The way things set up Wednesday, with aces aplenty on both sides, Sooners coach Sunny Golloway figured Bedlam at the Big 12 Tournament would come down to one magical moment at the plate.
Yet when rolling through the list of potential candidates in a chat with pitching coach Jack Giese, Oklahoma nine-hole hitter Garrett Carey wasn't on the tip of his tongue.
“I told coach Giese,” Golloway said, “‘This will be a game where someone is gonna run into a pitch. Whatever you guys call, have courage. I trust you, but it really is going to come down to (OSU's Mark) Ginther or Cody Reine running into a pitch.
“I didn't mention Garrett Carey.”
Carey inserted himself into Bedlam lore, ending a dominant pitching run by Oklahoma State's Andrew Heaney, driving a ninth-inning home run into the left field seats for a walk-off 1-0 win at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The Sooners, getting superb pitching from Dillon Overton and Steven Okert, improved to 36-21 overall, likely ensuring themselves a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They'll face Wednesday's Baylor-Kansas State winner Thursday at 4 p.m.
Heaney, the Big 12's Pitcher of the Year, had cruised into the ninth, striking out eight while allowing just two singles and a walk while needing but 86 pitches. The performance was a continuation of mastery over the Sooners that featured 17 scoreless innings, beginning with a shutout in the Bedlam series opener in Tulsa back on May 4.
And Wednesday's ninth inning offered little resistance, with the .210-hitting Carey due up first, followed by left-handed batters Erik Ross and Cody Reine, who were a combined 2-for-13 with six strikeouts in the two games against Heaney.
Carey, however, dramatically altered Heaney's happy homecoming, turning on the Putnam City product's third pitch for the game-winner.
“I got ahead 1-1, an inside pitch I can handle,” Carey said. “Luckily my barrel found the ball. The rest is history.”
Wacky Bedlam history.
Carey's spot in the lineup was secure only because of his glove at third base. He entered the game with just seven extra-base hits for the season – none of them home runs. Carey couldn't even remember his last long ball.
“Probably JC last year,” he said. “Definitely, not this year. It's been a while.”
Said Golloway: “We've been hard on him. But he's such a great defender we've stayed with him. For him to hit that out, probably the most unlikely candidate…”
Even when he hit it, Carey wasn't sure.
“I've been hitting the ball pretty hard right at people, so I wasn't exactly getting my hopes up,” Carey said. “But after I rounded first, I saw it clear.”
Until Carey's shot, neither team had managed a real threat, with no runner advancing as far as third base.
Heaney carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and Overton was perfect through 4 2/3. The Cowboys' first two batters in the eighth inning reached, but Overton struck out Gage Green, who failed twice to bunt. Okert was then summoned, and he got out of the jam, before pitching a perfect ninth.
Then came the magical moment.
“Garrett Carey's a guy who has struggled at the plate,” Golloway said. “But the best thing Garrett's done is he's been tough all year. We continue to make adjustments at the plate. He buys in, never questions what we do.
“When the ball left the yard and he came around third, what I told him is, ‘How about you. Good for you.'”