By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
OKLAHOMA CITY –
Call it a version of the Red River Rivalry.
After Texas junior Taylor Jungmann pitched a complete-game one-hitter to lead the Longhorns to a loser’s bracket triumph Thursday in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, Oklahoma’s Burch Smith responded with a similar gem.
The junior right hander pitched a career-high 8.2 innings with a career-high 146 pitches as the Sooners won a loser’s bracket game with a 3-1 victory over Texas Tech. The loss eliminates the Red Raiders (33-25), who will now hope they earn an NCAA tournament invitation.
After losing to Kansas State in Wednesday’s opening game, Oklahoma had lost three of its last four. Making the short drive home to Norman with no victories and two losses would not have the best way to go into NCAA play. Now, the Sooners (41-16) have a chance to make a Big 12 run.
"What it gives us is whole new life," Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway said. "This ballgame was about Burch Smith. "I thought it was as gutty a performance of anyone I've seen in a Sooner uniform."
Oklahoma will face the loser of Thursday night’s Texas A&M-Kansas State game. The Sooners can throw either Dylan Overton or Bobby Shore. Had Smith not pitched into the ninth inning, the Sooners would have been forced to deplete their pitching staff.
"It feels good to be able to go out and save the bullpen because we play one tomorrow, two Saturday and then Sunday," Smith said. "Coach (Sunny Golloway) just said, 'Go as long as you can so we can extend our bullpen out for the rest of the tournament.'"
The Sooners led the Big 12 in hitting and banged out 12 hits against Texas Tech but that produced just single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Garrett Buechele plated a run with a sacrifice fly in the third and Cameron Seitzer homered in the fourth. OU loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth but its only run came home thanks to a balk.
Texas Tech got to Smith for a run in the eighth inning and Andre Wheeler’s two-out single in the ninth sent Smith to the dugout. OU closer Ryan Duke came on to retire Bo Altobelli who, after working the count full fouled off five deliveries before smoking a line drive to third. Buechele lunged and laid out to snag it and end the game.
"I thought our at-bats, especially late, were very competitive," Red Raiders coach Dan Spencer said.