NORMAN – The University of Oklahoma baseball team lost to No. 17 Long Beach State, 8-3, in front of 1,480 at L. Dale Mitchell Park on Saturday afternoon. The loss evened the series and the Sooners’ record at 1-1. The rubber-match is scheduled for a Sunday morning first pitch at 11 a.m.
The Dirtbags (1-1) sent all nine men to the plate in the top of the seventh and scored six runs on four hits to break a 2-2 tie. A throwing error on a potential double play ball with runners at first and second brought in the run that gave Long Beach its first lead of the series. On top 5-2, catcher David Banuelos lifted a three-run homer to left to double the LBSU lead.
“I felt like the storyline of the game was that they were a little bit more opportunistic than we were when scoring opportunities came,” stated OU head coach Pete Hughes.
Oklahoma totaled seven hits in the first three innings, but managed just one run and stranded five men on base. A line drive double play got David Smith, the Dirtbags’ starter, out of trouble in the first, but the Sooners put together a one-out rally in the second. A trifecta of OU newcomers singled, including a RBI-single by freshman shortstop Brandon Zaragoza (Moore, Okla.) to drive in the first run of the day.
“Look at how they damaged control the innings, and then look at how we damage controlled the one big inning; we did not do a good job,” said Hughes. “At this level of play, it is all about damage control innings and those situations.”
The Sooners threatened again in the third with a leadoff-double by junior second baseman Kyle Mendenhall (Carlsbad, Calif.) to start off the frame. Senior first baseman Austin O’Brien (Owasso, Okla.) singled to short, but the ball hit in front of Mendenhall caused him to stay at second and was the pivotal play of the inning. The two advanced on a bunt, but were left in scoring position.
Long Beach began to challenge Oklahoma sophomore right-hander Dylan Grove (Moore, Okla.) in the middle innings. The Dirtbags tied the game in the top of the fifth without getting a ball off the infield. Shortstop Markus Montelongo reached on a one-out bunt-single and came around to score on a bases-loaded walk.
The Sooners answered in the bottom half to retake the lead as Mendenhall was hit by a pitch and scored on a single to right-center by senior third baseman Jack Flansburg (Orange, Calif.).
In the sixth, Grove would leave with one out and a runner on third, but a 2-1 Sooner lead. Long Beach tied the game on a double to right-center by catcher David Banuelos against redshirt-junior lefty Austin Kerns (Owasso, Okla.) to score center fielder Brooks Stotler, who tripled. Oklahoma managed to escape the inning without further damage with two quick outs to strand the potential go-ahead run at second.
Grove struck out a career-high seven in the start for OU in a no-decision. He allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. Kerns (0-1) took the loss in 0.1 innings of relief as he was tagged for five runs on three hits and a walk with one strikeout.
Right-hander Dave Smith lasted just three innings in the start for the Dirtbags, but was able to remove himself from several jams as he allowed only one run on seven hits. Right-hander Matt Fields (1-0) got the win in three innings of one-run relief and two strikeouts.