Sooners Clinch Opening Big 12 Series Over Kansas State

The University of Oklahoma baseball team pounded out 15 hits in an 11-2 win over Kansas State in front of a season-high crowd of 1,671 at L. Dale Mitchell Park, Saturday afternoon. The Sooners improved to 18-6 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12, while the Wildcats dropped to 13-9 and 0-2. "It develops some self-confidence offensively," head coach Pete Hughes said of his team's hitting.

"I think they understand my mindset in offensive baseball.Any baseball player is going to enjoy that. They're not handcuffed in any way. When you can go out there and play free and not worry about making any mistakes or having bad swings, you tend to be a better offensive player. You play more relaxed and you swing more relaxed."

For the second straight game, Oklahoma was playing from behind; giving up two runs to K-State in the first inning. The Sooners, who lead the country in sacrifice flies, tied the game with a run in the fourth and another in the fifth; both on sac-flies from freshman DH Austin O'Brien (Owasso, Okla.) and freshman third baseman Sheldon Neuse (Fort Worth, Texas).

Redshirt-sophomore lefty Adam Choplick (Denton, Texas) pitched 6.1 innings of two-run ball. He scattered nine hits and walked just two, while striking out four, but did not figure into the decision. He registered the first out of the seventh inning on his 106th pitch of the day before being relieved by sophomore lefty Jeffrey Curran (Long Beach, Calif.).

Curran recorded one out against a stretch of K-State lefties before senior righty Kindle Ladd (McKinney, Texas) made his 11th appearance of the season. Ladd issued a walk to load the bases then a strikeout to end the threat.In the bottom half of the seventh, sophomore center fielder Craig Aikin (Coppell, Texas) walked on four pitches to lead things off. Neuse then picked up his second RBI of the day as he lifted a double to the warning track in left-center; giving the Sooners a 3-2 lead.

The Oklahoma offense came to life again in the eighth striking for eight runs, marking the second straight game that the Sooners have scored eight runs in an inning. Aikin added the first insurance run on a pop-up single to shallow right-center that scored senior second baseman Hector Lorenzana (San Diego, Calif.), who singled with one out. The big blow in the inning came off the bat of junior catcher Mac James (New Braunfels, Texas).

With two runs in, James approached the plate with the bases loaded and blasted a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left for a grand slam. It was the third home run of the season for James and the second grand slam for OU in as many games."We need him back here," Hughes said of his senior shortstop.

"To have the real Hector at the back end of your lineup where people think they can have some time off and have some pitches off is valuable because the kid hit 20 two-out RBIs last year. He led the team by a long shot. That's a clutch player we have at the back end of our lineup right now. Getting him going is going to make us a more balanced offense."

Ladd (1-0) was credited with the win; the first of his career in 48 games. Lorenzana led the 15-hit parade with a 3-for-4 effort to go with two runs and a RBI.The series finale is slated for a 1:00 pm first pitch on Sunday. Freshman right-hander Jake Elliott (Coppell, Texas) is scheduled to start for the Sooners.

Game Notes:

* James' grand slam came just one game after Haley hit a grand slam on Friday night.

* The eight-run fifth was tied for the most runs in an inning for the Sooners all season.

* Oklahoma leads the country with 21 sacrifice flies.* Hermelyn extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the second inning.

* Over the last eight games, Neuse is hitting .500 (16-for-32) with nine doubles. During that stretch, Lorenzana is hitting .448 (13-for-29) and Hermelyn is at .419 (13-for-31).

* Prior to Lorenzana's 13-for-29 stretch, he was hitting a season-low .203.

* James picked up his team-leading 13th multi-hit game of the season with a 2-for-4 effort.

* Oklahoma's opponent has scored in the first inning in five of its seven games over its current homestand. The Sooners are 6-1 over that stretch and 5-0 when opponent scored in the first inning.

* The Sooner bullpen has tossed 78 shutout innings of the 101 complete innings pitched this season. OU relievers are 11-1 with a 2.67 ERA.

* Oklahoma reached double figures in runs for the seventh time this season and collected 15 or more hits for the sixth time.

* The Sooners surpassed 1,000 in attendance for the sixth time this season as 1,671 was the highest total since 1,774 vs. Texas Tech on April 28, 2013.

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