By JOHN SHINN
NORMAN — Oklahoma didn’t arrive at L. Dale Mitchell in a listless state on Tuesday. It knew the meeting with Texas-Arlington was important. Momentum needed to start heading in a positive direction.
Then OU started hitting into double plays and it was all downhill from there in a 6-5 loss to the Mavericks.
“They don’t call it a twin killer for nothing,” first baseman Anthony Hermelyn said of the double plays that are paralyzing the Sooners.
They were the difference against Texas-Arlington (18-23), and continue to be part of a problem that’s festered for a while.
The Sooners hit into three of them on Tuesday, running their total to 53 on the season and 11 in their last three losses. All had a crashing-into-a-wall effect.
“When you don’t have great team speed and you’re not super athletic, innings get shortened,” OU coach Pete Hughes said. “Teams that can run can score with productive outs, extend innings and extend pitch counts. We’re not that team.”
OU actually led 1-0 after Mac James’ RBI single in the bottom of the first inning. But it grounded into double plays in both the second and third innings. OU had base runners, but didn’t get another hit until the eighth inning.
By then, Texas-Arlington amassed a 6-1 lead. Eric Tate went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs and Ryan Bottger went 2 for 5 with a pair of RBIs.
Even when OU started to put something together in the bottom of the eighth inning, it was the third and final double play turned by the Mavericks that doused the flames. This one came when designated hitter Austin O’Brien grounded into one with the bases loaded, one out and two runs already in.
Those runs came in because OU stayed out of the double play — briefly. Hunter Haley was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Hermelyn brought in the second run with a single.
But lately if there’s a force out available, OU finds a way to hit into it.
“Those are deflating, but it happens,”outfielder Craig Aikin said. “You have to figure out a way to overcome it.”
The Sooners were on the verge of doing it. They plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sheldon Neuse’s two-run single and had the tying and game-winning run in scoring position when Haley popped out to third base to end the game.
“We got beat long before the ninth inning,” Hughes said.
Too many scoring opportunities erased by sharply hit ground balls that turned into inning-ending or rally-killing double plays.
Zach Hobbs (4-1) picked up the win for Texas-Arlington. He was the second of eight pitchers it used on Tuesday. Colin Tornberg induced Haley’s pop up to the end the game and get his second save.
Starter Robert Tasin took the loss for OU. He allowed two runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out four against one walk. He pitched well enough to win. OU’s bullpen didn’t. Four of Texas-Arlington’s six runs came off relievers.