By JOHN SHINN
TULSA — Ralph Garza Jr. was shagging balls during batting practice late Tuesday afternoon at Oral Roberts’ J.L. Johnson Stadium when he was told he’d better relax. Oklahoma’s coaching staff decided tonight would be the freshman pitcher’s first start.
Whatever Garza did in the time between getting the word and taking the mound ought to be packaged and sold because he threw a dominating complete-game three-hitter in the Sooners’ 3-1 victory over the Golden Eagles.
”It felt unreal out there,” said Garza, who struck out 11 and improved to 3-0 on the season. “I had to pinch myself to make sure it was real. Good thing it was because it felt real good out there. The defense was making plays and we scored runs. It was a fun game.”
It was about as smooth a nine-inning performance as it could be. Garza threw just 104 pitches and 77 were for strikes. Oral Roberts didn’t have a hit in the final six innings and only left two runners stranded on base.
The victory lifted OU to 23-4 and was their 11th in a row. Tuesday also marked its fourth straight win by two runs or less.
“We’ve experienced wins in almost every way — comeback, holding them off, closing games out,” said OU rightfielder Max White, who was 2 for 4 with two RBIs. “We’ve had a bunch of 3-1 games — low-scoring games — where we’ve held onto the lead the entire game. I think it’s just the poise of this team and the mindset we have. Nothing changes for us throughout a game.”
The Sooners only had eight hits, but were helped by two bases-loaded walks in the fourth inning. White had the Sooners’ only RBI from a batted ball with a double to score Jack Mayfield in the second inning. White and Matt Oberste, who matched the school record by running his hitting streak to 27 games, drew the other bases-loaded walk.
It wasn’t a great offensive performance by any stretch. OU left 11 runners on base and went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
Still, the only late-inning drama centered on whether Oberste would match Marty Neff’s school-record 27-game hitting streak.
Oberste finally got it done in the top of the seventh inning.
“Once I didn’t have a hit coming into that sixth inning, it was getting kind of nerve-wracking, but I try not to put pressure on myself. I tried to stay back and hit the ball the other way,” he said. “I was down 0-2 and he came in with a fast ball and I hit it the other way. I got jammed a little bit, but it worked out.”
Gavin Glanz (1-2) took the loss for the Golden Eagles (8-16). He gave up three runs on four hits. He struck out four, but two of three walks he issued were the bases-loaded ones in the fourth inning.
The only trouble Garza faced was in the first inning. He gave up an RBI single to Logan Domenico in the bottom of the first inning. However, the freshman cruised from there.
“His pitch count was really down,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said of Garza. “He was going out there in the eighth with just 80. We knew he was going to finish the game.”