NORMAN, Okla., -- The OU baseball team won its seventh consecutive game on Monday at L. Dale Mitchell Park, with a 13-1 win over Western Illinois, and in the process swept the Leathernecks in the three-game series. The Sooners outscored the opposition 30-13 in the series but the finale did not come as easy as the previous six games of the streak.
For the second straight game the Sooners battled from behind against WIU but still managed to keep the winning streak alive that started on Feb. 12 against South Alabama. Since that initial win, the OU offense has pounded opposing pitchers for 69 runs to the opponent’s 25. The Sooners are averaging 8.77 runs a game this season.
Western Illinois wasted no time on Monday by scoring a run in the first and another in the second on OU freshman Brad Burns, who was making his third appearance of the season. Burns earned a save over South Alabama and won his start over Eastern Illinois in his previous two appearances by allowing zero runs and three hits, while striking out 10 in nine innings pitched. But against Western Illinois, the youngster from Gracemont, Okla., struggled in five innings of work. Burns surrendered six hits and three earned runs to WIU and walked four and struck out two.
“Burns struggled on the mound today,” said head coach Larry Cochell. “I don’t know what was wrong with him but he was a little tentative and it just was not a good day for him. That is not the way Brad pitches.
“We played great defense today and made some good plays. We had two errors at the end of the game but other than that, we played solid defensively and we also hit when we needed to.”
The OU offense came alive in the bottom of the fourth inning with two triples and a single in the frame after recording one hit in the previous three innings. Starting the rally in the fourth was freshman Kody Kaiser who extended his hitting streak to nine games with a triple to right center field. A sacrifice by junior Kevin Smith plated Kaiser and the next batter, junior Ryan Rohlinger, blasted the second triple of the fourth to center field. Junior Freddy Rodriguez drove in Rohlinger with a single to right and after four innings of play, the game was knotted at two runs a piece.
The Leathernecks battled right back to regain the lead with an RBI double by Ryan Schmidgall in the fifth. With Burns out of the game after five, OU turned the mound over to junior P.J. Sandoval and the right-hander struck out two, in two innings of work, to pick up his first win of the season. Sandoval allowed two runs (both earned) on three hits.
The bottom halves of the sixth, seventh and eighth inning proved to be the difference in the game as OU produced 11 runs in that span. The Sooners did the same thing to the Leathernecks in Sunday’s game racking up 10 runs in the same innings.
Senior Matt Bose led the charge with two RBI in the final three innings. The OU catcher finished the game 1-for-2 on the day with three runs scored and two RBI. Senior Jeff Scuderi accounted for three RBI after pinch hitting in the seventh, two of which came off an two-run single in the eighth. Scuderi also produced a run with a sacrifice bunt in the seventh.
In addition, freshman Joe Dunigan and sophomore Aaron Ivey came off the OU bench and each drove in a single run.
The Sooner bullpen powered by junior Daniel McCutchen and sophomore Ryan Mottern finished off the game, but not before surrendering two runs. McCutchen entered the game with the bases loaded in the eighth and the potential game-tying run at the plate. McCutchen only let one run cross the plate before striking out two consecutive WIU batters to end the inning. McCutchen faced one more batter in the ninth before giving way to Mottern’s first appearance of the season. Mottern struck out one batter and allowed zero hits while allowing the one run to close out the ball game.
For the second time this season, Kaiser came within one hit of completing the cycle. Against Eastern Illinois a week ago, Kaiser needed just a single but came up short. On Monday, Kaiser had another chance against Western Illinois as he collected a triple, double and a single before grounding out in the eighth inning.
The Sooners (7-2) will return to action on Wednesday against UT-Arlington (7-7) in Texas at 3 p.m. before traveling to California this weekend to face UCLA, Cal State Fullerton and Nevada in the Kia Bash.