NORMAN – Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jake Irvin (Bloomington, Minn.) struck out a career-best 14 in a 3-0 win over Central Connecticut State for the University of Oklahoma baseball team in front of 1,053 at L. Dale Mitchell Park on Friday night. The Sooners won their ninth in a row to improve to 10-1, while the Blue Devils dropped to 4-2.
Irvin (3-0) ran his season total in strikeouts to 31 in 20 innings of work after six-shutout innings. He allowed just two hits and one walk. Irvin’s strikeout total was the most by a Sooner since Michael Rocha fanned 13 against Texas A&M in 2011. He struck out three in an inning in the second, fourth and sixth and struck out five in a row for the second time in his career between the fourth and fifth innings.
“I thought his last inning, his fastball was best,” commented OU head coach Pete Hughes. “You know 70 percent of his breaking balls he throws for strikes. That’s an insane number. I had to take him out because it’s early. When you punch out so many guys, you’re throwing a lot of pitches and there’s not too many first-pitch outs. He was at 94 pitches because 14 of his 18 outs were strikeouts.”
The Sooners struck for the only run they would need in support of Irvin in the fourth inning. Oklahoma strung together three consecutive one-out singles to produce the run before CCSU lefty Brendan Smith limited the damage with a groundball double play. Junior second baseman Kyle Mendenhall (Carlsbad, Calif.) got the offense going with a bunt-single pushed to the right side and sophomore center fielder Steele Walker (Prosper, Texas) extended his hit-streak to 14 games with a single to right that put runners on the corners. Senior first baseman Austin O’Brien (Owasso, Okla.) had the green light on 3-0 a batter later and lined a single up the middle to score Mendenhall.
An inning later, sophomore third baseman Brylie Ware (Sedgwick, Kan.) led off with a double down the right field line and advanced to third on a base hit by senior catcher Renae Martinez (San Pedro, Calif.). Ware then came home on a balk to double the Oklahoma lead. The Sooners quickly had the bases loaded with nobody out and redshirt-freshman left fielder Kyler Murray (Allen, Texas) ripped a hotshot past second to move everybody up a base and drive in a run. Smith then escaped with no further damage as a struck out two and got a force out.
Three OU right-handers would finish the game on the hill in the final three innings. Sophomore Connor Berry (Sugar Land, Texas) came out of the bullpen for the seventh and accomplished the rare four-strikeout inning. He got the first Blue Devil looking then allowed a baserunner on a third-strike wild pitch before finishing the frame with two more batters fanned.
“That’s how we want to set it up,” stated Hughes of his bullpen lineup. “You piece together the seventh with Connor Berry or Austin Kerns and then we had Vinny [Aiello] in the eighth and JB [Olson] to close.”
Graduate transfer Vincenzo Aiello (Staten Island, N.Y.) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with one strikeout before senior JB Olson (Shady Shores, Texas) came on for the ninth. Olson earned his second save of the season, but not before loading the bases. Central got a man aboard with a one-out walk and then a two-out, pinch-hit single and a second walk put the potential tying run on base. Olson stranded all three as he got a swing and a miss for the 20th OU strikeout of the night.
Oklahoma outhit Central Connecticut, 9-3. Ware and Martinez each went 2-for-3 with a run scored.
The Sooners and Blue Devils take the field for two on Saturday with game one beginning at 2 p.m. Sophomore right-handers Kyle Tyler (Oklahoma City) and Austin Hansen (Lenexa, Kan.) get the starts in game on and two, respectively.