Sooners rally to Big 12 title game, 8-6

Sooners rally to Big 12 title game

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jackson Nicklaus hit a walk-off two-run home run to cap a six-run rally as Oklahoma beat Kansas 8-6 and advanced to Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game.

Trailing by six runs after two innings, the Sooners (37-18) rallied with eight unanswered to advance to their fifth Big 12 tournament final.

OU is seeking its second tournament title in the last three years and the program’s fourth in the Big 12 era.


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Nicklaus proved to be the hero with his two-run blast, his second of the tournament, while freshman Jaxon Willits started the rally with a two-run home run and tied the game in the sixth with an RBI double.

Senior reliever Grant Stevens shut down the Kansas offense after the Jayhawks plated six in the first two innings on OU starter RHP Brendan Girton.

Stevens went 5.1 scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks.

Fellow bullpen arms Carson Atwood, Jett Lodes and Ryan Lambert (W, 4-0) combined to finish the job with all three getting out of crucial jams in the seventh, eight and ninth, respectively.

Kansas (31-23) jumped out to four-run lead at the top of the first on a two-run double, sacrifice fly and RBI single.

The Jayhawks added a pair in the second via fielder’s choice and a one-run single.

OU broke through with five runs on five hits in the fifth, all coming with two outs. Willits’ 10th home run of the season and second in as many games put two on the board for OU before a Nicklaus two-run single and RBI single from senior Kendall Pettis brought OU within one.

Willits continued to swing a hot bat the next inning, doubling home fellow freshman Jason Walk who got aboard via single.

Stevens worked four scoreless innings before giving way to Atwood with one out in the seventh, who struck out one and forced a groundout to strand one.

In the eighth, after the Jayhawks loaded the bases on a walk, single and HBP, senior RHP Jett Lodes entered and induced a flyout to right that sophomore Rocco Garza-Gongora tracked down at the wall in dramatic fashion.

After Lodes fanned one Jayhawk at the top of the ninth,  Ryan Lambert entered with two on and struck out the final two batters of the inning.

To the bottom of the ninth, a leadoff single from senior Anthony Mackenzie put one aboard for Nicklaus.

On a 2-2 count, the junior second baseman launched his 10th home run of the season, this one in walk-off fashion to send OU to the championship game.

It was OU’s third walk-off victory of the season and first by way of the long ball.

Oklahoma’s six-run comeback marked the largest come-from-behind win of the season and the largest rally since coming back from eight down vs. Oral Roberts in 2021.

Eight Sooners combined for 14 hits in the contest, with six registering multi-hit performances.

Nicklaus had a season-high four RBIs while Willits plated three for his second straight multi-RBI game.

Stevens hurled 5.1 scoreless frames, scattering seven hits with no walks to go with a season-high six K’s. Atwood (1.1) and Lambert (0.2) struck out a pair while Lodes put down one.

Lambert got the win in relief in the ninth, his fourth of the year to move to an undefeated 4-0.

A day after the OU defense made a season-high seven errors, the team played perfect defense Friday with none.

No. 1 seed Oklahoma advanced to the championship final to meet Oklahoma State out of the other side of the bracket in Friday’s late semifinals.

The championship game is set for 6 p.m. Saturday evening. The game can be seen on national TV via ESPNU and heard locally in Oklahoma on SportsTalk 1400 AM/99.3 FM or nationwide on The Varsity app.

Tickets for the tournament can be purchase via Big12Sports.com or at the gates at Globe Life Field.

 

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Craig Hall
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