Oklahoma baseball coach Pete Hughes knew his starting pitcher was in trouble early in Wednesday’s Big 12 Tournament opener against Oklahoma State.
Jake Elliott was leaving the ball up in the zone, and the Cowboys were taking advantage.
Elliott, who had been a stabilizer in the Sooners’ rotation since coming back from an injury two weeks ago, struggled at the worst possible time as OU coughed up an early lead and lost 13-4 to move within one loss of their season ending.
“He’s given us a quality start every single time he’s been out there this year,” Hughes said. “I just thought it was peculiar that he was up in the zone with his first two hitters. He’s never up in the zone with his fastball. He’s given us great starts all year long. It just didn’t happen tonight for him.”
Oklahoma (28-28) will play the loser of Wednesday night’s late game between Texas and Texas Tech at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in an elimination game.
Jacob Evans (3-5, 5.70 ERA) is expected to get the start for the Sooners.
Elliott lasted just one-third of an inning, and the Sooners escaped the first with the lead. But the stage was set for the Cowboys to break through against an OU bullpen that has struggled with consistency all season.
By the time Zach Fish belted a grand slam in the sixth to put the Cowboys up 9-3, the game had taken on an air of inevitability and the Sooners turned their sights to the difficult task of having to extend their season through the loser’s bracket.
“It’s definitely deflating to see that ball go over the wall like that,” Sooners first baseman Anthony Hermelyn said. “It’s a tough thing to deal with whenever you’re fighting so hard to try to come back and you know you’ve got to win the thing and then to take a blow like that — it’s definitely tough to come back from, but I’ve got confidence we’re going to come back and get something done tomorrow.”
That disappointment started in the first when, after the Sooners had scored three in the top half, the Cowboys answered with two quick runs off Elliott to flip the momentum.
Hughes has been preaching to his team about shutdown innings — holding the opponent scoreless after getting on the board themselves in the previous inning — and once again the Sooners couldn’t keep things going their way.
“We did exactly what we wanted to do,” Hughes said. “We wanted to jump out and set the tone and get momentum in our dugout. The key point in the entire game was the bottom of the first.
“Against a good team like that you better grab momentum and run with it. We didn’t do it.”