Based on the first inning alone, it appeared Wednesday would be a very long day for Oklahoma's pitching staff, and a good day for the Oklahoma State bats.
OU starter Jake Elliott recorded just a single out in the first inning and Big 12 Player of the Year Zach Fish hit a grand slam and drove in six runs as Oklahoma State crushed the Sooners, 13-4 on the first day of the Big 12 Tournament at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby presented Oklahoma State coach Josh Holliday with the Big 12 regular season championship trophy before the game, but it didn't take long for trophies to become an afterthought.
In a wild first inning, the Sooners struck first with three runs and four hits off Oklahoma State starter Tyler Nurdin. Elliott gave most of it back right away, allowing two runs on three hits with a hit batter while recording just a single out.
"The whole key point to the entire game was the bottom half of the first inning," OU coach Pete Hughes said. "I thought Oklahoma State answered and took back the momentum we had in the top half of the first. Against a good team like that, you better grab momentum and run with it and we weren't able to do that."
Elliott's struggles were a surprise to Hughes, who noted in the postgame press conference that Elliott has given the Sooners a quality start in every game he has pitched this season.
"I thought it was peculiar he was up in the zone with the first two hitters," Hughes said. "He's never up in the zone with his fastball."
The Sooners turned to reliever Jeffrey Curran, who got out of a bases-loaded jam without giving up any more runs. Curran retired the first 10 batters he faced, but the Sooners were unable to take advantage by scoring more runs to extend the one-run lead.
Nurdin settled down after a rough first inning and allowed just three hits in the rest of his time on the mound for the Cowboys. Nurdin went 4.2 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits while walking four and striking out two.
"The key for us was Tyler settling in and giving us five good innings," OSU coach Josh Holliday said. "You don't want to go to your bullpen before that in a tournament and fool around and potentially be out of bullets. I'm proud of Tyler for persevering there."
The Cowboys finally broke through against Curran in the bottom of the fourth inning, putting two men on with two outs. But Curran got out of that jam, getting a groundball out to end the inning.
However, Curran wasn't so lucky in the fifth inning. The Cowboys began knocking him around, scoring three runs on a throwing error on OU's Sheldon Neuse and four straight singles.
"I think we saw him last weekend and we had a feel of what they were doing," OSU catcher Gage Green said. "We got a slow start on him, but we had a big inning on him where they had to take him out. We just stayed with our approach and just win the pitch. A bunch of guys today won the pitch."
Curran was lifted for Robert Tasin, and took the loss, despite being excellent for the Sooners at the beginning of his outing. Curran finished the day after 3.2 innings, five hits, three runs and four strikeouts.
In the sixth, things got even worse for the Sooners as Tasin loaded the bases for Fish, who crushed a grand slam to left field to blow the game wide open. Fish became the sixth player in Big 12 tournament history to drive in six runs in a game.
"We won a couple of moments there that were pivotal to the momentum and the outcome of the game," Holliday said.
The OU pitchers couldn't find the plate for much of the afternoon, walking seven batters and hitting three more.
"At some point in the game, you have to think of the big picture," Hughes said. " We're not going to burn out our bullpen in Game 1. That's not going to give us a chance to win Game 2 or Game 3 or Game 4. At some point, someone in your dugout has to be mature enough to say we're going to wear it a little bit."
Vince Wheeland came on in relief of Nurdin in the fifth inning, striking out Kolbey Carpenter to end a bases-loaded threat for the Sooners. Wheeland completely silenced the OU bats, pitching the final 4.1 innings and giving up just a single run on four hits. He struck out five and walked two batters to move to 9-0 this season.
"When we were able to wrestle the lead back, we had the right guy in the game," Holliday said. "We had the right guy in there to hold them down and make sure they didn't make a run at us. It's important to get starting pitching out of multiple guys this time of year."
The Sooners will take on the loser of Texas and Texas Tech on Thursday at 12:30 p.m., while the Cowboys will take on the winner of that same game at 7:30 p.m. Oklahoma will pitch Jacob Evans while OSU will trot out Jon Perrin.