The pitcher’s duel that never materialized on Friday ended up appearing on Saturday instead as the Oklahoma Sooners used a strong start from right-hander David Sandlin and some late scoring to notch a 4-2 victory over the No. 8 Texas Longhorns on Saturday at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
Once again it was the bullpen that struggled for the Longhorns, as right-hander Aaron Nixon allowed two inherited runners to score in the seventh inning, as did right-hander Zane Morehouse in the eighth inning.
And there just weren’t enough clutch hits for Texas, which only had four at bats with a runner in scoring position and failed to come through in any of them. Overall, the Horns hit .182 in the game and struggled to put pressure on the Sooners, getting only one leadoff hit and one hit with two outs, the latter normally a trademark of this Texas team.
Texas right-hander Tristan Stevens bounced back from failing to record an out last Saturday at Texas Tech, but had to work out of some trouble in the first inning. Oklahoma’s Peyton Graham struck out swinging with one out, but was able to reach first on a wild pitch, then stole second. After Blake Robertson drew a walk, Graham and Robertson advanced on a double steal, prompting Longhorns head coach David Pierce to intentionally walk Jimmy Crooks with two outs to load the bases. The move paid off, as Stevens induced a groundout to third base to end the threat.
In the third, Stevens helped himself out, picking off a runner at first base with two out and runners on first and third to escape another jam. Two innings later, catcher Silas Ardoin helped out his pitcher, throwing out Wallace Clark at second base for the inning’s second out.
At the plate, the Horns didn’t get much of anything going against Sandlin through the first five innings — Sandlin retired the first 11 batters he faced before walking first baseman Ivan Melendez in the fourth inning. Designated hitter Murphy Stehly followed Melendez with a two-out single, but Ardoin flew out to left center to strand the only two baserunners for Texas in the game to that point.
It was the best start of the Eastern Oklahoma State College transfer’s career at Oklahoma so far by a significant margin, especially given the context.
But the Longhorns were able to threaten in the sixth inning. Sandlin retired the leadoff batter, right fielder Dylan Campbell, but then hit left fielder Eric Kennedy with a pitch and allowed a hit up the middle to center fielder Douglas Hodo III to bring Melendez to the plate with one out and runners on first and second.
With Melendez taking on the first pitch, Sandlin got away with a flat slider up and out over the plate, the type of mistake that Melendez has often sent into orbit this season. Another flat slider hit the top of the strike zone, according to the umpire, to put Melendez down 1-2, before Melendez struck out on a changeup in the dirt that barely reached home plate.
Stehly worked the count full with two outs, but was punched out by the umpire on a pitch clearly off the plate outside.
In the seventh, Sandlin exited in favor of right-hander Trevin Michael, who entered the game with four of the seven saves by the Sooners this season. Ardoin met Michael with a rude greeting, depositing a 3-2 fastball over the wall in left-center field for the game’s first run.
Oklahoma battled back to tie the game in the seventh with back-to-back one-out singles to put Stevens in trouble, prompting a call to struggling right-hander Aaron Nixon out of the bullpen. Stevens left after allowing six hits while striking out six and walking two.
Both inherited runners scored after Nixon allowed an eight-pitch walk and then a single over shortstop Trey Faltine by Peyton Graham, who eliminated the double play by stealing second. Nixon then allowed another walk to load the bases, but bounced back with a swinging strikeout on a slider and a groundout to first baes to limit the damage.
Still unable to regularly command his fastball, Nixon allowed a single and another walk while recording one out in the eighth inning before giving way to right-hander Zane Morehouse. After a long battle, Morehouse was able to strike out Clark on a double steal, but Ardoin’s throw to third went into left field and Oklahoma added a third run. A subsequent single up the middle made it 4-1 before Morehouse was able to end the inning.
Ardoin was able to get one run back in the ninth with a one-out home run on a 2-0 fastball.
A single by Faltine brought the tying run to the plate before third baseman Skyler Messinger struck out. Second baseman Mitchell Daly drew a walk on four pitches, bringing Campbell to the plate as Michael began to noticeably labor on the mound as he approached 50 pitches. With the count full, Campbell hit a hard line drive to left field, where Diego Muniz made a falling catch to end the game.
Sunday’s rubber match is set for noon Central on ESPN with left-hander Lucas Gordon taking the mound for the Longhorns.