Whenever Texas’ archrival Oklahoma in town, rankings and stats can be thrown out the window. Whoever plays the cleanest game and best controls their emotions usually ends up winning.
In the first match up of their three game series, the Texas Longhorns did just that. Thanks to sophomore Nolan Kingham’s strong seven inning outing and Texas punishing early Sooner mistakes, the Longhorns defeated the No. 16 Sooners, 5-3. Sophomore Beau Ridgeway earned the save in relief.
Facing an Oklahoma team that had only lost six games all season, Texas needed to make sure they began the game strong. Oklahoma helped them to a good offensive start in the first inning, when several fielding mistakes in one play allowed Texas to put the first run across. Senior Kacy Clemens grounded to OU starter Dylan Grove, who overthrew the shortstop. The Sooners’ second baseman was there to back the play up, and tried to catch sophomore left fielder Tate Shaw too far off of third base. Shaw got himself in a pickle and looked dead to rights, but Grove dropped the ball while trying to apply a tag at home plate, allowing Shaw to score the first run of the game.
Texas snagged their second run the very next batter when junior second baseman Bret Boswell hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field to score the second Longhorn run of the game.
The Horns would double their lead in the fourth thanks to another Sooner error. With a runner on first, Clemens grounded to the second and a double play looked to be on the way. However, OU second baseman Kyle Mendenhall bobbled the grounder and decided to go to first for the force. His throw would take the first baseman off the bag, and Texas had runners on first and second with no outs instead of nobody on with two down.
After moving both runners into scoring position on a double steal, junior catcher Michael Cantu hit a fly ball deep enough for junior Travis Jones to score the third Longhorn run. The very next batter, freshman centerfielder Austin Todd singled to score Clemens.
Kingham did not start off the game as effectively as he normally does, struggling some in the first and fourth innings. He would give up one of the two earned runs he allowed in the fourth when he gave up an RBI single.
Texas would get that run back in the seventh inning when Cantu scored on a sacrifice fly from freshman shortstop David Hamilton. Though Cantu, who is not known for his footspeed, appeared to be tagged out at home, Oklahoma catcher Renae Martinez held the ball in his throwing hand while tagging Cantu with his glove. The umpire correctly assessed the situation and ruled Cantu safe after he barely got a hand on home plate to score the fifth and final Longhorn run.
Kingham would not give up another run until the eighth when he gave up a deep home run to OU third baseman Steele Walker. Kingham would be replaced by sophomore Beau Ridgeway one batter after allowing the home run. The Las Vegas righty struck out five and walked four to improve his record to 5-2.
Ridgeway made things a bit more interesting in the ninth, allowing a solo home run to Martinez to make it 5-3. The home run was not without controversy, as the ball was ruled to have just barely flown over the left field foul pole. Head coach David Pierce was joined by the UFCU Disch-Falk Field crowd in voicing their displeasure to third base umpire Ray Leible, but it was of no use and of no matter, as Ridgeway would end the Sooner ninth and earn his sixth save.
David Pierce quotes
Opening statement: It’s Oklahoma/Texas. I thought it was an exciting ball game. They kicked it a little bit early. We took advantage of it and got a 4-1 lead, then we held onto it and were able to tag one on late that gave our bullpen a little cushion. Just a great Friday night win against a quality opponent.
On Kingham: It was similar to last week. I thought he gave us seven innings. He gutted it out, but still, I didn’t think he had his best. His best inning was probably the 7th. It looked like he got a little stronger, and that’s why he went back out in the 8th. His sinker was okay. It was up at times, but when he needed that pitch, he was good and made that pitch.
On the defense: I thought our defense was exceptional again. Just so proud of the way that they’re playing defense with such anticipation and awareness, and wanting the baseball hit to them. That’s a big part of their mentality and their pride right now. Bret Boswell was exceptional two plays, and the combination [of him and Hamilton] has been there all year. Everybody else is feeding off those middle guys. I thought Michael Cantu caught a great came today. Delayed steal early in the game shut their running game down. David [Hamilton] wasn’t really on time, but his speed made up and basically caught up with the ball with the tag. Just a great defensive performance all the way around.
On calming the team: They’re learning. They’re understanding that emotion and being able to control it, and I thought they did a very nice job of that. I thought we were a little subdued during batting practice, and that was a good thing. I think they’re just growing up a little bit and understanding this schedule, and Oklahoma’s a part of this schedule.
On the HR call explanation: That it was a home run. Basically, I’m not sure if it was there, but he had the best view, he made the call, so we go with that.
On staying hungry for the series win: We’re playing Oklahoma. They had better be hungry. They will be. We just have got to go out and do our jobs, not try to do more. That was our message coming out of Kansas, quit trying harder because that’s not the answer. We’re trying as hard as we can, now let’s just be a little more mature with the at bats, and be a little more dissective with our pitches