NORMAN, Okla., -- The Sooners came from behind to win their sixth straight game on Sunday at L. Dale Mitchell Park, with an 11-2 victory over Western Illinois in game two of the series. Junior Freddy Rodriguez keyed the Sooner offense with a 3-for-4 performance that included four RBI and two runs scored.
Junior (RHP) Steven Guerra, looking for his third win of the season, struggled but still managed to last five innings while scattering four hits and allowing two runs (both earned). Guerra started off the game strong by striking out three of the first four and four of the first 10 batters he faced. The Paso Robeles, Calif., native finished the game with five strikeouts and two walks.
“Steven Guerra struggled a little bit today,” said OU head coach Larry Cochell. “Steven needs to get the ball down to be effective and he really did not have good command of his pitches today. Will (Savage) did what we knew he could do. He throws 88-90 and is very difficult to get a hit off of.”
OU found itself in unfamiliar territory on Sunday as Western Illinois jumped out on top in the fifth inning, 2-0, as it marked the first time this season that the Sooners did not produce the game’s first run. However, the OU offense rallied to close the lead to one in the bottom half of the same inning. The run in the Sooners’ fifth came off of Rodriguez’s bat as he singled to left field to score freshman Joe Dunigan.
With the score in WIU’s favor after five frames, junior Will Savage came out of the OU bullpen to keep the opposition’s offense at bay. Savage retired the side in order in the top of the sixth and turned it over to his offense to take the first lead of the game.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Sooner offense did just that by producing six runs in the frame and OU never looked back. The rally also helped Guerra avoid his first loss of the season as the decision was turned over to the bullpen.
Junior Russell Raley’s single to right field started the rally and after freshman Kody Kaiser reached on a fielder’s choice, both runners advanced an extra base as a result of an error by WIU’s second baseman. With Raley on third and Kaiser on second base, senior Pat Kohorst was prompted to intentionally walk senior first baseman Eric Thornton.
That might have been WIU’s biggest mistake, as the walk brought one of the Sooners’ hottest hitters to the plate in the person of junior Kevin Smith. Smith did not disappoint by producing his team-leading 10th and 11th RBI on a two-run single to right center field. Smith has produced all 11 of his RBI in the past five games. He is currently batting .333 after starting the season in a 1-for-13 slump.
The sixth inning continued as four more runs crossed the plate, two of which came from Rodriguez who collected his second hit of the game, a two-run single.
“It felt very good to get the start at shortstop today,” said Rodriguez. “I was out there giving it my all and I was fortunate to have a good day.”
Now with a comfortable lead, Savage continued to cruise in his third appearance of the season. The West Hills, Calif., native only allowed two runners to reach base, both from errors, as he pitched four perfect innings. Savage struck out four in that span and walked none to close out the game for his first victory of the season.
For WIU’s Kohorst, Sunday’s loss was his first since April of last season. The senior had won nine consecutive outings dating back to last season before surrendering three earned runs on nine hits to OU on Sunday.
Kaiser extended his team-leading hitting streak to eight games after he bounced a single off of third base in the bottom of the seventh. The freshman continues to lead the Sooners in batting average (.400) and hits (14).
OU added four more runs in the eighth inning and again it was Rodriguez with a single that plated Smith. Junior Ryan Rohlinger, who was rested on Sunday by not receiving the start, came off the bench to single in two of the other runs in the inning.
OU (6-2) will battle Western Illinois (4-6) in the series finale on Monday at L. Dale Mitchell Park, with first pitch slated for 3 p.m. Expected starters for the matchup include freshman Brad Burns (2-0) for OU and sophomore Brandon Huskins (1-0) for WIU