By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – All Oklahoma needed to win its opening-round game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship was wait for the ninth inning.
The second-seeded Sooners, after all, were facing seventh-seeded Kansas - a team that has come to regard the final inning of regulation with a "Oh-no-here-we-go-again" feeling. Last weekend, OU swept the Jayhawks in Lawrence, winning the last two games with runs in the top of the ninth. In the series opener, OU scored three runs in the eighth and six in the ninth.
So it was fate - gentle for Oklahoma, fickle for Kansas - that wound up deciding the game. With runners at the corners and one out, the Sooners' Cody Reine laced a shot to the center field wall that scored pinch runner Eric Ross from third and catcher Tyler Ogle from first to give OU a 3-2 walk off victory.
"The way we're playing right now, we are finding ways to win," said Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway, whose team has won 16 of its last 19. "That's the most important thing this time of year.
"If that is not Sooner magic, then I don't know what is."
How much more can Kansas take? In its last five games, the Jayhawks have been outscored in the ninth inning 21-0. Four losses in a 31-25-1 season came when KU took a three-run lead into the ninth.
Kansas starter T.J. Walz deserved a better fate. He allowed four hits in 8.1 innings but couldn't close the deal. Oklahoma starter Michael Rocha went eight innings and allowed five hits and one earned run.
The Jayhawks had a chance to add an insurance run in the top of the ninth but were denied by the Sooners' defense. Tony Thompson, after a leadoff double, was at third base with Casey Lytle at first. With Lytle moving with the pitch, Brett Lisher rapped a sharp grounder to OU shortstop Caleb Bushyhead. His flip to second baseman Danny Black barely forced Lytle, whose slide forced Black to double pump. But his throw to first still beat Lisher and ended the inning.
After their recent three-game series, the outcome and how it occurred felt like Groundhog Day - or Night or Early Morning. A 2:54 rain delay during the Baylor-Kansas State game delayed the OU-KU game to a 10:41 start and the game ended at 1:13 a.m. Thursday.
"What a great game," Golloway said. "It is almost a shame it was played so late."
Kansas will play Sunflower State rival Kansas State at 3 p.m. Friday while Oklahoma will face Baylor at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.