OU baseball defeats Kansas in Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals

Down a run in the fourth inning with a runner on first, two outs and two strikes, Jaxon Willits didn’t miss his pitch.

“I was sitting fastball,” Willits told OU’s in-house radio postgame.

The Sooners’ freshman shortstop sent the fastball in the strike zone into the right field seats, giving them a one-run lead. Before Willits’ clutch go-ahead hit and ninth homer of the season, Scott Mudler singled through the right side and scored Kendall Pettis to tie the game.

After a three-run fourth inning, No. 1-seeded OU never looked back and defeated No. 7-seeded Kansas 7-5 Thursday in the Big 12 tournament at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

The Sooners (36-18) have likely secured a regional host spot in the NCAA tournament and continue to add to their resume, furthering their case for a national top-eight seed.

“They picked each other up, that was really the biggest thing,” Johnson told OU’s in-house radio postgame.

Entering Thursday’s game, OU ranked 14th in RPI, a statistic based on a team's wins and losses and its strength of schedule. The Sooners also have played the seventh toughest schedule nationally.

OU sophomore right-hander Kyson Witherspoon started on the mound and struck out six in four innings. While Witherspoon’s four runs were unearned, he couldn’t keep Jayhawk hitters off the bases, allowing six walks.

Left-hander Carter Campbell earned the win after three innings in relief of Witherspoon.

Offensively, the Sooners were led by redshirt senior outfielder Kendall Pettis. Batting seventh, Pettis collected three hits in four at bats, doubled and scored a run.

OU didn’t play clean baseball and committed seven errors compared to Kansas’ one, but outhit the Jayhawks 14-4. KU failed to capitalize on the Sooners’ mistakes and left 13 on base.

“We had more quality at bats as we went through it,” Johnson said. “We still left some runs on the board there when we didn't have a good at bat and were trying too hard. That happens in a game like today when you make a bunch of errors.”

Here are more takeaways from the Sooners’ win:

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Another solid Kyson Witherspoon outing

Kyson Witherspoon tossed 107 pitches in four innings Thursday.

While he struggled at times, he didn’t allow an earned run and worked himself out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth with back-to-back punchouts.

“Kyson was really trying hard,” Johnson said. “He made an error and tried to pitch out of the jam, you can’t do that, you’ve just got to get back to the target and I thought he did a good job of doing that. It shows you how big his heart is in the last inning he pitched when he punched the guy out with bases loaded. It was a big moment in the game.”

Witherspoon cemented himself as OU’s Game 2 starter throughout the season and will seemingly continue in that role throughout the postseason.

The Northwest Florida State College product holds a 4.01 ERA

“It’s a learning experience for him more than anything,” Johnson said. “It’s just about executing one pitch at a time.”

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Kendall Pettis finds his offense

Kendall Pettis, a veteran known for his defensive mastery and clubhouse leadership, had a successful day at the plate.

Johnson said OU will need Pettis’ offensive contributions down the stretch and that when he gets going he’s dangerous.

“It’s huge, it adds another dynamic,” Johnson told The Oklahoman earlier this month. “I kind of get emotional thinking about Kendall because he’s been here five years and whatever he does in his life moving forward, he's gonna be successful because he is an incredible human being.

“For him to start getting going, he’s the spirit of our team. I think all those things are huge for him when he gets going. He got going in the super regional two years ago. So that's gonna be the fun in it. We’ve gotta continue to play for Kendall as much as anybody.”

More: How OU baseball could secure top-eight NCAA seed with a Big 12 Tournament title

What’s next for Sooners?

Next, OU faces the winner of Kansas vs. TCU at 12:30 p.m. Friday at Globe Life Field on ESPN+.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU baseball defeats Kansas in Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals