OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma State’s Tyler Blandford likes pitching in cool, damp weather because he figures it makes it tougher for hitters. That certainly proved to be the case for Oklahoma on Sunday.
Blandford allowed two hits in 8 1-3 innings and struck out a career-high 12 batters as Oklahoma State kept alive its slim hopes of qualifying for the Big 12 tournament by beating Oklahoma 5-1.
Michael Dabbs and Kevin David each hit a solo home run for Oklahoma State (30-21, 7-15), which salvaged the final game of the annual Bedlam series. To qualify for the eight-team conference tournament, the Cowboys will need to sweep a road series next weekend at Texas Tech and hope last-place Nebraska sweeps visiting Baylor.
Oklahoma State has played in 31 straight conference tournaments, a streak that started in 1978.
“I don’t really know much about the standings or however that’s going to work out, but I think it’s really just playing with pride, not to get swept, especially against OU,” Blandford said.
The loss by Oklahoma (37-16, 14-10) clinched the Big 12 regular-season title for Texas. The Sooners, who would have maintained their hopes for a league title with a win, instead dropped into a tie for fourth with Texas A&M, which lost to the Longhorns 5-4 on Sunday. Missouri is in second, followed by Kansas State.
The Sooners will host Texas A&M this coming weekend in a series that Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway thinks could determine whether the Sooners will have a chance to host a regional in the NCAA tournament.
The teams played much of Sunday’s game in light rain, but umpires never stopped the game. The grounds crew did apply drying agent to parts of the infield dirt after the fifth inning. Many in the crowd of 5,213 at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark wore rain gear to fend off the elements.
Blandford (7-3), who had six walks, said he struggled in the early innings to find a comfort zone, then “the rain started picking up a little it and it started actually getting pretty sticky out there.” But it turned out to be more of a problem for the Sooners.
Oklahoma broke a scoreless tie in the third, as No. 9 batter Kaleb Herren walked, went to third base on a double by Jamie Johnson and scored on a wild pitch by Blandford. But the Sooners managed only one other hit in the game, a fourth-inning single by Casey Johnson.
Oklahoma batters struck out 32 times during the three-game series and stranded nine baserunners on Sunday as Blandford kept working out of jams.
“I thought that today was about starting pitching,” Golloway said. “It usually is. … When somebody is pitching really well, you don’t have many opportunities, so you’d better seize the moment, and we didn’t do that.”
Oklahoma State also received strong, albeit losing, starting pitching efforts in the first two games of the series from Andrew Oliver and Tyler Lyons, but coach Frank Anderson noted something different about Blandford’s effort in the finale.
“In the first two games, our guy on the mound allowed them to answer back,” Anderson said, “and he didn’t allow them to answer back.”
Dabbs and David each hit solo home runs in the fourth off Oklahoma starter Garrett Richards (7-3) to put the Cowboys up 2-1.
In the sixth, Oklahoma State had four hits, three of them of the infield variety. Neil Medchill’s single off Richards’ glove scored Dabbs, and Tom Belza’s two-out single to right field brought home Tyrone Hambly, who had reached on a bunt single. Medchill scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-1.
Oklahoma put two runners on base with one out in the eighth, but Blandford coaxed a groundout from Garrett Buechele, then was the beneficiary of a stellar defensive play by David, who speared a sinking line drive by Casey Johnson at first base.
While playing catcher Saturday night, David had allowed four passed balls in the ninth inning, leading to two decisive runs in Oklahoma’s 7-5 win.
“Last night, especially the ninth inning, it got a little tough,” David said. “But (Anderson) kind of calmed me down on the bus ride home and made me feel a little better, and I just came out today and just tried to put it behind me and play again.”
Anderson said he wanted to give Blandford the opportunity to throw a complete game, but he went to the bullpen after Blandford’s one-out walk in the ninth increased his pitch count to 166.