NORMAN – Senior first baseman Austin O’Brien (Owasso, Okla.) made a dramatic return to the diamond in a 6-2 win for the No. 9 University of Oklahoma baseball team over Oral Roberts at L. Dale Mitchell Park on Tuesday night. Playing in his first game since tearing his left UCL, O’Brien blasted a seventh-inning grand slam to break a 2-2 tie. The Sooners improved to 26-6 with the win, while the Golden Eagles fell to 19-9.
“You can’t script it any better to have Stoney O’Brien,” began head coach Pete Hughes. “I said, ‘Stoney, thank you for a great memory for us.’ You know, because, I left that hospital [three] and a half weeks ago and I called my wife on my way home. I said, ‘I love that kid, but he’s not playing again for the Sooners’ because his arm was three times the size it was. I knew the extent of the injury, but it’s amazing that he’s in the lineup. I’m just so happy for that kid and for this team. Great memory for all of us. He’s a special, special kid.”
O’Brien, OU’s top hitter at the time and cleanup hitter, last played on March 11 against Buffalo when he was injured with two down in the ninth inning in the final game of a 19-game homestand. He missed a total of 12 games over the course of 23 days.
Oklahoma came out of the seventh-inning stretch trailing 2-1. Freshman shortstop Brandon Zaragoza (Moore, Okla.) was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and turn the lineup over to the top of the order. Senior Ben Hollas (Longview, Texas) put down a bunt-single in a pinch-hit spot and sophomore center fielder Steele Walker (Prosper, Texas) followed with a double ripped down the right field line to score Zaragoza and tie the game.
Senior third baseman Jack Flansburg (Orange, Calif.) then walked to load the bases for O’Brien. In his second at-bat of the night, O’Brien made a bid for a home run on a ball lifted to the track in center field. He put a 2-2- pitch over the wall in right to put the Sooners in front on his third home run of the season. O’Brien finished the night 2-for-4.
“The hardest one he hit all night was down there to left center against the wind,” continued Hughes. “Then he gets a two-strike single up the middle with two outs. It’s awesome. We had to get him in there to see if he could do it. I liked his takes, I liked everything about it. The grand slam was awesome. He was really comfortable. He wasn’t tentative, so that bodes well for us.”
Oral Roberts claimed the first lead of the night with an unearned run in the top of the second. Center fielder Noah Cumming drew a leadoff-walk and scored on a sacrifice-fly by first baseman Brent Williams. The Golden Eagles doubled their lead in the fifth as they got the leadoff man on once again by way of the walk. However, after a force out hit ino by Williams, he would score on a RBI-single to center by shortstop Dylan Snypes.
In the sixth, the Sooners cut the deficit in half, but left the bases loaded. Walker hit a leadoff-single up the middle before O’Brien started a two-out rally with a single to center. Senior catcher Renae Martinez (San Pedro, Calif.) then singled into left-center to score Walker with the game-tying run.
Sophomore right-hander Austin Hansen (Lenexa, Kan.) lasted three innings in the start for Oklahoma. He surrendered one unearned run on two hits with one strikeouts. Sophomore right-hander Ryan Madden (Westminster, Colo.) got the win in two innings of relief. Madden (4-0) gave up just one hit and struck out two. Graduate right-hander Vincenzo Aiello (Staten Island, N.Y.) finished the night by striking out the side in the ninth.
The Sooners outhit the Golden Eagles, 11-5, on the night. Five players recorded multi-hit games for OU. Snypes and Cumming each went 2-for-4 for ORU.
Righty Grant Glaze went two-scoreless innings with three strikeouts and two hits against him in the start for Oral Roberts. Right-hander Bill Lovvorn (1-1) took the loss in 0.2 innings pitched. He allowed three runs on two hits and a walk.
Oklahoma hits the road this weekend for a Big 12 series at Texas beginning Friday, April 7. The game will be televised nationally on FS1 at 7 p.m.