OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – For the uninitiated to the traditions in college baseball, a dog pile happens when a team has won a championship or advanced to the College World Series.
In the last calendar year, Oklahoma has been a spectator to three dog piles – last year when Missouri won the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, when South Carolina advanced to the CWS and just over a week ago when Kansas State won the 2013 Big 12 regular-season title.
"These players have been through a lot," OU coach Sunny Golloway said. "They've come up short three times in the last calendar year and I don't think they can handle going through that again."
The fourth-seeded Sooners (39-19) will get the chance to have their own dog pile. Oklahoma defeated the never-say-die Wildcats, 7-6, in 11 innings Saturday. The triumph gave OU a 3-0 record in Pool One and advances the Sooners to the championship game (1 p.m. FSN).
Oklahoma and Kansas State engaged in a battle befitting two teams that expect to participate in the NCAA tournament. The Sooners' pitching staff – aside from one inning – was stellar and stifling. The Wildcats, who led the Big 12 in hitting, banged out 17 hits but left 13 runners stranded.
K-State three times had the bases loaded and failed to score. In the bottom of the 11th, trailing by a run, the Wildcats had the sacks jammed with one out. Reliever Kyle Hayes earned his first save by getting two swinging strikeouts.
"I started playing catch a little bit, then just stayed ready to go until I finally went in," Hayes said of his preparation. "Then it was just exciting being out there while both teams were battling back and forth, and staying ready to pitch at the same time."
Oklahoma jumped to a 4-0 lead thanks to a clutch hit by No. nine hitter Garrett Carey. The Sooners had the bases loaded with two outs but Carey lined the first pitch he saw to right field. K-State's Jon Davis took one fateful step in and then retreated. The ball sailed over his glove by an inch and OU cleared the bases.
The Sooners carried a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Their pitching staff had allowed one run in 26.1 innings before the Wildcats rallied for four runs. Designated hitter Mitch Meyer delivered a bases loaded, full-count, two-out single to center to tie the game.
Oklahoma scored in the top of the 10th but the Sooners couldn't prevent the Wildcats from matching that score to force the 11th inning.
Taylor Alspaugh – whose over-the-shoulder catch in the seventh inning helped deny Shane Conlon a run-scoring double – started the 11th with a looping double that was just fair down the left field line. Freshman Craig Aikin delivered the run with a single to left.
Kansas State got the first two runners on in the bottom of the 11th thanks to an error and a misplayed bunt. OU second baseman Hector Lorenzana likely saved a run by ranging far to his left, sliding and cutting off a ground ball for the first out that moved the runners to second and third. Hayes then came in to end it.
"I would have liked to been a fan watching that game," Kansas State coach Brad Hill said. "That would have been a lot of fun. The great thing is, is that we didn't quit. We competed all the way through, which this team has shown time and time again. As a coach, that is all you can ask for. I couldn't be more proud of my guys."
Kansas State will be watching Oklahoma play in the championship game. The Sooners sound like a team on a mission to hold a post-game celebration.
"Last year we came up short, and that was unfortunate," OU's Matt Oberste said. "We are going to come out with our head's on fire, especially after our game (Saturday)."