OKLAHOMA CITY — Redshirt sophomore Jordan Vujovich held a red wheel and yelled “Hitch it!” as his teammates, organized in a single-file line, spun it one-by-one. It was Oklahoma’s way of celebrating a 4-2 road victory over Texas on May 16, a precursor to a 13-0 run-rule victory over the Longhorns the following day.
In the Big 12 Tournament, with the Sooners needing to win to extend their season, the wheel never made its way onto the field. It sat untouched in the Oklahoma dugout during the Sooners’ 8-2 loss to Baylor in the opening round of the tournament and did not appear to be in the dugout at all as TCU bludgeoned the Sooners with 14 runs in the fourth inning on the way to a 15-3 mercy-rule victory on Thursday.
The wheel had indeed fallen off the Schooner on Thursday afternoon and with it went Oklahoma’s hopes of picking up a win in the Big 12 Tournament. Oklahoma sat on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble entering the conference tournament, and back-to-back blowout losses do not help the cause one bit.
The historic fourth inning began with a double by Josh Watson on an 0-2 count and ended 14 batters later with a groundout to shortstop. The 14 runs scored, 14 RBIs and 11 hits broke Big 12 Championship Tournament records, while the three home runs and 15 total at-bats tied tournament records.
“(Junior Nathan) Wiles hangs an 0-2 pitch when he was supposed to bounce it, hangs it,” head coach Skip Johnson said. “He’s gonna make those mistakes (but they) didn’t forgive himself and hats off to TCU. They took advantage of some balls that were up and found some holes…It kind of really snowballed.”
Mound visits were made and pitchers were changed, but the Horned Frogs could not be stopped even with two outs. When it looked like the Sooners could skate out of the inning only down 5-1, a two-out grand slam by Watson soared into the Oklahoma bullpen to increase the lead to 9-1. TCU then turned a two-out, nobody on situation into five additional runs as if it had more to prove.
Two and a half garbage-time innings followed before the game finally ended at the seventh inning stretch. The Sooners’ final two runs did not carry the same weight as the one they scored five innings prior to take an early 1-0 lead. The run looked as if it might be sufficient for a while, as junior Nathan Wiles held TCU scoreless on just one hit through the first three frames.
The seemingly long wait for the NCAA Tournament selection show on Monday, May 27, has begun for the Sooners. If they do indeed hear their name called and travel to play in a regional, they will be ready do go, Johnson said.
“It’s not like any of those guys will lose any confidence,” Johnson said. “That’s what’s pretty amazing about it is how it’s been like that all year. We’re struggling and then all of a sudden we play good and that’s the reset age we live in.”