Coming off an 8-5 upset win over No. 1 Arkansas on Tuesday, the Sooners’ confidence is growing.
OU had 11 total hits, and never trailed after scoring five runs in the third inning. Redshirt sophomore left-hander Braden Carmichael started on the mound, pitching six total innings and striking out seven batters. Redshirt senior right-hander Jason Ruffcorn earned his first save of the season, striking out the final batter with two runners in scoring position.
Head coach Skip Johnson said the team fed off the atmosphere in the stadium, and feels comfortable no matter where it's playing. He noted some players were “hoarse” after the game due to their screaming to teammates out of the dugout in an effort to help them forget about their mistakes. Exactly 5,735 fans were at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville for the game.
“That environment was a good environment to play in,” Johnson said in a Thursday press conference. “I was really pleased with how we handled it as much as anything. … We were comfortable in that environment.”
Johnson’s players took notice, too.
“We all feed off that energy,” redshirt junior outfielder Tanner Tredaway said. “It just goes from one batter to the next, and it just keeps going and going. … I think that drive from everyone is what makes our offense pretty special.”
OU’s pitching continues to trend upward. With the offense staying hot, the team hoped the pitching would come around sooner rather than later. After Carmichael’s impressive start, the staff is starting to show some consistency.
After redshirt sophomore right-hander Jaret Godman replaced Carmichael, Ruffcorn took the mound in the ninth. With his pitches nearing 99 miles per hour, he closed the door on the Razorbacks and sealed the deal for the Sooners.
“What Ruffcorn did was amazing,” Johnson said. “He backed off the mound, took a breath, and said ‘here we go.’ You can read his lips as he says ‘execute this pitch,’ and it was a strikeout, which is amazing to see.”
Ruffcorn said he “thrives” in situations like the one he faced on Tuesday.
“I feel like having that adrenaline, having that release, having that sense of importance, is something that helps me,” Ruffcorn said. “That’s why I’m able to do what I do constantly in those situations.”
The Sooners (9-7) return home on Friday to start a three-game series with Houston (10-6), who’s coming off a 9-4 loss to No. 25 Texas A&M on Tuesday. OU is currently 4-2 at L. Dale Mitchell Park, with wins over Omaha, UT-Arlington and Arkansas State. After its highest point of the season, Oklahoma hopes to continue improving.
“We got to just keep going and keep fighting,” Johnson said. “We have to maintain that confidence.”