Oklahoma baseball's early momentum doesn't last in loss to Alabama

FILE PHOTO — Oklahoma shortstop Brandon Zaragoza throws to first during the Sooners' game against Alabama on Friday at L. Dale Mitchell Park. OU claimed the series 2-1, but lost 13-1 to Alabama on Sunday. 

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

It was a brief stint, but Skip Johnson felt everything going his team’s way.

“In an amateur baseball game, you’ve got to understand and fight for the momentum,” the Oklahoma coach said.

For OU, one second it was there, the next it wasn’t.

Alabama rocked the Sooners 13-1 in their series finale at L. Dale Mitchell Park on Sunday, blasting 18 hits and a pair of home runs.

OU led 1-0 through two innings, but a two-out error by second baseman Kyle Mendenhall in the third opened the door for three Alabama runs, and the Crimson Tide (9-2) plated 10 more over the next three frames.

Sooner starting pitcher Kyle Tyler (0-2) struck out four of the first six batters he faced, but didn’t hold up following Mendenhall’s miscue.

“When we made the error with two outs there, [Tyler] started trying to pitch out of the jam instead of just staying with the plan,” Johnson said. “That’s what happens when you get in a situation where all of a sudden you get tagged, you make an error, you’re fixing to pitch out of it and you can’t finish the play off. It starts snowballing.”

The error was uncharacteristic of Mendenhall, who has just two this season.

“I’d want that ball hit to him every time,” Johnson said. “It’s just, ball came up on him and it’s part of baseball. But we [as a pitching staff] have got to stay back in our plan of just hitting the target. We can’t try to pitch out of the situation.”

The Sooners (6-6) had already clinched the series, but were trying for their first-ever sweep over a Southeastern Conference opponent.

Brady Lindsly’s fielder’s-choice RBI in the first inning was all the offense OU could muster, and Alabama (10-2) proved why it came into the weekend averaging 10 runs a game. Cody Henry’s two-run homer in the fourth inning gave Alabama a 7-1 lead, and later, Chandler Taylor’s three-run blast in the sixth provided even more insurance.

“Our staff is good, I have confidence in them. I know a couple guys [at Alabama] and I know they can hit. They were bound to get some hits here and there. They kind of all saved them for today,” said Steele Walker, the only Sooner to produce at least two hits.

Said Johnson: “They’re a good team. For us to do what we did the first two nights. .. Brad [Alabama first-year head coach Bohannon] does a great job with them. They’re a good club, no doubt about that. You’ll see those guys in the postseason.”

OU totaled three hits against Alabama starter Sam Gardner through five innings and struck out nine times total, putting just two runners in scoring position after the first inning.

Otherwise, the Sooners had an encouraging weekend offensively. Mendenhall’s walk-off single delivered a 2-1 win in 11 innings on Friday, and the team had 17 hits in a 16-4 win on Saturday.

OU will host Dallas Baptist at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“You don’t let one game define or take away your confidence. They did a lot of good things [this weekend],” Johnson said. “You can’t let one play, one pitch [affect] your confidence.” 

Extra Frames

• Good signs: There weren’t a ton of smiles in the dugout after OU’s 12-run loss, especially with a light drizzle starting to fall.

But there were encouraging signs against Alabama, which is ranked 29th in the National Collegiate College Baseball Writers’ poll.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” OU shortstop Brandon Zaragoza said. “Today we didn’t swing the bats very well, but the series as a whole I think we played more together and everyone was filling in their roles. I think we took a big step forward.”

• Extra work: With the game sliding away from OU late, there was an opportunity to get several young relievers game experience.

Freshmen Ledgend Smith, Jake Terry and Zack Matthews all made appearances. Redshirt freshman left-hander Trevor Munsch made his first appearance this season, recording a walk in 1/3 of an inning.

“When you’re playing a three- or four-game weekend, you can use those guys for one or two [innings] to flip a lineup over,” OU coach Skip Johnson said.

Inside the game

A defensive lesson was embedded in the seventh inning, when a high infield fly ball was hit near Terry on the mound.

No one took charge over the play, and first baseman Brady Lindsly made a late attempt at the ball before it fell untouched on the ground. Terry picked it up and made the out at second.

Johnson isn’t against his pitchers coming off the mound and making a play on that type of ball. At the least, someone needs to make a play, he said.

“If [you’re a pitcher] and you have to catch it, you have to catch it. In that situation, the wind’s howling straight out, it looks like it’s gonna be a foul ball. [The catcher] doesn’t know where it’s at, we’ve gotta point the ball out to him. Brady and Brylie [Ware, third baseman] have got to come in and call ‘em off, get ‘em out of there,” Johnson said. “I broke my leg in junior college on the same type of play. I was waiting for the guy to call me off and he never called me off and dove straight into my leg. It’s a deal where you’re trying to get outs. If you have to catch it, you catch it.” 


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