By JOHN SHINN
NORMAN — The sun came out Sunday afternoon, but Oklahoma’s bats went back into hibernation.
The Sooners fell to Texas Tech, 9-3, in the final game of the three-game series. The series already belonged to the Sooners, after claiming the first two games. A sweep would have allowed them to pad their lead in the Big 12 Conference standings.
Instead, OU dropped to 33-11 overall and 10-5 in the conference. The Red Raiders rose to 20-24 and climbed out of the league cellar at 6-12.
Over the previous five games, the Sooners had scored 52 runs in wins over New Orleans and the Red Raiders.
Sunday, they scrapped eight hits. The runs came when Craig Aikin scored on a wild pitch in the third inning. Max White scored Jack Mayfield with a sacrifice fly in the ninth. Anthony Hermelyn added another run in OU’s final at-bat with a RBI single to score Matt Oberste.
“It’s baseball,” Aikin said. “You’re gonna have your good days and your bad days. You don’t take your good days for granted. Your bad days: you look at them, but you don’t beat yourself up over them. We play again Tuesday and we’ll have a fresh nine innings.”
The series already belonged to the Sooners. They wrapped it up by claiming the initial two games. However, for a team that is trying to win its first Big 12 Conference championship, games like Sunday’s make the difference in the standings.
OU played like a team content with winning two of three. It never led Sunday and never seriously threatened to win the game.
The lackluster afternoon at the plate was displayed by the 1-for-15 effort with runners on base. The Red Raiders were 8 for 23. They were also aided by three OU errors.
The pitching effort wasn’t much better. Ethan Carnes (2-2) took the loss. The left-hander allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits over 4 1-3 innings. The performance from the bullpen wasn’t any better. Relievers Billy Waltrip and Ralph Garza Jr. both walked in runs in the fifth inning. Robert Tasin gave up three more in the seventh.
“I feel like I could have done better,” Carnes said. “It’s baseball; you have to shake it off quick.”
The Red Raiders did. After scoring just two runs in the series first two games, eight of the nine players in their lineup had a hit Sunday and seven of them had two. Todd Ritchie and Devon Conley both drove in two runs.
It was Conley’s infield single to start the seventh inning that put the game out of reach. OU coach Sunny Golloway was ejected after the call. He did not speak to the media after the game.
Texas Tech put three more runs on scoreboard before OU finally got out of the inning.
Dominic Moreno (3-2) picked up the victory. He held OU to one run on five hits over five innings.
For the record: Oklahoma dipped to 33-11 overall and 10-5 in the Big 12 Conference with Sunday’s 9-3 loss to Texas Tech at L. Dale Mitchell Park. The Red Raiders improved to 20-24 and 6-12.
Bullpen issues: The most troubling issue to emerge in Sunday’s loss was the struggles of OU’s bullpen. Ethan Carnes didn’t pitch great, but four earned runs over four innings at least gave the Sooners a chance to win.
The inability of Billy Waltrip, Ralph Garza Jr. and Robert Tasin to get outs put the game out of reach in the middle innings. Waltrip and Garza both walked in runs in the fifth inning. Tasin gave up four hits and three more runs before he could get out of the sixth.
You could chalk it up to having a bad day. However, the bullpen is going to be a bigger factor with starting pitcher Dillon Overton out of the rotation. Jonathan Gray is only starter OU can expect to pitch seven-plus innings a start. The bullpen must be able to hold leads and snuff out rallies if the Sooners are going to win a Big 12 championship.
Leadoff did its part: The Sooners were held to three runs (and only one through the first eight innings) despite getting the leadoff batter on in five of nine innings.
Making contact: OU only struck out twice Sunday and went back to the dugout without putting the ball in play just seven times in the series.
OU’s pitching staff recorded 29 strikeouts in the three-game series.
Golloway left early: OU coach Sunny Golloway wasn’t around for the final three innings. He was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing the call of first base umpire Mark Winter when Texas Tech’s Brennan Moore reached on an infield single to start the inning.
It was Golloway’s second ejection of the season.
Up next: The Sooners hit the road to face Dallas Baptist at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Horner Ballpark in Dallas.