Oklahoma baseball: Sooners split four games on season-opening weekend

OU's John Spikerman (8) rounds third base after hitting a solo home run in a 16-3 win against Liberty on Friday in Gainesville, Fla.oubase -- cover small (crop in)
OU's John Spikerman (8) rounds third base after hitting a solo home run in a 16-3 win against Liberty on Friday in Gainesville, Fla.oubase -- cover small (crop in) /

Oklahoma baseball opened its 2023 season with a pair of wins that bookended a pair of losses, resulting in a season-opening split of four games.

The Sooners defeated California Baptist 5-2 in their home season opener on Friday at L. Dale Mitchell Park. They did so despite getting just four hits off of three California Baptist pitchers. A solo home run by junior shortstop Dakota Harris triggered a three-run fourth inning for the Sooners, giving OU a 4-1 advantage it never relinquished.

Redshirt junior Kale Davis, who transferred from Oklahoma State, had a solid five-inning outing in the Sooners’ season opener, allowing one run on two hits and fanning five to pick up the win.

The next two days did not pan out as well for the Crimson and Cream. The Lancers of California Baptist pounded out 15 hits against four Sooner pitchers and returned the favor from a 5-2 loss to the Sooners on Friday with one of their own by the same score on Saturday. About the only offense Oklahoma could muster in the game came from third baseman Wallace Clark and first baseman Anthony Mackenzie, who combined for five of OU’s eight hits.

Will Carsten, one of several new faces on the Sooner roster this season from the junior-college ranks started Saturday’s game. The right-hander went 5.0 innings and allowed two runs on eight hits before giving way to the bullpen. Harrison Gray, another junior-college transfer, was charged with the loss in relief after giving up three runs on four hits to California Baptist in the eighth inning.

Sunday was more of the same for Oklahoma with California Baptist prevailing 6-3. Harris had a pair of hits for the Sooners and right fielder Bryce Madren hit a solo home run in the third inning. Braxton Douthit, a transfer from Lamar University, started the game for OU and went the first four innings but did not factor in the decision. Aaron Calhoun took the loss in relief. He lasted just one-third of an inning in the eighth, giving up three runs on four hits.

On Monday, President’s Day, Oklahoma hosted Air Force. The Sooners jumped out to a 4-1 lead with a pair of runs in both the first and second innings. Air Force battled its way back, however, and a three-run fifth inning gave the Falcons a 6-4 lead.

The Sooners scored single runs in the bottom of the fifth and again in the sixth to tie the contest heading into the seventh. A two-run Oklahoma eighth proved to be the difference as the Sooners claimed their second win of the season with an 8-6 victory.

OU shortstop Harris accounted for four of the Sooner runs on Monday with a pair of doubles, and freshman catcher Easton Carmichael went three-for-four at the plate and scored a couple of runs. Harrison, the losing pitcher in relief in Saturday’s loss to California Baptist started against Air Force, going the first two innings. He allowed one run on three hits and struck out three before giving way to the relief corps. Junior right-hander Carson Pierce earned the win in relief, pitching the final 2.1 innings and not allowing a hit.

The Oklahoma roster is much different this season with a number of new faces replacing players from the 2022 OU team that lost to Ole Miss in the championship series of the College World Series.

Well over half of the Sooners’ 39-man roster for 2023 are newcomers — freshman recruits and transfers — who were not on the team last season. Only four OU players who were in the starting lineup for the Sooners for opening day on Friday were members of Oklahoma’s national championship runner-up squad from a year ago.