OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Oklahoma used a formula relied on by Kansas all season – strong pitching and defense – to beat the Jayhawks 7-2 and claim the 2013 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, along with the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, at Bricktown Ballpark Sunday afternoon. OU first baseman Matt Oberste went 2-for-4 and drove in four runs to provide the bulk of the Sooner’s offense.
Oklahoma (40-19) used three pitchers to limit Kansas (34-25) to two runs, including Kyle Hays, who worked out of a jam in the eighth and pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his second save in two days. The Sooners turned two double plays and left fielder Craig Aikin left his feet three times to make defensive stops, including a diving grab in the ninth, to help hold Kansas at bay.
Oklahoma reliever Jacob Evans scattered four hits over 5.0 innings to earn the win and may have made the biggest contribution with his glove. Evans snagged a comeback, line drive off the bat of Kevin Kuntz with runners on second and third to end the fifth and preserve a 5-2 Oklahoma lead.
“My congratulations to Oklahoma,” Kansas head coach Ritch Price said. “To win that fourth game, four days in a row is a really tough thing to do – it really runs your pitching staff deep. Obviously (Evans) was fabulous for stopping the opportunities we had to score.
“I thought the key to the game was their defense to be honest with you. We hit four or five balls right on the button. We were down 5-2 and had guys at second and third, there was a line drive back through the box that the pitcher snared. I thought it was the biggest play of the game. It could’ve been 5-4 and we would’ve had a chance with four innings to go. Not only did (Evans) pitch well, but he made a huge play in the game as well.”
Oberste reached three times, driving in two with a two-run blast off KU starter Frank Duncan (4-6) in the third and two more in the top of the ninth off Kansas closer Jordan Piche’ to give the Sooners even more breathing room.
The Jayhawks scored both of its runs on sacrifice flies, one by Ka’iana Eldredge and another by Michael Suiter. Connor McKay went 2-for-4 to lead Kansas in hits. He was named to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team along with Suiter, Kuntz and reliever Piche’, who threw in all four games.
After Oklahoma scored five runs in the first three innings, senior right-hander Tanner Poppe entered the game and held the Sooners scoreless over five innings of relief. He scattered two hits from the fourth through the eighth, but allowed three more base runners on walks.
Kansas closed the season with wins in three of the last four games, including two against teams seeded higher in the tournament and one against a team ranked in Baseball America’s top-25 (Oklahoma State). Kansas finished the season with a 3-1 record against the No. 20 Cowboys and finished the season with a 2-2 mark against Oklahoma, who was receiving votes. The Jayhawks, who won a total of 15 games against Big 12 foes in 2013, will await the selection committee’s decision on NCAA Tournament play with the field being announced Monday at 11 a.m. on ESPNU.