NORMAN, Okla. – The University of Oklahoma baseball team won its third straight extra-inning game with a 6-5 final over Belmont at L. Dale Mitchell Park, Saturday afternoon. Sophomore first baseman Anthony Hermelyn (McKinney, Texas) delivered the game-winning run with his third RBI of the day on a double to left-center in the bottom of the 11th inning. The win moved the Sooners to 14-5, while the Bruins fell to 7-11.
“We had an opportunity to really get this game going in our direction and not look back and we just didn’t do it,” said head coach Pete Hughes. “We’ve got to be able to keep the ball out of the infield. We’ve got to do a better job. I think our guys are frustrated with leaving too many guys out there. Hopefully that’ll change once we head into conference play.”
Oklahoma held a one-run lead heading into the ninth inning, but couldn’t hold on. Belmont’s rally started with pinch-hitter Matt Kinney striking out, reaching on a passed ball and advancing on an error. After a sacrifice bunt attempt turned into a base hit, the Bruins had runners on the corners with nobody out. Belmont then executed a successful safety squeeze as center fielder Drew Ferguson brought in Kinney from third.
Freshman third baseman Sheldon Neuse (Fort Worth, Texas) led off the bottom of the 11th and hit a sharp liner at the feet of the Bruin pitcher and arrived safely at second after the ball was fielded and thrown over the outstretched glove of the first baseman. With no outs, Hermelyn was unsuccessful in trying to sacrifice Neuse to third and was given the sign to swing with two strikes, setting up the game-winning hit.
Sophomore right-hander Ralph Garza Jr. (New Braunfels, Texas) improved to 3-0 in a three-inning effort. He allowed one unearned run on one hit and one walk, while striking out five. Redshirt-sophomore lefty Adam Choplick (Denton, Texas) pitched five innings in the start before the game went into a rain delay. He surrendered four runs on seven hits and two walks, but struck out seven.
“Choplick did a good job,” recalled Hughes. “When he gets to 98 [pitches], we’re not sending him back out even if there’s not a rain delay. We can afford to do that because we trust in the guys that are in the bullpen behind him. Kindle’s a calming presence and he’s never going to get beat walking people or giving extra base runners. He’s going to pitch to contact and control the running game. Ralph Garza, Jr. was awesome.”
Belmont got the Choplick early with a run just two pitches into the game. Ferguson doubled on the first pitch of the morning and scored one pitch later on a single to left-center by second baseman Alec Diamond. The Sooners answered with a pair in the home half of the first. Neuse picked up a RBI triple and scored on a sac-fly by Hermelyn.
The Bruins didn’t trail for long as they got a two-out rally going and tied the game on a Diamond base hit through the left side. Right fielder William Dodd gave Belmont the lead back on a two-run home run skied to left field in the fifth inning.
After a one hour and eight minute rain delay, which OU went into trailing 4-3, senior right-hander Kindle Ladd (McKinney, Texas) came on in relief and threw three-shutout innings. He struck out a pair and gave up just two hits. In the last three games, Ladd has totaled eight-scoreless innings and five strikeouts.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Sooners loaded the bases with nobody out on an error, single and a walk. Senior shortstop Hector Lorenzana (San Diego, Calif.) tied the game on a base hit up the middle, but Belmont was able to limit the damage with a pop fly and a 4-6-3 double play.
Oklahoma grabbed its first lead since the end of the first in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, junior catcher Mac James (New Braunfels, Texas) singled up the middle and was brought around to score on a triple by sophomore left fielder Hunter Haley (Nacogdoches, Texas).
Lefty Dan Ludwig pitched five innings in the start, prior to the rain delay, for Belmont. He allowed three runs, only one earned, on seven hits and a walk, while striking out four. The loss went to Christopher Carroll (2-1), who pitched for the second straight day. He went three innings and gave up one run on one hit and three walks.
For the game, Neuse went 2-for-6 with three runs, two triples and a RBI. James finished 3-for-5 with a run, bouncing back after his nine-game hitting streak was snapped on Friday. Hermelyn drove in three runs on a 2-for-4 day.
Ferguson and Diamond each recorded three-hit days for the Bruins; going 3-for-4 and 3-for-5, respectively.
The series wraps up on Sunday with first between Oklahoma and Belmont scheduled for 12:00 pm.
· This game marked OU’s third extra-inning game of the season; all in a row. The 11-inning affair was the longest the Sooners have played this season.
· Garza has won each of Oklahoma’s last three games.
· OU last won back-to-back extra-inning games in the 2010 NCAA Norman Regional against Oral Roberts and North Carolina. Both games were 7-6 finals in 10 innings.
· Ladd has pitched nine straight scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
· Oklahoma posted a season-high three triples in the game. The OU record for triples in a game is four, which has been achieved three times; last in 1999 vs. TCU.
· The Sooner bullpen pitched 10 straight shutout innings before allowing a run in the ninth inning.
· James recorded his team-leading 11th multi-hit game of the season and fourth three-hit game.
· Oklahoma is outscoring opponents 25-7 in the first inning after allowing runs and scoring in the first inning in the last two games. OU is 7-2 when scoring in the first inning.
· The Sooners are 10-2 in home games this season.
· Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Belmont, 3-0.