NORMAN – The No. 24 University of Oklahoma baseball team twice erased two-run deficits, but ultimately fell to No. 5 TCU, 9-6, in front of 1,507 at L. Dale Mitchell Park on Friday night. The Sooners dropped to 32-18 overall and 10-9 in the Big 12, while the Horned Frogs clinched a share of the league title at 36-11 and 16-6.
Trailing 6-4 heading to the home half of the eighth, sophomore center fielder Steele Walker (Prosper, Texas) reached on a leadoff-single. Sophomore third baseman Brylie Ware (Sedgwick, Kan.) then double to put the tying runs in scoring position with one away. A groundout to the pitcher failed to advance the runners and brought up freshman shortstop Brandon Zaragoza (Moore, Okla.). Zaragoza hit a spinning groundball in front of the mound and raced up the line for an infield single, while the throw got away and allowed redshirt-freshman pinch-runner Kyler Murray (Allen, Texas) to fly around the bases and tie the game, 6-6.
The OU bullpen, which had given up three runs in the eighth continued to struggle in the ninth. A leadoff-double by DH Conor Wanhanen led to the game-winning hit; a single to left-center by shortstop Ryan Merrill. The Horned Frogs added a pair of runs on free passes with the bases loaded.
“This game's hard,” stated head coach Pete Hughes. “It's hard to be perfect all the time. We had that thing set up, our guys battled, we were patient when [Lodolo] was pitching a really good game. We scrapped and took the lead then we handed it over to our guys and it didn't happen tonight. Credit to TCU for putting pressure on us and beating some good pitchers.”
Oklahoma got the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but did no damage as junior second baseman Kyle Mendenhall (Carlsbad, Calif.) and Walker both singled.
Right-hander Sean Wymer (4-2) was credited with a blown save and a win for TCU. He allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits with two strikeouts. Lefty Nick Lodolo went 6.1 innings in the start and surrendered four runs, two earned, on seven hits, one walk and three strikeouts.
Senior RHP JB Olson (Shady Shores, Texas) took the loss in one-plus innings of relief. He gave up four runs on four this and two walks with two strikeouts. OU relievers combined to allow six runs on four hits, six walks and five strikeouts in three innings.
“I just don't think his location was good,” Hughes said of the Sooner closer. “Three or four pitches were big pitches and that's just not like JB. He wasn't sharp on his location and good hitting teams hit when the stakes are high and that's what happened tonight.”
Sophomore right-hander Jake Irvin (Bloomington, Minn.) settled in after allowing two runs in the first and threw up four straight zeroes to keep OU in the game. The Sooner bats came to lift in the fifth with a two-out rally started by a single up the middle by sophomore designated hitter Domenic DeRenzo (Pittsburgh, Pa.). An error allowed a second runner to reach and freshman shortstop Brandon Zaragoza (Moore, Okla.) delivered a two-run double inside the third base bag to tie the game, 2-2.
TCU catcher Evan Skoug led off the sixth with a double off of Irvin and came in to score on a single to right-center by third baseman Elliott Barzilli. Oklahoma countered with a second two-out rally in the bottom half. Walker singled up the middle and senior first baseman Austin O'Brien (Owasso, Okla.) tied the game with a RBI-double to center field.
Irvin went six innings and surrendered three runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
In the seventh, DeRenzo raced to third with a leadoff-triple to right-center for his second hit of the night. Freshman right fielder Jeremiah Adams (Mattapoisett, Mass.), making just his second career start, gave OU its first lead of the night with a double down the left field line.
The Horner Frogs got the lead back against the Sooner bullpen with a pair of doubles in the eighth. A leadoff-walk scored on a game-tying double from Skoug, who scored the go-ahead run on a double to right by second baseman Cam Warner. TCU added a run on a bases-loaded wild pitch.
The Sooners outhit TCU, 12-9, for the game. Walker and Zaragoza each recorded three hits. Skoug and Merrill both had two-hit nights for the Horned Frogs.
Game two is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Junior right-hander Devon Perez (Ashburn, Va.) will toe the rubber for Oklahoma.