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OU Baseball: Sooners Take Series From Kansas State

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Oklahoma (32-22, 13-8 Big 12) used a big first inning and quality pitching to defeat Kansas State (24-27, 8-13 Big 12) by a final score of 4-3 on Sunday.

The victory gave OU two out of three games in the weekend set against the Wildcats. The Sooners have now won five Big 12 series this season.

Starting pitcher Alec Hansen gave the crimson and cream a solid outing, going five innings while scattering six hits and allowing one run, unearned, no walks and striking out four. Hansen received the win and improved to 5-5 this season.

“Hansen gave up no walks,” OU baseball coach Pete Hughes said. “That is unbelievable progress for that kid. They had us first and third with no outs (in the fourth), which became second and third with no outs and Alec pitched his way out of that jam and kept his composure so he grew up a lot today.”

Relievers Ralph Garza Jr. and Jacob Evans were vital in the win for the second straight game. After the Sooners found themselves in a jam in the sixth, Garza came in and kept the OU lead intact. Garza and Evans combined to throw four innings, allowing no runs on three hits, on walk and four strikeouts. Evans earned his eighth save of the season.

“Garza and Evans are our go-to guys,” said Hughes. “Throwing them back-to-back days their stuff is not necessarily as sharp as it was yesterday but their competitive spirit is razor sharp and that's why we give the ball to those guys.”

Offensively, six OU batters combined to record seven hits. Craig Aikin, Kolbey Carpenter and Anthony Hermelyn each posted a hit, run and RBI, while Kyle Mendenhall had his second consecutive multi-hit game to lead Oklahoma with two base knocks.

For the second straight day, weather forced a change in the schedule, delaying the start of Sunday's game nearly 90 minutes.

However, once the game got started, the OU offense did as well. Oklahoma opened the game with a three-run top of the first to build an early lead. Craig Aikin led off with a single and then moved to second off a sacrifice bunt from Taylor Alspaugh. Carpenter stepped in and ripped an RBI-triple off the wall in right field followed by an RBI-double to the wall in left center off the bat of Hermelyn. Saturday's winning pitcher and Sunday's first baseman Robert Tasin put the exclamation mark on the inning with a single to left to score Hermelyn and push the lead to 3-0.

“Coming off a rain delay, (a three-run inning) gets you momentum in your dugout immediately and the plan is to build on that, we didn't do that but nonetheless we came out ready to play baseball and I was proud of our focus in the way we approached a really good starting pitcher,” said Hughes. “That was our goal to get in their bullpen early and we did that but credit their bullpen. They came in and made pitches all day.”

After two scoreless innings from both squads, the Sooners added a run to their lead in the top of the fourth. Hunter Haley reached on an error and then advanced to third off a single to center field. With runners on the corners and one out, Aikin perfectly executed a safety squeeze to score Haley and make the score 4-0 in favor of OU.

The Wildcats got a run back in the bottom of the fifth to draw within three runs at 4-1. Carter Yagi recorded a 1-out single to center and then stole second. Hansen got the next batter to pop out for the second out of the inning. Shane Conlon then hit a soft grounder to Tasin at first, who flipped the ball to a running Hansen who couldn't find the bag, allowing Yagi to score from second.

The hosts held the OU bats in check in the top of the sixth and then plated two more runs in the bottom of the frame to cut the Sooners' lead to one run at 4-3. The Wildcats capitalized on two walks and a hit batter in the inning, adding two singles to score twice. Oklahoma right fielder Taylor Alspaugh came up with a huge play, as he gunned down a Kansas State runner at the plate to make the second out and keep the OU lead intact.

Garza and Evans then shut the door on the Wildcats in the final three innings in route to the 4-3 victory.

The Sooners are back in action on Tuesday in a non-conference matchup against Stephen F. Austin at 6 p.m. in Norman. Oklahoma then closes out the regular season by hosting current Big 12 leaders TCU on May 14-16 at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

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