Oklahoma traveled south to Austin this weekend to face Texas in a Big 12 Conference series. Based on Oklahoma’s 19-19 overall record and their 4-8 conference record entering the weekend, and the recent quality play by Texas and their 27-12 overall record, this series had all the indicators of two teams who accepted their fates and were just going through the motions to predictable outcomes.
All of that was wrong.
Texas took a 1-0 lead on a bases loaded walk in the second inning of Friday’s series opener, but Caden Powell tied the game in the fifth inning with an RBI double to left-center field off of Texas left-hander Lucas Gordon. Then a walk to Jackson Nicklaus in the eighth inning gave the Sooners a 2-1 lead which stood up as the final score.
Both starting pitchers allowed just a single run, Gordon went seven innings for Texas while Braxton Douthit went six innings for Oklahoma. Carter Campbell pitched the final three innings for the Sooners and allowed Texas two hits, but nothing more. Campbell was the beneficiary of the eighth inning RBI walk and he recorded the win when all was said and done to improve to 5-3 in 2023.
Just hours before the start of the Saturday afternoon middle game in the series it was announced that due to potential weather issues on Sunday there would be a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.
Game one of the day was barely underway before a five-run second inning was followed by a three-run third inning for Oklahoma and the Sooners had an early 8-0 lead. Texas had already gone to the bullpen in the second inning bringing their closer Zane Morehouse into the game.
Morehouse was not long for the game either as Texas went to the bullpen again in the third inning. The Longhorns finally found relief in the pitching of Chase Lummus who threw five one-run innings in which he allowed just four hits over that span.
Texas made it a game by scoring one run in each of the third, fourth, and fifth innings before the Longhorns then got within striking distance with a three-run sixth inning, powered by a Dylan Campbell two-run home run to cut the Oklahoma lead to 8-6.
Sooners third baseman Anthony Mackenzie (3-for-5) drove in a run in the top of the eighth inning, his third RBI of the game, and the three-run, 9-6 margin was all the Sooners needed.
Left-hander Braden Carmichael (3-0) turned in a solid performance for the Sooners, going five innings and allowing three runs. Texas got to the Sooners bullpen for three runs in the sixth inning before the game was turned over to Carter Campbell for the second consecutive game for a long relief appearance. Campbell went 3 1/3 innings and allowed only one hit and struck out three Longhorns and he earned the save in the game one victory, his first save in an Oklahoma uniform.
Saturday’s game two started similarly to the first game of the day, with Oklahoma scoring in the first two innings and before the Longhorns looked up, they were trailing 5-1. A Kendall Pettis RBI triple was followed by a John Spikerman RBI single in the opening frame. Bryce Madron hit a three-run home run to account for the second inning scoring for the Sooners.
The Longhorns got to Oklahoma starter James Hitt for four runs over five innings, though only two of the runs were earned. Will Carsten relieved Hitt and pitched a nearly flawless 3 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out seven Texas batters.
Lebarron Johnson pitched the final five innings for Texas and only allowed one unearned run on three hits while striking out six Sooners to keep the Longhorns in the game with a chance to win it.
But Carsten was too much for the Longhorns and Aaron Weber followed him out of the Sooners bullpen to record the final out of the game for a 6-4 Oklahoma victory. Weber earned his seventh save of the season for getting the final out of the game, while Hitt improved to 3-0 in 2023 with the win.
Oklahoma (22-19, 7-8) swept Texas (27-15, 8-7) for the first time since 1998. The three-game series sweep in Austin was a first in Sooners history.
Oklahoma pitching allowed Texas just eleven runs over the three games in Austin. If there is a way to slow down the Longhorns going forward, this weekend showed the key to success: quality pitching. Runs can be scored on Texas pitching this season — the formula for the Longhorns has been to out score opponents, rather than to out pitch them (with the exception of Friday nights). With Tanner Witt seemingly on his way back if all goes according to plan, runs for opposing teams will likely be tougher to come by, and quality pitching will matter and might be the only way to win over Texas.
After the weekend sweep by the Sooners, the Big 12 is a contest again. Texas went from leading in the standings, to tied for fourth. Oklahoma is now just a game back of both Texas and Texas Tech. TCU is scuffling and heading in the wrong direction at the wrong time of the season, but finds itself tied with Oklahoma at the moment. West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State occupy the top three spots after this weekend.
The Texas one-two punch of Gordon and Witt might be what decides the winner of the Big 12 if things are to change over the next four weeks.