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'We set the table really early': Sooners defeat No. 5 Texas A&M 13-8 in Game 1 of CWS behind second inning offensive output

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Jackson Nicklaus

Freshman infielder Jackson Nicklaus during the game against New Orleans on March 19.

Oklahoma’s bats were booming.

After freshman outfielder John Spikerman scored a run in the first inning courtesy of an RBI groundout from redshirt sophomore infielder Blake Robertson, OU was in business and hungry for more.

Texas A&M started its ace sophomore Nathan Dettmer, who entered Friday’s game 5-2 with a 4.75 ERA, in 17 starts this season. However, it was forced to pull him after OU exploded for seven runs in the second inning. That inning proved too much to overcome as the Sooners (43-22) outlasted the Aggies (42-19) 13-8 in Game 1 of the College World Series in Omaha. 

The win brings Oklahoma’s postseason record to 6-2 and is its first in the CWS since 2010. With the No. 1, 3 and 4-seeded teams falling in the super regionals, and the No. 5-seeded Aggies dropping Game 1, the Sooners are in prime position in the winners bracket to make a run during the 10-day tournament. 

“I thought we set the table really early, took the momentum of the game,” OU coach Skip Johnson said. “We gathered the momentum, kept it, gave it away and then got it back. I’m really proud of the young men for battling and grinding it out pitch to pitch.” 

Three of the seven runs in the second inning came from redshirt sophomore Jimmy Crooks’ three-run shot to right field that left the bat at 106 mph. Crooks finished the game 1-for-4 with 3 RBIs and two runs scored. 

Kyler Murray, the Oklahoma football and baseball star who is the Arizona Cardinals quarterback, was in attendance decked out in Sooners gear "up and down." The Heisman Trophy winner was seated in a suite that included OU athletic director Joe Castiglione and basketball coach Porter Moser. 

During the game, Murray told the ESPN broadcast Crooks was his favorite player to watch on the team. 

“I love Jimmy Crooks,” Murray told ESPN. “I love the catcher, we’ve got a lot of great players but I like Jimmy, he’s a dog.”

The Sooners’ second home run of the game came in the fourth when freshman infielder Jackson Nicklaus unleashed on a first-pitch breaking ball inside for a grand slam. The bases clearing bomb gave OU a 12-3 lead and was just the third grand slam inside Charles Schwab Field in College World Series history. 

Redshirt senior pitcher Trevin Michael, who watched as freshmen Spikerman and Nicklaus made plays in an important game, credits the Sooners’ approach at the plate Friday to a pre-game pep talk given by Murray Thursday night in Omaha. 

“Kyler just told us basically this is every kid’s dream, don’t play tight just because you’re in it,” Michael said. “And I think we did a really good job of doing that. … I think the best part of that was you have (Spikerman) and (Nicklaus) on the biggest stage in the world for college baseball and they went in there and had poised at bats. That’s what (Murray) was getting at whenever he was talking to us.”

Murray said on the broadcast Johnson is like a father figure in his life and he was always hard on him in practice about giving his best effort. The Sooners coach, who frequently talks about making an impact on his players’ lives, got emotional during his postgame press conference speaking about Murray coming to support the team. 

“For me, it’s a little different than (the players),” Johnson said. “When you have an ex-player come back like him, you know you’ve done something to carve your name on his heart, that he shows he cares about us, because we cared about him.” 

While the Sooners’ offense stayed hot, their pitchers kept the game in control. Redshirt sophomore Jake Bennett started and looked impressive pitching six innings and allowing four earned runs on five hits. 

Michael kept the Aggies in check for most of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings earning his 11th save of the season and finishing the game with just one hit allowed, and three strikeouts.  

“I was just trying to pitch with a lead the whole time,” Michael said. “I wasn’t really trying to go in there and strike everybody out or anything like that and it was really easy for me to settle with a lead like that.”

The one setback for the Sooners exiting Friday’s game is the loss of redshirt junior infielder/outfielder Brett Squires, who will miss the remainder of the CWS with a broken hand after he was hit by a pitch in the third inning, ESPN reported.

Oklahoma will look to keep rolling as it faces the winner of No. 9 Texas vs. Notre Dame at 6 p.m. Sunday in Omaha on ESPN2. Michael gave an interesting answer when asked about the potential of playing the Longhorns in the second round.

“I’m not going to address anything about Texas,” Michael said with a smirk. “You can go watch the last out of the Big 12 Championship if you want to know how I feel about (them).”

Senior sports reporter

Colton Sulley is The Daily's senior sports reporter and covers OU football. He previously covered OU men's basketball, men's gymnastics and wrestling.

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