|No. 29 Oklahoma||0||0||2||0||2||2||1||2||0||9||12||2|
ORLANDO, Fla. – The University of Oklahoma baseball team overcame an early three-run deficit and two rain delays, totaling two hours and 56 minutes, to beat The Citadel, 9-7, in the opener of the UCF Tournament at Jay Bergman Field on Friday afternoon. The Sooners improved to 5-1 and the Bulldogs dropped to 2-3 after the five-hour and 41-minute game.
Following the first of two rain delays, which lasted one hour and 20 minutes, junior DH Mac James (New Braunfels, Texas) blasted the first pitch of the third inning over the fence in left-center to get OU on the board and cut into the Citadel lead, 3-1. The Sooners trimmed the lead to one by the end of the frame with a sacrifice-fly by freshman shortstop Sheldon Neuse (Fort Worth, Texas).
After a scoreless fourth, Oklahoma tied the game on a RBI single by sophomore left fielder Hunter Haley (Nacogdoches, Texas) and took the lead on a base hit through the left side by Neuse.
“[Handling adversity] was the key to the game,” stated head coach Pete Hughes. “What we took out of the game was the way we handled the adversity and how we were able to bounce back and erase an early deficit. The biggest key was how we came out of that first rain delay.”
The Sooners scored nine runs between the third and eighth inning, posting runs in five of the six frames. Following the second rain delay, the Bulldogs cut into the OU lead with two runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth.
Sophomore RHP Ralph Garza Jr. (New Braunfels, Texas) entered the game in the bottom of the ninth with runners on the corners, including the potential game-tying run on first base. Garza induced the game-ending groundout to second base on the only batter he faced to earn his first save of the season.
Senior right-hander Kyle Hayes (Santee, Calif.) was credited with the win in 2.1 innings of relief; allowing just one hit and one walk, while striking out two. The Sooner bullpen stretched its consecutive scoreless streak to 14 innings before the eighth inning. Fellow senior righty Kindle Ladd (McKinney, Texas) was the first OU reliever. He pitched 2.2 scoreless innings and surrendered two hits, one walk and struck out three.
“We got two great outings from two senior guys in the bullpen,” said Hughes. “Kyle Hayes and Kindle Ladd both pitched great. Without those guys, we don’t win the game. The final score isn’t really indicative of how the game went. We need to continue to develop our arms in the bullpen to make us stronger as we go along.”
James led a Sooner offense that totaled 12 hits with a 3-for-4 day and three runs scored. Sophomore center fielder and leadoff hitter Craig Aikin (Coppell, Texas) went 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored. He knocked in both runs on an eighth-inning double to right. Aikin attempted to stretch the double into a triple and was tagged out at third.
The two teams took the field for the bottom of the eighth inning after a one hour and 36 minute delay. Citadel loaded the bases with just one out and scratched across a run on a sac-fly by center fielder Houghston Armstrong and a base hit by first baseman Bo Thompson to cut the lead to four. Armstrong finished the game 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored, while Thompson reached all five times on three hit by pitches, one walk and a single.
The Bulldogs continued to climb back into the game in the ninth on another sac-fly and a single by second baseman Mason Davis to trim the lead to two before Garza came on to shut the door.
Sophomore left-hander Jacob Evans (Broken Arrow, Okla.) pitched the first two innings in the start for Oklahoma. He was tagged for three earned run on four hits and three hit batsmen to go with one strikeout.
The Sooners take the field Saturday at 5:00 pm CT against the host UCF Knights.
· The OU bullpen had a streak of 14 scoreless innings snapped in the eighth inning.
· Sheldon Neuse made his second appearance on the mound after starting the game at shortstop.
· Mac James posted his fourth straight multi-hit game.
· Oklahoma has homered in five straight games for the first time since doing so in 14 straight between March 4-26, 2010.
· The Sooners have reached double figures in hits in four straight games.
· The game marked the first meeting between Oklahoma and The Citadel.
· The Sooners have scored two or more runs in an inning 18 times in six games.
· Seven of Oklahoma’s nine starters are hitting .300 or better.