The Texas Longhorns completed a three game series sweep against the hated Oklahoma Sooners in Norman at L. Dale Mitchell Park this weekend. It was the 14th series win in a row against the crimson and cream arch-rivals, and the seventh sweep since 1999. The Longhorns were able to maintain the offensive prowess they displayed on Tuesday night against Texas State, amassing a whopping 45 hits and 25 runs en route to 7-6 (12 innings), 9-5, and 9-4 wins. The team also had to rely on key pitching and defense in critical moments to survive.
Friday night started off with fireworks in the form of two two-run homers off the bats of Oklahoma players in the bottom of the first inning. Finding themselves down 4-0, the Longhorns had to reach back and find a way to pick up their pitcher, Nathan Thornhill, and did just that. Taking advantage of an error by Sooner third baseman, Garrett Carey, Texas scored its first run in the top of the third. Erich Weiss led off the fifth with a solo home run to cut the Sooner lead in half, while Nathan Thornhill continued to hold the Sooners at bay. In the top of the seventh, Texas took the lead when Tim Maitland, Erich Weiss, and Jonathan Walsh all crossed the plate, showing off its small ball skills and driving the Oklahoma starter, Dillon Overton, from the game. Texas maintained a 5-4 lead until the bottom of the ninth, when Cody Reine hit a home run off of Texas closer Corey Knebel. The senior outfielder showed a surprising lack of maturity when, upon hitting the ball, he flipped his bat and proceeded to talk to Knebel on his way around the bases. Jacob Felts did not take kindly to Reine’s gesture and when further words were shared, the benches cleared momentarily. No ejections were issued and the game went to extra innings after Knebel came back to induce the final two outs of the ninth inning. Reine’s antics apparently proved incentive enough for Texas, who displayed stellar defense in the bottom of the eleventh inning. Hoby Milner, who had come into the game in relief of Corey Knebel in the tenth, worked himself into a one out, bases loaded jam. With the game on the line, pinch hitter Matt Oberste hit a ground ball towards Erich Weiss, inducing an impressive 5-2-3 double play to end the inning. When Jonathan Walsh stepped to the plate in the top of the twelfth, there were two on and two out, with runners on first and second. Walsh laced a double just inside the line in left field, scoring Payton and Maitland, and giving Texas the 7-5 lead. Despite a Tanner Toal home run in the bottom of the twelfth, Oklahoma could not muster a comeback, and the first W of the series went to Hoby Milner and the Longhorns.
On Saturday afternoon, the two teams returned to the field, and after Oklahoma took an early 1-0 lead, Texas took over in the third inning. After some sloppy baserunning accounted for the first two outs of the inning, Mark Payton singled to right field. Erich Weiss promptly brought him home with a triple, and then scampered home when Oklahoma starter Jonathan Gray uncorked a wild pitch with Jonathan Walsh at the plate. Texas crossed the plate again in the fourth inning when a Jordan Etier triple brought home Alex Silver and Jacob Felts. The Sooners came back in the fourth, tying the game on a series of singles and a hit-by-pitch. Not content to see their lead slip away, the Longhorns answered with runs in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, all while Hoby Milner held the Sooners to one further run. Corey Knebel came in to close the game and yielded only one hit in his two innings of work. Saturday’s 9-5 win over Oklahoma marked the 14th consecutive year in which Texas won the series and gave Hoby Milner his second W of the weekend.
The third and final game included another offensive outburst from the formerly struggling Longhorn bats, and a dominating pitching performance from Parker French. The Texas offense got it going in the first inning, shrugging off a couple of miscues on the base paths, and providing French with a 2-0 lead. It was all they needed as OU would not get within three runs through the entirety of the game, and indeed did not even register a hit until the sixth inning. Texas continued to tack on runs, scoring in all but three innings as the day progressed. Each time Oklahoma scored, starting in the sixth inning, Texas held their ground, answering and extending the lead. When the final out of the ninth inning was recorded, Texas held a 9-4 victory, with Freshman phenom Parker French recording a well-deserved third win of the season.
Of special note this weekend was the vast improvement in batting displayed by the Longhorns. Mark Payton and Erich Weiss each hit their first home runs of the season, Payton’s being the first of his collegiate career. When the team packed their bags for Norman, many of the players were batting near or just above the Mendoza line. Today, Mark Payton, Erich Weiss, and Jonathan Walsh are all batting at or above .300, and three other players are batting above .250. Texas returns to action and hopes to keep the bats hot this Tuesday, when they welcome the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin University to the Disch for a midweek game. First pitch is scheduled for 6pm, barring any lingering rain in the Austin area.