OKLAHOMA CITY -- The University of Oklahoma rallied from two down to score three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat No. 22 Texas Tech in walk-off fashion at the Big 12 tournament on Thursday. Sheldon Neuse ripped the game-winning single to right to plate Kolbey Carpenter and Craig Aikin.
“A great win. A great team win,” said head coach Pete Hughes. “Resiliency. From last night to be able to pick yourself up and play with energy the next day, especially going down 4-0 then 5-0. Guys never got their heads down. They kept grinding, they kept playing. Give yourself a big opportunity to get a big hit and win a game. We did it. It doesn't happen without a bunch of guys who are scrapping and not scoreboard watching.”
Down to their last three outs, the Sooners responded. Hunter Haley reached on a hit-by-pitch, and then Carpenter singled to left. Dylan Neal, who entered the game in the eighth, advanced both into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. A single to left from Aikin scored Haley to cut the lead to one run, and gave OU runners on the corners. Lorenzana was then plunked to load the bases and give way to Neuse’s one-out knock.
“The only thing going through my mind was to drive something deep to the outfield to tie this thing up right here,” stated Neuse. “I got a breaking ball up and away and I just went with it and found it through the four-hole. I knew my speed on second base and [Aikin] came around and won the game.”
Texas Tech right fielder Stephen Smith fielded Neuse’s hit on two hops and came up throwing. Aikin slid just outside the swipe of catcher Tyler Floyd to give the Sooners the walk-off victory.
“I got goosebumps immediately,” recalled Aikin. “I looked up and saw the umpire and we were on the same page. I didn't know coming around the bag -- I saw the kid slide, slide, slide more to his left and kind of get right in my lane -- I thought I was almost going to have to go to the inside, but I was doing whatever I could to touch home plate. Once I just slipped past him I knew he wasn't going to be able to put a glove on me.”
Tech jumped out to an early lead with four runs in the top of the first. The Red Raiders put their first two batters on base by virtue of two OU errors before four RBI hits put Texas Tech on top 4-0. Jacob Evans then settled in and threw 5.0 innings, striking out five, while giving up five runs with only two of those earned.
After being held scoreless through four, the Sooners put a run on the board in the fifth when Carpenter led off the inning with a single to left. Aikin then singled to right to give the Sooners runners at first and second. Hughes put the runners in motion for Neuse who singled up the middle to plate Carpenter.
Texas Tech responded with two runs in the top of the sixth to push the lead to 7-1. The Red Raiders banged out three hits in the frame, including RBI singles from Bryant Burleson and Tyler Neslony, who finished 4-for-5 on the day.
The Sooners rallied again in the sixth, loading the bases on hits from Anthony Hermelyn and Haley and a hit-by-pitch for Carpenter. Aikin then hit a two-RBI single to right that scored Hermelyn and Haley. Aikin’s hit cut the lead to four and chased Texas Tech starter Chris Sadberry, who went 5.2 innings and allowed three runs on seven hits. Hector Lorenzana was robbed of a potential three-run home run by a spectacular leaping catch from Neslony to end the inning.
Texas Tech added a run in the eighth, but the Sooners responded in the bottom half of the frame with a lead-off blast to left from Carpenter for his third home run of the season. Three consecutive base hits then loaded the bases for Oklahoma with no outs. Neuse grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Neal and a sacrifice fly to right from Mac James plated Aikin to bring the Sooners within two at 8-6.
“It's awesome,” continued Hughes. “We are all disappointed with the way our season has ended and then we don't play well last night against our rival and we've seen them six times and have not played well when we wanted to. The guys could have packed it in, but that's not the group we have. These guys are grinders. They are motivated and they try to figure out how to win games. Today was really indicative of that. It was awesome.”
With his 3-for-4, three-RBI effort, Carpenter extended a career-high reached base streak to 14 games, while Aikin remains electric in May, going 4-for-6 for the day with three RBI and two runs scored, including the winning run. Aikin pushed his career-high hit-streak to 11 games.
In relief, Ralph Garza Jr. went 3.0 innings and gave up three earned runs . Kindle Ladd came on to pitch the ninth and threw a scoreless frame despite Tech loading the bases with just one out. Ladd picked up the win and pushes his record to 5-3.
For the Red Raiders, lefty Cameron (7-2) took the loss in 0.2 innings of work. He surrendered three runs on two hits and a walk plus two hit-by-pitches.