ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ben Abram grimaced as he retrieved the ball from his catcher, Chase Adkison, and stepped back on the mound.
A pleasant outing through four innings had seemingly changed course as OU loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fifth inning.
In perhaps the most pivotal moment of OSU’s 8-3 win against OU on Friday, facing elimination in the Big 12 Tournament, Abram collected himself in a stressful situation.
A hit batter scored Sooner center fielder John Spikerman from third and trimmed OSU's 5-0 lead to four runs in the fifth. One swing of the bat could tie it. Up came left fielder Kendall Pettis.
“I think I said double-play ball to (myself) about 100 times,” Abram said. “That’s the only thing I was thinking about. Making the pitch and getting a double play.”
On the first pitch of the at-bat, Pettis made hard contact with the ball, but a leaning snag from Abram robbed him of a potential multi-RBI hit. The OSU pitcher threw to Adkison at home, who then threw it to first baseman David Mendham for a 1-2-3 double play. Abram pounded his chest in celebration as his emotions spewed as he walked toward the dugout.
“It was like a miracle, (the double play) happened,” Abram said. “I was like, ‘Any way I could get a double play here, I’m gonna do it.’ The baseball gods were shining on me, so I’ll take it.”
In an elimination game featuring the sixth installment of Bedlam, capitalizing in pivotal moments was the storyline.
While Abram’s six-inning, three-strikeout outing where he allowed just one earned run was ideal for OSU, the Cowboys' ability to hit with runners in scoring position was paramount to the win, which eliminated the Sooners from the Big 12 Tournament.
The Cowboys (39-17, 15-9 Big 12) utilized a five-run bottom of the fifth inning to provide a cushion they wouldn’t lose.
Mendham jumped on a fastball from OU pitcher Will Carsten, sending it over the left field wall for a three-run, opposite-field home run, one of three hits in his five-RBI performance.
“I was really just seeing the ball well,” Mendham said. “I just kept it simple. I was just trying to hit the ball up the middle. I got the first pitch and hit it out. So, (it was) good to get off to get off to a good start like that (and get) early confidence like that.”
An RBI single two at-bats later from second baseman Roc Riggio and a sacrifice flyout from right fielder Carson Benge concluded the bottom of the second. The Cowboys recorded five base runners that half inning and plated as many.
OSU scored one run in the bottom of the fifth and two more in the bottom of the seventh to keep distance from OU.
The Sooners (31-26, 11-13) struggled in such scenarios. They loaded the bases twice and had multiple runners in scoring position three times during the fifth, sixth and seventh innings but only plated three runs.
OU left 10 runners on base Friday. The Cowboys matched that total, yet still plated eight runs.
“I thought that was the separator in the game,” OU coach Skip Johnson said. “If we hit with men in scoring position then that makes a big difference in the game.”
With the win, OSU advances to the Big 12 Tournament semifinal for the fourth consecutive time. The Cowboys face Texas Tech on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. An OSU win would force an if-necessary game at 7:30 p.m. A TTU win sends the Red Raiders to the finals and eliminates the Cowboys.
Additionally, OSU’s RPI elevated two spots to No. 18 nationally. The Cowboys hold a 14-12 record against Quad 1 opponents, according to Warren Nolan. They were projected as the No. 15 seed in D1Baseball’s latest Field of 64 projections, which will likely change Saturday morning.
OSU coach Josh Holliday said he believes his team has the resume to host a regional. Regardless, the Cowboys will have another opportunity to bolster their hosting resume against the Red Raiders.
“It would be wonderful,” Holliday said. “You have your surroundings, and for us, we have a beautiful place to call home that we’re very fond of. Then (playing) on your home space is something you're used to. You know your ballpark, your elements that can benefit the way you play. Hopefully, if that's the case, 7,000-8000 screaming fans that are there on your behalf. So, that would be a wonderful thing.”