Oklahoma captured the 2013 Big 12 Championship with a 7-2 victory over Kansas Sunday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The Sooners (40-10), the No. 4 seed in the tournament, jumped to the lead early and added insurance late while stifling the 6-seed Jayhawks (34-25) with a trio of pitchers and several highlight-reel defensive plays.
"We have been together all year," senior outfielder Max White said. "We are a great team and we have great defense, pitching and hitting. These last few weeks our bats have struggled, but we have been able to figure it out this week."
Oklahoma took advantage at the outset with a three-run first inning.
White reached base on two outs after catch Ka'iana Eldredge interference with his swing on a foul ball. Matt Oberste walked in the next at-bat and Hector Lorenzana hit into the opposite gap in right field to score White from second. Oberste scored on a wild pitch from KU starter Frank Duncan (4-6) and then Anthony Hermelyn finished the plate appearance scoring Lorenzana with a single to left field.
Kansas answered in the bottom half as leadoff batter Justin Protacio singled up the middle and then scored on a sacrifice fly to batters later.
The Sooners extended their lead in the third inning. Oberste smacked Duncan's high 2-2 fastball into the bleachers behind left field, scoring White, who was aboard due to a fielder's choice, for two more runs.
The Sooners escaped with Jayhawks in scoring position in the second, third and fifth innings with remarkable defense. With runners at second and third in the second, Garrett Carey fielded a grounder deep at third base and turned it through Hector Lorenzana at second to Matt Oberste, who needed to lunge into splits to make the out at first. In the next inning, Lorenzana backhanded a line drive and flipped to Oberste.
Kansas added one run in the fifth when Dakota Smith led off the inning with a double and was batted in on Eldredge's sacrifice fly. But the Jayhawks would do no more damage. Kevin Kuntz lined back to OU reliever Jacob Evans, who quickly dropped his glove to snare the ball before it could ricochet off his hip.
"To win that fourth game on the fourth day in a row is really tough to do," Kansas head coach Ritch Price said. "It really runs your pitching staff deep and obviously the second guy that they brought in stopped the opportunities we had to score. When we were down 5-2, our guy hit the line drive right back to the pitcher and I thought that play was the biggest play of the game. It could have put us down five to four and then we still have a chance to win. Not only did he pitch well but he had the defensive play of the game as well."
Evans (7-2) came on in relief of Ethan Carnes with one out in the third and pitched a career-high five innings. Kyle Hayes earned his second save in as many days after finishing the final 1 2/3 innings retiring five of the final six batters and ending the game with a looking strikeout to Eldredge.
"When I came out yesterday, Coach Golloway told me to get my head on straight because the team was going to need me tomorrow," Evans said. "I struggled a bit early today but I had confidence in my coaches and I learned a lot about myself today. After the first inning I just calmed myself down and I just tried to go out there and do what I did all season."
Hayes earned hero status with the home crowd Saturday after striking out the only two batters he faced to seal a 7-6, 11th-inning victory over Kansas State.
Oberste completed his performance with four RBIs, collecting his final pair with a single through the left side in the ninth that scored Craig Aikin and Jack Mayfield.
Aikin built his own array of spectacular catches. The Sooners' freshman leftfielder made a diving catch at a knuckling Alex DeLeon line drive for the second out of the sixth, met the edge of his vertical leap while snowconing a Robert Kahona line drive in the seventh, and raced across left side of the ballpark for a sliding grab of Jordan Dreiling's fly ball in foul territory for the first out of the ninth.
The Sooners wore light blue, the color of Oklahoma's state flag, T-shirt with the word "HOME" outlined in a stencil of the state in honor of the victims of a May 20 tornado that devastated nearby communities.
Oklahoma went undefeated in the tournament, sweeping through three games of pool play before defeating the Jayhawks, giving the Sooners a five-game winning streak and momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament.
"It was a lot of fun," Golloway said. "I'll get to enjoy it when I go home and watch the news and the replays. My son is always the first one I hug and then congratulate the other coaches. I don't have to see it live to know how the players felt. That's the best feeling in the world for these guys."
Jonathan Gray, who pitched a complete game shutout in OU's opening game of the Big 12 Championship against Baylor Thursday, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. The all-tournament team included Sooners Hermelyn, Oberste, Lorenzana, Garrett Carey and White.
Oklahoma earned its 40th victory, becoming one of just three teams (Rice and Florida State) to reach 40-plus wins in each of the past five seasons. It was Oklahoma's first conference tournament title since capturing the crown in the league's inaugural season in 1997.
"We have seen really good programs struggle before with consistency. We want our program to be a model of consistency over the long haul and we knew coming in that winning 40 games was going to be a challenge for us. Overall I'm proud of the body of work for this team this season."
The NCAA Championship regional sites will be announced late Sunday with the entire 64-team bracket released live on ESPNU Monday at 11 a.m. Central.