STILLWATER — Late Friday night, OU first baseman Blake Robertson approached left-hander Jake Bennett in the tunnel of the dugout with a clear message.
“We got your back,” Robertson said.
It was prophetic for a Sooners team on the upswing.
Bennett, the unquestioned ace, didn’t have his best stuff. Oklahoma State appeared in control late. But the Sooners are resilient.
They again got to Cowboys closer Trevor Martin for a ninth-inning comeback.
This time, it was a wild 8-7 victory over the seventh-ranked Cowboys inside O’Brate Stadium to open a three-game conference series between the rivals.
“That’s what the team’s about,” OU coach Skip Johnson said. “They’ve been resilient and they fought like that most of the year. They’re fun to watch when they get in that mode.”
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OU (18-10, 4-3 Big 12) will look to win the conference series in the rematch at 8 p.m. Saturday night.
And if the game is anything like the first two, buckle up.
“Just the Bedlam rivalry,” said OU reliever Carter Campbell, who earned the win with two perfect innings of relief. “It brings a lot of energy towards both the teams. I think it’s whoever gets the momentum in the ninth takes it away.”
That’s been true in two games.
On March 29, the Sooners secured a walk-off win, scoring twice off Martin in the non-conference game. Robertson had the tying hit and Sebastian Orduno had the walk-off walk.
Friday night, OU repeated it in a different fashion with the same heroes.
Robertson, who began his college career at OSU, drove in Peyton Graham with a double to tie the game. Pinch-runner Kendall Pettis later scored the winning run on a single by Sebastian Orduno.
Martin has nine saves but three blown saves, two against OU.
Perhaps the Sooners just have Martin’s number. But Johnson wasn’t buying that.
“He’s good,” Johnson said about Martin. “It’s just one of those deals. He’s an amateur. He’s really good. It’s one of those deals.
“Who knows what it is. That guy’s really good. He’s going to have a long career in professional baseball, I can promise you that.”
OSU coach Josh Holliday said he’s not concerned with Martin the pitcher, but instead Martin the person.
“Obviously, it’s in his arsenal and in our mindset to close those out,” Holliday said. “Always care about the kid, how they’re feeling, sure. Their well-being and how they bounce back, absolutely. But his ability to do the job, no, not at all. I believe a great deal in him.”
Even with the troubles, OSU had a chance to rally.
The Cowboys (21-9, 5-2) got the tying run on base in the ninth when Zach Ehrhard reached on a one-out single.
But with two outs and slugger Griffin Doersching — who had a key two-run double earlier — at the plate, Ehrhard attempted to steal second. He was ruled out and the play was upheld on replay to end the game.
Holliday said Ehrhard had a green light in certain situations to steal.
“We had him steal,” Holliday said. “That’s 100% on me. Put that 100% on me. That’s my call.”
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The game featured six lead changes.
OSU took a 7-4 lead in the fifth with a four-run, four-hit inning. Ehrhard hit a go-ahead, two-run single and an error by OU’s Tanner Tredaway allowed Ehrhard to take second when he avoided the tag with a head-first slide.
After Jake Thompson walked, Doersching muscled the ball to the left-field wall for a two-run double.
That ultimately chased Bennett, who completed the inning and ended the night allowing seven runs on eight hits and a walk over five innings. He struck out nine.
Bennett entered the night with the second-best ERA in the Big 12. It jumped from 2.09 to 4.08.
“I thought Bennett deserved better fate than that,” Johnson said. “I thought he pitched his but off all night long. Our offense was really good with two outs and that’s what was really big.”
Robertson kept to his word. He was the catalyst with two outs to pick up Bennett.
Two of Robertson’s hits came with two outs, scoring runs each time. He doubled in a run in the second and singled in a run in the fifth.
Then he again delivered the tying blow in the ninth, this time with one out.
He’s become a problem for his former team.
“He’s not going to give at-bats away,” Johnson said. “That’s who he is, that’s what he does. He has tough at-bats from one to the next. And he sticks with what he does.
“That’s what you want in a player, somebody that’s going to be consistent every time out there.”
Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.