Junior center fielder Craig Aikin collected a school-record six hits as the University of Oklahoma baseball team rolled to a 22-0 win over Arkansas-Little Rock at L. Dale Mitchell Park on Tuesday afternoon. The win improved the Sooners, who have won seven out of eight, to 10-5 on the season.
“The good teams know how to play one way on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday through Sunday,” opened head coach Pete Hughes. “We had all the built in excuses. Most of us rolled in at like 3:30 Monday morning, it was not a rival opponent, mid-week, game time is changed from 6:00 pm to 2:00 pm, there is hardly anyone here; they had a million excuses not to come out and play. Except that they came out wanting to get a hit off this guy, wanting to get this guy out and were going to beat somebody.”
Oklahoma totaled 23 hits on the day to produce its highest offensive output since 2011. Aikin went 6-for-7 at the plate with six runs driven in and four scored. In the sixth inning, he blasted the first home run of his collegiate career, a three-run shot, over the wall in right field. Seeking the Sooners' first cycle since 2010, Aikin set the school record for hits in the game by adding his fourth single of the day on a tough, bounding ball up the middle.
“You know, [the game was] great,” started Aikin. “Today was big because they have beaten us two years in a row. We circled this one on our calendar knowing we wanted to beat them. Again, it does not count without those other eight guys. Those scouting reports say everything about Sheldon [Neuse] and how you cannot miss a pitch to [Anthony] Hermelyn because they will make you pay. I just take my swings when I can.”
“He can drive the baseball,” Hughes said of his lead-off hitter Aikin. “Honestly his mindset and his productivity are so much better when he is thinking backside. When he starts thinking that way he really becomes pitch-able. We like him sitting backside and then reacting the other half. He has certainty got that in his hands and wrists. It was a great day for him, a real record breaker.”
The first inning saw Oklahoma jump out to a quick 3-0 lead and never look back. Aikin singled and redshirt-senior right fielder Taylor Alspaugh drew a walk to put two men aboard. Sophomore shortstop Sheldon Neuse promptly stepped up to the plate and put OU on the board with a three-run home run to left-center. The homer was Neuse's second in as many games, third of the season and 10th of his career.
Junior right-hander Corey Copping paced the Sooners through five-shutout innings. He struck out a career-high seven batters and allowed just three hits without issuing a walk to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Oklahoma scored in seven out of eight innings in which it went to the plate, including five innings of three or more runs. The Sooners added four runs in the second as the first six batters reached on five singles and a walk. After a scoreless third and a one-run fourth, junior catcher Chris Shaw crushed a lead-off home run to left-center for his second of the year and second in as many games. Aikin reached with his third single later in the inning and scored on Neuse's base hit to center. For Neuse, it was his third hit and fifth RBI of the day; as OU pushed its lead to 10-0.
For the game, Neuse went 3-for-3 with five runs knocked in and three scored to go with a stolen base. Shaw finished the day 3-for-4 with five runs scored and three driven in. Freshman third baseman Quin Walbergh had a breakout-day, going 3-for-4 with four runs and a RBI. Senior Joshua Ake came off the bench to go 2-for-2 with a pair of runs.
Four Oklahoma relievers combined to toss four-scoreless innings; allowing only two hits and one walk, while striking out three. The Sooner pitching staff totaled 10 strikeouts for its seventh game of 10 or more; all coming in the last seven outings.
Oklahoma returns to action with a three-game home series against Purdue starting Friday, March 6 at 6:00 pm.