ARLINGTON, Texas -- A tale of discrepancies would be a proper analyzation of the last four Bedlam baseball contests.
OSU coach Josh Holliday acknowledged it as he sat at the podium in the conference room of Globe Life Field after second-seeded OSU’s 9-5 loss to seventh-seeded OU in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday evening.
Through four regular season contests, the Cowboys outscored their in-state rival 43-16, producing a double-digit run total three times. This time, it was different.
“They were a different team,” Holliday said. “Not much else to say.”
Prior the Big 12 Tournament, the Sooners ranked 18th nationally in walks with 58. On Wednesday, OU produced 13. As a result, an emulation of their team mantra ensued: “chaous" -- chaos with an 'OU' touch.
“'Chaous’ is about playing together as an offense and making it hard for (other teams) to get going,” OU coach Skip Johnson said. “I think Ted Williams said it best, ‘Get a good pitch to hit.'”
The Sooners (31-24, 11-13 Big 12) did just that, extending 17 at-bats to three-ball counts and forcing four of OSU’s five utilized pitchers to 39 pitches or more. None extended beyond 2 1/3 innings of work.
“That’s the pitcher-versus-hitter battle element of the game is one of the best facets of the game,” Holliday said. “That’s their offensive philosophy and they’re good at it. They stuck to it, played it well.”
OSU starting pitcher Carson Benge -- responsible for a team-high 2 1/3 innings -- allowed a season-high seven earned runs. It was an atypical performance for the redshirt freshman, who hadn’t exceeded five earned runs in his last five outings.
Two lead-off walks – both of which were extended to full counts – set up OU star shortstop Dakota Harris for a two-RBI single up the middle, giving the Sooners a lead they wouldn’t give back.
“That was huge,” Johnson said. “It busted the bubble a little bit. We’ve talked about making sure we’re aware of where we are present and he (understood the situation). Him coming out and getting a hit in the first inning was big.”
OU plated all seven of Benge’s earned runs through the first three innings to take a 7-0 lead.
The Cowboys (37-17, 15-9) attained their best opportunity for a rally in the bottom of the third with three consecutive one-out base hits, highlighted by an RBI double from center fielder Zach Ehrhard. OSU plated two more that half inning with a two-out, two-RBI single from Benge, who also played the designated hitter role.
However, a deep flyout to the warning track by catcher Chase Adkison ended an opportunity to trim OU’s lead to two runs or less, and the Cowboys never garnered any offensive fluency after.
The OSU bullpen displayed good moments, surrendering just two runs – both coming in the top of the seventh – through the ensuing 6 2/3 innings following Benge’s departure. But it wasn't enough.
OU junior southpaw reliever Carter Campbell pitched 4 innings, striking out two batters and surrendering just one run, which came in the bottom of the ninth.
With the loss, OSU will face third-seeded West Virginia – who the Cowboys lost a series to in April – on Thursday. With OSU’s RPI intact at No. 24 nationally, even after the loss, its chances of hosting a regional are on edge. All OSU can do now is win some games, and most importantly, not lose Thursday.
“We’ve had our fair share of victories and we know how to respond to a defeat,” Holliday said. “That’s the game of (baseball). That’s how the big boys do it. You’ve got to be able to rest quickly and have a good, short memory of processing this game and then move on.
“We’ll show up in the right head space tomorrow for the second round of the (Big 12) Tournament.”