OU baseball: Sooners fall to Tigers in conference tournament finals
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Oklahoma lost to Big 12 defector Missouri, 8-7, in the Big 12 Championship final Sunday afternoon in the Sooners’ first tournament final appearance since they upset top-seeded Texas Tech in 1997.
“I know it’s been since ’97,” coach Sunny Golloway said. “Nobody wanted it more than we did.”
The Sooners entered the championship game on a five-game winning streak but fell behind early and never truly recovered.
Sophomore pitcher Damien Magnifico started the game for the Sooners but allowed two runs on two hits and a walk before making an early exit, and the Sooners trailed 4-0 heading into the bottom of the first.
“I don’t think it’s so much as what Magnifico didn’t do; I think it’s more of what the Missouri hitters did do today,” Golloway said.
Pitching on only three-days rest, sophomore Dillon Overton took the mound in relief.
In the bottom of the second, Oklahoma scored its first run of the day on a solo shot to center field from sophomore designated hitter Matt Oberste. The homer was Oberste’s fifth of the season and third of the Big 12 tournament.
In the bottom of the fourth, senior shortstop Caleb Bushyhead drove in the Sooners’ second run of the day, slimming the Tigers’ lead to two with a two-out RBI single through the middle of the infield.
But the Tigers answered back with a three-run top of the fifth, effectively ending Overton’s day.
Overton lasted 4 1/3 innings in relief and gave up three runs on nine hits, despite striking out seven — setting a Big 12 tournament record for strikeouts in the process with 15.
After Overton’s departure, junior reliever Steven Okert entered the game and retired the side for the Sooners.
Oklahoma surged back in the fifth and sixth, scoring five runs between the two innings and clawing its way back into the game.
In the bottom half of the fifth, OU scored three runs of its own to cut Mizzou’s lead back to two, and in the sixth, the Sooners knotted things up at seven on senior third baseman Garrett Carey’s two-run single — setting the stage for an adrenaline-filled finish.
After a two-inning lull, Okert exited the game in the top of the eighth after loading the bases.
Okert, who was responsible for two of the Sooners’ three tournament victories, pitched soundly in relief, holding the Tigers' potent offense at bay and making an Oklahoma comeback possible.
Junior left-hander Jake Fisher entered the game in relief and got the Sooners out of the jam with minimal damage.
The Sooners turned a double play in the next at-bat, handing the lead back to Missouri but recording two critical outs.
“I thought Jake Fisher came in and did a great job out of the bullpen,” Golloway said. “He didn’t have a lot of innings with us (prior to today’s game).”
Entering the top of the ninth, Mizzou led, 8-7, with Oklahoma’s hope of a Big 12 tournament title fading fast.
Missouri walked Mistich and senior shortstop Caleb Bushyhead, putting Oklahoma’s tying and winning runs aboard with one away, but the Sooners failed to capitalize.
Sophomore designated hitter Matt Oberste flied out on a pop up to shallow center, and in the next at-bat, Golloway inserted sophomore Chase Simpson into the lineup as a pinch hitter.
Simpson singled through the right side of the infield, but the ball struck Bushyhead’s foot, resulting in an interference call for the game’s final out.
“No fault to [Bushyhead],” Golloway said. “He’s just digging hard trying to get a bag, knowing that he’s going to be the go-ahead run if he can get to third base on that play.”
Despite the outcome, Golloway said he was pleased with the resolve his team showed in coming back from a 7-2 deficit.
“I thought it was a great game,” Golloway said. “I thought when it was 7-7, it was going to take a special effort out of [Missouri’s] dugout to win it, and they did it.”
The Sooners' spot — and whether they will have one — in the regional playing field will be announced by the NCAA on Monday.