Bullpen struggles cost Cougars against Sooners
NORMAN, Okla. — The Norman Regional ended the way it began for Washington State.
With a rocky outing from its bullpen.
Top-seeded Oklahoma came up with a five-run seventh inning to win 7-2 Sunday afternoon at Mitchell Park, ending the Cougars’ first run into the postseason tournament in 19 years.
“We’ll be back, I can tell you that,” said coach Donnie Marbut, whose third-seeded Cougars finished the season 32-25. “This will not be a one-time thing for us.”
Freshman left-hander David Stilley did almost everything he could against the Big 12’s top scoring offense to keep the Cougars’ season going.
Stilley (3-3) went six-plus innings while striking out four and walking one, and exited with the game tied 2-2 in the seventh.
“He did a great job,” Marbut said. “For a freshman, to be put in that situation and do what he did, I was really proud of him.”
After giving up a two-run homer to Bryant Hernandez in the first inning, Stilley settled down and shut down the Sooner bats over the next five innings.
“I didn’t have my off-speed stuff going very well early,” said Stilley, who pitched into the seventh inning for only the second time this season. “But when Hernandez hit that home run, I went into the dugout and made some adjustments and did pretty well after that.”
But in the seventh, Stilley finally ran into trouble again, giving up a single and plunking a batter to open the inning before Marbut pulled him.
Reliever Connor Lambert got Hernandez to strike out swinging, but gave up two infield singles – a bunt Lambert didn’t handle smoothly and a hard-hit ball that squirmed through the glove of third baseman Matt Argyropoulos – which put OU up, 3-2.
Adam Conley relieved Lambert, but would only throw one pitch, which proved to be the dagger.
OU’s Aaron Baker clobbered Lambert’s fastball well over the right-field wall for his first career grand slam to put the Sooners ahead, 7-2.
“I was just trying to drive in a run, not necessarily hit a home run,” Baker said. “It was a great feeling to help my team like that.”
WSU’s offense, meanwhile, which only produced eight runs the entire weekend, continued to struggle against the Sooners.
Michael Weber tied the game in the second inning with a two-run homer to left field.
But the rest of the way, the Cougars placed only one runner in scoring position against Sooners starter Garrett Richards, who went the distance for the first time in his career.
“He had good command of his curveball,” Weber said. “Then he would spot his change-up. You had three pitches to worry about up there and he could throw all of them for strikes.
“He was very effective.”
Richards (9-4) finished with 10 strikeouts while giving up only five hits and one walk.
“We didn’t swing the bat like we wanted to,” Marbut said. “A lot of that had to do with Garrett Richards.
“But you’re not going to win games scoring two runs.”