winning hit. But he allowed Neuse to reach in the 11th after Neuse rocketed a ball off Carroll’s leg and he threw it wide of first base, putting the game-winning run in scoring position.

The Sooners didn’t have much time to celebrate. The lightning signaled the rain was about to increase. As his teammates were mobbing Hermelyn around second base, the grounds crew was grabbing them to aid with rolling out the tarp.

The teams are scheduled to return at noon today for the series finale.