Just a five-run frame made the difference between Oklahoma and West Virginia as the Sooners held off a late rally to put the Mountaineers in the Big 12 Tournament elimination bracket.
Oklahoma topped the Mountaineers 6-4 in the opening round of the conference championship, handing WVU its second-ever loss in the first round since joining the conference.
The second inning was the decider. Jake Spikerman opened the scoring with a bases-loaded RBI, while keeping three runners on the bases. That set up the deciding swing from Peyton Graham, who sent a grand slam over the wall in dead center to put the Sooners up five runs.
That tightened the clamps on WVU starter Jacob Watters, who was already struggling before that run. He was pulled after walking the first two batters of the next inning, ending his day after throwing 66 pitches in two innings of work.
“Starting pitching has kind of been our thing all year, that when we get good starting pitching, we’d normally win,” said WVU coach Randy Mazey. “If we don’t, playing from behind is pretty tough, and the grand slam was the biggest play of the game obviously.”
The game became a much different story after that change as Carlson Reed took the mound in relief. He tossed the next 4.1 innings for WVU, allowing one run on three hits with five strikeouts.
“I knew since it was a…5-0 ballgame in the second, I knew I had to come in and at least try to keep it close,” Reed said. “By following the pitching plan, I pretty much did that.”
WVU’s bats didn’t quite give him the run support he needed to snatch the win, however. The Mountaineers scored their first run in the eighth inning, when JJ Wetherholt dashed home on a wild pitch.
The freshman duo of Grant Hussey and Wetherholt attempted to continue the rally in the ninth when they each homered to add another three runs, but it wasn’t quite enough to close the once six-run gap.
“It’s definitely something to remember, just being able to play here and get in the box at a big league field is a cool experience,” Hussey said. “I guess we’ll build off that and keep it going.”
Carter Campbell (3-0) took the win on the mound after entering the game in the fourth inning and tossing two scoreless innings. He took over for starter Carson Atwood, who opened with a one-hit performance across three frames.
Offensively, the Sooners had the opportunity to pile onto their lead throughout the contest. They left 13 runners on base, including a bases-loaded seventh inning. Still, WVU out-batted the victors 10 hits to nine but managed its first extra-base hit in the eighth inning.
Watters (3-7) took the loss after allowing five runs on six hits. He had trouble finding the zone, tossing just 31 strikes in 66 pitches.
Graham’s four RBIs led the game, while Tanner Tredaway was the hits leader after his 4-for-5 night with an RBI. Spikerman also had a multi-hit game, finishing 3-for-4.
Wetherholt, Hussey, Austin Davis and McGwire Holbrook each logged a pair of hits, with Holbrook adding a double.
“I think when you get in a game like that, if you are able to score late, that momentum carries into the next day,” Mazey said. “It seemed like our offense was dead there for a while, even though we were getting guys on base, we just couldn’t get them in….Tomorrow’s been our thing, I think our record after losing a game is like 15-5 this year, so our backs have been against the wall before, and we’ve come out of it really well, so here we go again.”
WVU falls into the elimination bracket with the loss, setting up a 1:30 p.m. ET clash with Kansas State on Thursday. Oklahoma moves on to the winner’s bracket and will face Texas Tech at 8:30 p.m. ET.