Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

May 25, 2012

Another walk-off winner

Sooners score in the 9th to beat No. 1 seed Baylor and remain unbeaten in Big 12 tournament play.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Evan Mistch doesn’t know how fast he can sprint 90 feet. He just knows he could do it quickly enough on Thursday to give Oklahoma a 3-2 victory over Baylor in the Big 12 tournament at Bricktown Ballpark.

“It’s improving,” Mistch joked about his speed. “I was just trying to get down the line as quick as I could and beat the throw.”

Hundredths of a second allowed Mistich to beat the toss from Baylor shortstop Jake Miller and let OU’s Erik Ross to score the game-winning run from third base. It was another game where there was a minuscule margin of error, and the Sooners (37-21) caught the last break.

Now 2-0 in the Big 12 tournament, OU has done so by winning a pair of pitchers’ duels in the bottom of the ninth inning. Just like Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Oklahoma State in the opening round, a mammoth solo home run was a huge factor.

Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Cody Reine belted a solo shot off Baylor reliever Crayton Brae to tie the game.

The shot was essential because it made it a battle of the bullpens. OU starting pitcher Jordan John and Baylor’s Trent Black were both effective. John held the Bears to two runs on six hits over seven innings. The only runs came on RBI singles by Max Muncey and Cal Towey in the fourth inning. The Sooners’ damage against Blank came in the bottom of the fourth. Jack Mayfield scored on a double play to get the Sooners on the board.

Reine’s shot allowed the Sooners to turn to Steven Okert. He’s been the team’s shutdown reliever for the last month.

Okert (8-6) threw two more hitless innings on Thursday to get the win for the second straight game.

“It was the key right there,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said. “We have two other guys getting loose. We have a quality bullpen, but Okert is the leader of that bullpen. You don’t want to burn if you’re down 2-1; I don’t think that would be wise. You’re not giving in, but the game dictates what you have to do. Once Cody hit the home run, it became apparent it was going to be Okert’s game.”

Baylor reliever Crayton Brae gave up the home run to Reine. The Sooners scratched out the game-winning run off Dillon Newman (3-3).

Scratching at wins is something the Sooners have shown a knack for against Baylor. The Bears (43-13) ran roughshod through the Big 12 this season. They won the conference’s regular-season title by going 20-4. Their only losses were in the regular-season finale to Texas and a three-game sweep by the Sooners earlier this month. Two of OU’s regular-season wins were by one run.

“We just match up really good with them,” Golloway said. “I know we’ve come out on the top side four straight, but they’re strong pitching and they’re really, really good offensively. But I’ve said this from the get go, until we got the pitching worked out, our numbers weren’t good. But we knew the talent of our arms. It was just a matter of getting them lined up, putting the pieces of the puzzle together. “

Thursday’s victory set OU up perfectly for a serious run at its first Big 12 tournament title since 1997. The Sooners have only burned through starting pitchers John and Dillon Overton.

Okert has two wins in the tournament, but he only threw 26 pitches on Thursday. He took a line drive off his foot in the top of the ninth inning, but Golloway believes it won’t keep Okert from pitching again in the tournament.

OU gets today off and is now one win away from the championship game. Baylor and Kansas State will meet at 3:15 today in an elimination game. The winner will face the Sooners at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Either team has to beat OU twice to advance.

“Someone’s got to beat us twice, or we’re going to be playing for the championship, “ Golloway said. “That’s our goal. Our pitching will be in good shape.”

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