Oklahoma Continues Hot-Hitting Ways in Victory Over Texas A&M

Image credit: Oklahoma SS Peyton Graham (Photo by Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)

OMAHA — Oklahoma, one of the hottest-hitting teams in college baseball in recent weeks and truly one of the hottest teams in general throughout the second half of the season, continued its run of form with a 13-8 win against Texas A&M Friday afternoon to open the 2022 College World Series. 

After pushing a run across in the first on an RBI groundout off the bat of first baseman Blake Robertson, the Sooners really got the party started in earnest in the second inning. 

A bases-loaded walk to shortstop Peyton Graham, a Robertson two-RBI single and an RBI single for center fielder Tanner Tredaway made it 5-0, and a three-run home run for catcher Jimmy Crooks capped the scoring and made it 8-0. 

Two innings later, after Texas A&M had pulled it within 8-3, second baseman Jackson Nicklaus connected for a grand slam to give Oklahoma a 12-3 lead just about 90 minutes into the proceedings. 

“In our advanced meeting we talked about being a team of Davids and attacking the giant,” Nicklaus said. “That’s been our team motto lately. We just want to attack the game and play with no fear. We had a game plan. We wanted to execute early. We did. Jumped on them and it led to our victory.”

There was a lot of baseball to be played at that point, but with ace lefthander Jake Bennett able to pitch free and easy with a lead, Oklahoma felt good about its prospects for the rest of the day.

“Getting that early run, it allows you to settle down and make pitches and let your defense work behind you,” Bennett said. 

The Sooners came up with big hits, to be sure, but they also benefited greatly from Texas A&M being fairly giving early on. 

By the end of the fourth-inning Oklahoma rally, Texas A&M had issued six walks, hit two batters, made an error and had several other misplays that gave Oklahoma extra bases, including a botched slow roller off the bat of right fielder John Spikerman with two outs in the second. 

It was a tough play, and perhaps Spikerman’s speed would have allowed him to beat it out even if it had been fielded cleanly by Texas A&M starting pitcher Nathan Dettmer, but instead of cutting off the rally before it began by making that play, it was a seven-run frame. 

“I think we gave up 19 free bases in the first four innings,” Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “If you would have told me we were going to score eight runs against their Friday starter, Sandlin, who has been the Saturday guy, and then the closer, I thought we would have had a good chance. But obviously we didn’t pitch well. We didn’t defend. Just gave up a lot of free bases. Then they got the big hit.”

That kind of stuff is what you can’t do against a lineup that’s swinging it as well as Oklahoma is right now. 

The Sooners scored 11 runs in the super regional-clinching win against Virginia Tech, had a 16-run outburst against Liberty to begin the Gainesville Regional, and going further back, had at least one game of double-digit runs in each of their last five Big 12 series as the team worked to put up a .316/.432/.517 slash line in conference play. 

Friday’s game, with the Crooks and Nicklaus homers, featured Oklahoma’s power—the 72 homers on the season are the most for the program since 2010—but what makes the lineup particularly dangerous is the way in which it can score runs in any number of ways. 

The Sooners have also stolen 142 bases on the season and they can throw any number of lineup looks at you depending on the matchup, particularly as freshmen like Nicklaus, Spikerman and third baseman Wallace Clark have continued to get more comfortable. 

“With Spikerman, we put him in the Stillwater series,” Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson said. “We knew we needed him at the end of the year, and all of a sudden—we always knew how dynamic he was. And Jackson and Wallace Clark has, I think Wallace Clark, at times has been one of our team MVPs. Grinded at-bats out, just trying to win pitches. It’s been fun to watch.”

Bennett wasn’t perfect, as he gave up four runs on five hits in six innings, but he didn’t have to be on a day when he was supported well. 

After he was lifted, righthander David Sandlin came on and was tagged with four runs in just one-third of an inning, which made it a 12-8 Oklahoma edge before relief ace Trevin Michael threw the final 2.2 innings, allowing no further runs to score, and the Sooners added a 13th and final tally in the ninth on a Spikerman RBI single, fully taking the air out of the A&M balloon. 

“I think that’s the biggest difference is we gathered the momentum and kept the momentum and then gave it away and then got it back,” Johnson said. “Really proud of the kids—or not kids, young men—for battling and grinding out pitch to pitch.”

Oklahoma has been playing like a national title contender since the midpoint of the season, and at this stage, that’s what it is. The win Friday pushes it one step closer to actually being a national title winner. 

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