Good pitches to hit and opportunities to score runs come and go in the sport of baseball.
In the opening round of the 2019 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, Oklahoma found good pitches to hit and put runners on base against the Baylor pitching staff, but failed to bring runners home as the Bears began to pile on runs. The opportunities came, but the Sooners went silently and zero after zero was marked on the left-center scoreboard on the way to an 8-2 loss to No. 2 seed Baylor. The loss will pit the Sooners against the loser of Wednesday night’s game between No. 6 seed TCU and No. 3 Oklahoma State in an elimination game at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 23.
If the Sooners fail to string a pair of wins together with their backs against the wall, their opportunity for a spot in the NCAA Tournament field — which will be announced on May 27 — may go out the window as well.
“It’s down to nut-cutting time, we gotta go do it,” sophomore Cade Cavalli said. “It’s either win or go home at this point and we’re gonna see what we’re made of over these next couple games.”
Baylor scored its first four runs on a pair of two-run homers and, due to a few missed opportunities by Oklahoma, took a 4-0 lead into the fifth inning against starter Cade Cavalli.
“We haven’t played from behind very good all year,” Johnson said. “When we had a chance to take the momentum in the second and third we had a strikeout and that’s basically it.”
In the second inning, a lead off single by junior Brady Lindsly went for naught after sophomore Tyler Hardman grounded into a double play. In the third, sophomore Tanner Tredaway made it to second with two down but was stranded a batter later.
The fourth inning saw Hardman crank a one-out double off the wall in left to set up runners on second and third, by far Oklahoma’s best scoring opportunity of the night. “Boomer Sooner” chants from the OU faithful represented a sense of hope for the Sooners, but back-to-back strikeouts ended the threat and silenced the crowd once again.
On the day, Oklahoma went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.
“Well, you’re right it gets frustrating at times,” Johnson said of his team’s missed opportunities. “But it happens so you gotta really focus on the one-pitch model instead of focusing on the result because the result is what the media throws in your face every single day… It’s a learning experience more so than anything.”
The Sooners scored a run in the seventh and eighth innings but were far from revitalizing their hopes of mounting a comeback. The spots of red in the green stadium seats never left, supporting the Sooners all the way through Tredaway’s garbage-time single in the ninth and senior Ryan Madden’s one-inning appearance in to cap off the game. It looked like they were trying to soak in every last moment of the Oklahoma’s 2019 season, which might just be in its final stages.
“Like I said all year, you saw us at the beginning of the year and we dominated teams,” Cavalli said. “And that’s still in us, we can go do that. We just gotta get it out of ourselves right now.”
A game against the loser of No. 6 TCU and No. 3 Oklahoma State will follow for the Sooners on Thursday. A loss will likely keep the Sooners out of the NCAA Tournament and a win will advance Oklahoma to Friday.