OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Jackson Nicklaus hit a grand slam, Jake Bennett pitched six strong innings and Oklahoma jumped on No. 5 national seed Texas A&M early in a 13-8 victory in the College World Series opener Friday.
The Sooners scored seven runs with two outs in the second inning to lead 8-0 and then turned back the Aggies’ comeback bids in the highest-scoring CWS game since 2008.
“We talked about being a team of Davids and attacking the giant,” Nicklaus said. “That’s been our team motto lately. We just want to attack the game and play with no fear. We had a game plan. We wanted to execute early. We did.”
The Sooners (43-22), who advanced to Omaha as a No. 2 regional seed, will play Sunday against Notre Dame, a 7-3 winner over Texas on Friday night. Texas A&M (42-19) will face Texas in an elimination game.
Oklahoma won a week after the school’s softball team earned its second straight Women’s College World Series championship.
Texas A&M has lost nine straight CWS games over five appearances since it beat Kansas in 1993.
“There’s been all kinds of different stories in this College World Series for many, many years,” Aggies coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “We can either cower down and put our tail between our legs and go back to College Station or we can fight. My money is on our guys fighting.”
Aggies starter Nathan Dettmer (5-3) lasted just 1 2/3 innings and left with his team down 5-0. He hasn’t made it past the fifth inning since April and has allowed 30 earned runs in his last 24 2/3 innings (10.95 ERA).
Joseph Menefee took over for Dettmer, and Jimmy Crooks drove his second offering into the right-field bullpen for his eighth homer and an 8-0 lead.
Six Texas A&M pitchers combined to walk 10, hit three batters and strike out 12.
Oklahoma loaded the bases in the fourth on a bunt single, throwing error and walk before Nicklaus’s grand slam made it 12-3.
“I thought we set the table really early, took the momentum in the game, early in the game,” Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson said. “Settled Jake down a little bit.”
Bennett (10-3), who allowed five hits and four earned runs, retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.
The Aggies got homers from Jordan Thompson and Austin Bost, and they were within four runs in the seventh after three straight RBI singles and a run-scoring groundout.
It was the teams’ first meeting since Texas A&M left the Big 12 after the 2012 season.
KYLER MURRAY IN HOUSE
Arizona Cardinals quarterback and 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray was on hand to watch the game between two schools he attended.
Murray spent his freshman football season at Texas A&M, where he started three games before transferring to OU after the 2015 season. He led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff in 2018.
Murray played outfield two seasons for the Sooners and was the No. 9 overall pick by Oakland in the 2018 Major League draft. Murray spoke to the team in Omaha on Thursday.
“When you have an ex-player like him come back, you know you’ve done something to carve your name on his heart,” Johnson said. “He shows that he cares about us, because we cared about him.”
Oklahoma designated hitter Brett Squires broke his left hand when he was hit by a pitch in the third inning and will miss the rest of the CWS.
OU got a scare in the ninth when Chris Cortez’s fastball hit Kendall Pettis in the ribs as he squared to bunt.
Charles Schwab Field didn’t play like the pitcher’s park it has been since it opened in 2011. Oklahoma and Texas A&M combined for four homers to tie the stadium record, and the 424 homers in regionals and super regionals were an NCAA Tournament record.
NCAA officials said Thursday that ball specifications have not changed since the flat-seam ball was introduced in 2015. Schlossnagle isn’t so sure.
“The ball has definitely changed,” he said. “I’m not a big conspiracy theory guy, but there’s a lot of coaches out there who think the ball has changed a lot, this particular season.
“I don’t know enough about the science to say that’s the case or not, but there’s no question, whether it be older players or lack of good pitchers, the ball is flying everywhere this year.”