OU Athletics Communications
NORMAN – Conor McKenna's grand slam punctuated a five-run eighth inning as the No. 22 Oklahoma baseball team surged past Nebraska Omaha 8-5 Monday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
Jake Bennett struck out a career-high 10 batters over 5.0 frames, as Sooners (1-1) pitchers notched 17 strikeouts in the game. Javier Ramos (1-0) earned his first victory with one inning of relief. Carson Carter also recorded four strikeouts in 2.0 scoreless frames. Tanner Howe (0-1) took the loss for the Mavericks (1-1).
Diego Muniz put OU in front 4-3 with an RBI single before McKenna's grand slam. Both hitters came through in pinch-hit at bats. Brandon Zaragoza also drove home a run on a sacrifice fly and Tyler Hardman scored three runs.
"Jake Bennett came out and really stayed in the process and set the tone," OU head coach Skip Johnson said. "All the pitchers stayed in their process today. I was really proud of them. We played a much better game defensively, and offensively we hit situationally. (Omaha) is a good ball club. They took advantage of our mistakes. Conor's hit was really big, a good swing and a good approach. It's a good sign for a ball club when you have two guys coming off the bench and getting big hits like that."
The teams traded runs until OU broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning. After catcher Jimmy Crooks was hit by a pitch and third baseman Peyton Graham doubled, Muniz delivered a base hit to left field to put the Sooners in front 4-3. After a walk to Hardman loaded the bases, McKenna hit a towering fly ball to left field that carried over the 385-foot sign. It was OU's first home run of the season and made the score 8-3.
Zaragoza's sacrifice fly tied the game at one apiece in the third inning. Hardman walked and scored on a balk in the fifth to tie it at 2-2, and then came home on a wild pitch in the seventh to give OU its first lead, 3-2. Second baseman Logan Kohler doubled to the center field wall in the seventh to set up the scoring opportunity.
Omaha scored single runs in the second and fourth innings on RBI doubles by catcher Brett Bonar and shortstop Keil Krumwiede. A solo home run in the top of the eighth by pinch hitter Ryan Doran tied the game, 3-3. The Mavs added two runs in the ninth on a pinch-hit double by Eduardo Rosario and a single by left fielder Harrison Denk.
Oklahoma plays each of the next two nights at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The Sooners face Stephen F. Austin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and UT Arlington at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.