Entering the most critical stretch of the season, the Longhorns responded against formerly-division leading Oklahoma, taking all three games over the weekend and continuing the dominance over the Sooners in baseball, particularly at UFCUDFF. The series sweep dropped the Sooners to tied for fourth in the conference, while the Longhorns vaulted to the top of the standings and hold a one-game lead over Texas A&M. Since being swept by Kansas in late March, the Longhorns have won 15 of 17 games, including 10 consecutive, as the offense has finally found it's groove and the pitching has remained overpoweringly consistent.
Rained out on Friday, the Longhorns took the first game of the Saturday doubleheader 7-3, a game that featured more than a few strange moments. Particularly odd was Chance Ruffin's performance: 6.1 innings, seven hits, three earned runs, and a whopping 10 strikeouts. Dominant on the surface, the final statline, as is often the case, did not tell the final story. The Longhorn ace was alternately dominant and extremely hittable, often in the same inning. Mostly, though, Ruffin was lucky, as many of the balls struck well by the Sooners were hit directly at Longhorn defenders.
Ruffin's hard-to-quantify performance was far from the strangest event in the early game Saturday. Back-to-back hard-hit doubles in the OU seventh narrowed the Texas lead to 6-3. Augie Garrido, noticing a great deal of pine tar on Cameron Seitzer's bat, questioned the umpires about the legality of Seitzer's hit. Checking the rulebook, the umpires informed Garrido that the rule had recently changed and Seitzer's bat was legal under the new rules.
After a lengthy delar, a subsequent single to center failed to plate Seitzer, as Connor Rowe's arm in center field dissauaded an attempt to score. A batter later, with Austin Wood taking the mound in relief of Chance Ruffin, Jamie Johnson hit a slow roller to Michael Torres at third, which deflected of Torres' glove, apparently leaving everyone safe and the Longhorn lead cut to 6-4. Luckily for Texas, third base umpire Mike Morris ruled that OU's Tyson Seng, moving from second to third, interferred with Torres, taking the run off the board and leaving two outs in the inning. OU head coach Sunny Golloway, taking extreme exception to the call, held a long argument with Morris and was eventually ejected.
The next hitter grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning with only one run scored by the Sooners, but the drama did not end there -- Jamie Johnson overslid second base on the play and spiked Travis Tucker, leading the two to exchange words. Whatever the Sooner player said was judged worse than Tucker's comments, as Johnson was ejected, along with OU catcher JT Wise. Both benches cleared during the incident, but no punches were thrown.
Besides the drama, the game was ultimately defined in great deal by Austin Wood's superlative 2.1 innings of work, as he got Ruffin out of the jam in the seventh, then finished the game with little of the seventh-inning drama attending the final two frames.
In a manner similar to the first game, Texas jumped out to an early lead it would never relinquish and winning 6-3, stringing together hits and remaining aggressive on the basepaths, stealing three bases in the game. The approach at the plate ran OU starter Stephen Porlier from the game quickly, as the Longhorns ruined his perfect ERA and did not allow him to finish two innings, scoring three runs in the process. Cameron Rupp extended the Longhorn lead with a mammoth two-run blast and the combination of Cole Green, Austin Dicharry, and Austin Wood, once again, holding down the potent OU offense. Dicharry, in particular, was dominant, using his devastating changeup to great effect, resulting in five strikeouts during his 2.2 innings of work.
Rather than resting on their laurels after the strong Saturday peformance netted two wins, the Longhorns had to come back from multiple deficits on Sunday after leading throughout the first two games, taking the game and the series, 8-5 in a contest shortened to eight innings because of OU flight plans. A patient approach at the plate drove the flame-throwing, but wild, Garrett Richards from the game after he walked in consecutive runs on eight pitches. Richards walked seven Longhorns in his 2.2 innings of work. After scoring two more runs in the inning to take a 4-2 lead, the Sooners responded with three of their own.
A run in the fourth tied the game before the Longhorns scored three game-winning runs in the fifth, highlighted by a Michael Torres triple that plated two Longhorn teammates. Taylor Jungmann, saved for the Sunday game by the pitching performances of Austin Wood and Austin Dicharry, pitched 4.1 scoreless innings -- continuing his string of incredible performances in relief. The rubber-armed Austin Wood, who didn't seem likely to be available on Sunday after throwing nearly 80 pitches on Saturday, closed the game by retiring the only batter that he faced in the OU eighth.
Next game: Tuesday at 6 pm CT against Rice at UFCUDFF.