Tahlequah Daily Press

March 10, 2014

OU falls short in bid for 3-game sweep of Rutgers


— NORMAN — Oklahoma had who it wanted at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. The table was set for a rally to beat Rutgers and sweep a three-game series Sunday at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

But in baseball, the law of averages always catch up. Too many run-scoring opportunities and struggling pitching performances couldn’t be overcome in the Sooners’ 8-6 loss to the Scarlet Knights.

The ninth inning was OU’s last chance to turn things around. Mac James went 4 for 4, but Rutgers wasn’t going to give him a pitch to hit in the ninth inning. He walked on four pitches to load the bases for Hunter Haley with one out.

Haley was a 3 for 3 when he came to the plate with the bases loaded. But he just missed a potential game-tying or go-ahead hit. Instead, it was a towering fly ball to right field that wasn’t deep enough to score a run.

“I just got under it,” Haley said.

After Niko Buentello popped out to left field, the Sooners had stranded their 11th baserunner en route to finishing the day 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position.

The Sooners (11-5) took a doubleheader from Rutgers (4-8) on Friday because of timely hitting. They belted out 15 Sunday, but they were behind most of the game.

“You try to figure out a way to win a game, and I thought we put ourselves in a position to do that this last inning. You always want to get that winning run at the plate. We had it at first base with two really good hitters up, so I give our guys a lot of credit for battling, but we’ve got to stay out of those situations so you don’t have to learn lessons through playing from behind,” OU coach Pete Hughes said. “I want to limit that as much as possible.”

Freshman right-hander Jake Elliott got off to a rocky start, allowing three runs in the first inning, but those were the only runs he allowed. He scattered seven hits over six innings.

“I thought that was a pretty mature outing,” Hughes said of Elliott’s effort. “For a kid to keep his composure — I’ve seen that type of inning spiral out of control with young kids on the mound. That’s why I took the timeout there and went out and spoke with him. I wanted to check with him. He was locked in, ready to make his next pitch and he put up zeroes all the way after that.”

The Sooners tied it up on Hector Lorenzana’s RBI single in the second inning and briefly took the lead in the sixth on Buentello’s base hit to right field and Lorenzana plated Haley on a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 5-3.

Rutgers responded by scoring three runs off sophomore reliever Jacob Evans. It was another tough day for the left-hander. He allowed three runs on three hits over 1/3 of an inning.

James, who is now hitting .517 on the season, evened the game again in the bottom of the seventh. He belted a solo homer — his second of the season — to give OU life.

But Drew Krittenbrink couldn’t hold it there. Two walks and a wild pitch set the stage for Vinny Zarrillo’s game-winning base hit.

Krittenbrink (0-1) took the loss. Max Herrmann (1-0) picked up the win out of the bullpen. He went three innings with the only run he allowed coming on James’ solo homer. Jon Young got the last two outs to get the save.