As meaningless as the Baylor/Tech game may have been, in many ways this game was almost as irrelevant. Oklahoma almost certainly secured their NCAA tournament invitation with their back-to-back shutout wins Thursday and Friday; K-State was already a lock, and if they're going to get a regional they've probably already done all they need to do. The only things really at stake here were the Wildcats' faint hopes of grabbing a national seed, and both teams' desire to win the tournament championship.
Things looked grim for the Wildcats right out of the gate. Scheduled starter Joe Flattery was scratched with an "arm issue", all but forcing Brad Hill to call on freshman Jordan Witcig to make his first career start. He got into trouble right off the bat, walking leadoff hitter Craig Aiken. Aiken stole second as Jack Mayfield struck out. Five pitches later, though, Witcig picked Aiken off second, then turned around and struck out Max White to get out of the inning.
The Sooners did score first, however. Matt Oberste reached on an HBP and moved to second on a wild pitch. He moved to third on a right-side grounder by Hector Lorenzana, and scored when Anthony Hermelyn rocked a sacrifice fly to left.
The Cats loaded the bases in the third and came up empty. In the fourth, Witcig retired the first two hitters before Hermelyn singled and Colt Bickerstaff walked. Hill finally went out to fetch Witcig, who'd already gone an inning longer than he ever had before. Jared Moore came in and almost got out of the inning, but Taylor Alspaugh worked a seven-pitch walk to load the bases; Garrett Carey then took Moore's first pitch to the gap in right-center, just over the outstretched glove of Jon Davis. The double cleared the bases, giving the Sooners a 4-0 lead.
In the bottom half, the Cats again loaded the bases, with nobody out. But two strikeouts helped limit the damage, the only run scoring when Ross Kivett was hit by a 3-2 pitch with two outs. The Sooners got it right back in the fifth, however, when Hermelyn hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center.
A mistake by baserunners was critical in the bottom of the seventh. Back-to-back singles by Kivett and Tanner Witt opened the inning, and Shane Conlon ended a 10-pitch at bat by crushing a ball to the wall in right field. Alspaugh made a terrific catch, but rather than staying near the bases, the Cats were looking to run. Both runners would have advanced on the catch had they been conservative; they had to return to their bases, and as a direct result the inning then ended when Jared King grounded into a double play.
The RallyCats went to work in the bottom of the ninth. R.J. Santigate singled, and after Lance Miles struck out he moved to third on a Kivett single. Tanner Witt then singled, driving in Santigate to make it 5-2. Conlon doubled down the left field line, scoring Kivett and pushing Witt to third; the tying run was suddenly in scoring position. Jacob Evans managed to retire Jared King swinging, but then hit Davis with a pitch to load the bases. Which left everything in the hands of Mitch Meyer... who worked a full count so that the runners were going on the pitch, then ripped a single into center to score Witt and Conlon and tie the ballgame. Davis, however, was thrown out at third, so the game went into extra innings.
The Sooners retook the lead in the top of the tenth when Max White doubled off the left field wall, just over the glove of Witt. Oberste singled to drive him in, but then the 'Cats turned a double play and induced a pop fly from Hermelyn to end the inning.
Ralph Garza Jr. came in to pitch, and immediately hit Blair Debord with a pitch. Clayton Dalrymple replaced DeBord on the bases; Santigate sacrificed the runner over, and he moved to third on a Miles ground-out. That brought Kivett to the plate, and the Big 12 Player of the Year singled to left to tie the game up again. The inning ended, however, with Kivett getting picked off first.
Naturally, the Sooners again took the lead in the 11th. Taylor Alspaugh popped a two run double into the left-field corner with one away, and moved to third on a Carey groundout to second. Aiken singled to left to drive in the run. The Sooners continued to threaten, with Max White very nearly giving the Sooners a four-run lead with a gigantic blow down the left field line which just went foul, but the Wildcats escaped without further incident.
K-State immediately went to work. Tanner Witt reached on an error by Mayfield, and Conlon was safe on a sacrifice bunt attempt. King grounded to second, advancing the runners and putting the winning run in scoring position. The Sooners intentionally walked Davis to load the bases for Meyer. Meyer struck out, leaving it all in the hands of .125 hitter Alex Bee (DeBord's replacement at catcher) with two out.
Bee struck out to end the game, and Oklahoma improves to 39-19, hoping to get win number 40 in the Big 12 final tomorrow. The Cats end the regular season 41-17, but they're not done yet; hopefully, we'll check in on them at Tointon next weekend.
There were some questionable ball-strike calls early in the game. Twice, with the bases loaded, Wildcat hitters were called out on pitches which were clearly well outside. It may not have made the difference in the game; far more critical were simple bad breaks which went Oklahoma's way. Yet still, the Wildcats did that which they do probably better than any other team in college baseball this year: rally late. It was a fantastic game between two great teams, and that's really all we can ask for.