Just about every sport can be compared to a game of chess at times. Head coaches strategically place their players in a position that gives them an advantage over their opponent and then holds on while the opposing coach makes a counter move. On Thursday night Pete Hughes worked the game like a master.
Kansas pitcher Ben Krauth was gunning for his sixth consecutive win of the season and was masterful as he mowed down Oklahoma's batters through 7.2 innings. It all but looked like a done deal when the Big 12's top closer, Stephen Villines, took the mound in the eighth with the Jayhawks in command at 5-2. Villines quickly ended the inning and when Kansas added an insurance run in the top of the ninth it appeared to be the final nail in Oklahoma's coffin.
To borrow a baseball pun, that's when Pete Hughes threw a curve ball. Oklahoma's skipper decided to go to his bench with three pinch hitters to start off the ninth. They all three got on base and what happened next will be categorized in the lore of Sooner Magic.
The first batter to approach the plate for OU in the ninth was pitcher Jacob Evans. The junior lefty is know for his 3-0 record, a 2.14 ERA, and 26 batters he's struck out this season. However, after Thursday night people are going to start noticing his .571 batting average. Evans led off the ninth with a single and then Oklahoma loaded the bases as all three of the pinch hitters Coach Hughes sent to the plate reached base on singles, including Robert Tasin who is also a pitcher. A fourth consecutive single came by way of Kolbey Carpenter and was followed by a Taylor Alspaugh sacrifice and a Craig Aikin double. Oklahoma rallied to score four runs in the bottom of the ninth and send the game to an extra inning.
Having started the rally in the bottom of the ninth, Evans then went to the mound for the top of the tenth and sat the Jayhawks down in order. Oklahoma was one batter shy of hitting through their lineup in the ninth inning and that one guy was Jacob Evans. Not only would he be Oklahoma's first batter of the extra frame, he'd also be their last as he lifted a 3-2 offering from Villines over the right-center field wall for a walk-off home run. Not only did Evans get credit for the walk-off, he was also the winning pitcher and improved his season record to 4-0.
The 7-6 win was Oklahoma's 20th of the season and more importantly marked the first time that they've won the opener of a conference series. They'll try to go for the series win on Friday evening as Alec Hansen takes the mound and then Evans is slated to be Saturday's game three starter.