NORMAN — It wasn't easy for Team Oklahoma on Thursday, but the gritty hosts still secured a No. 2 seed headed into the playoffs of the Heartland Baseball Classic.
Oklahoma lost to Georgia 7-5 and Texas 6-3, rallying in each game but coming up short in the final game of pool play at Norman North High School. Team Oklahoma still managed to get the No. 2 spot behind Texas, who ripped off five consecutive wins after losing its tournament opener to Georgia.
In Game 1, All-Ardmoreite Pitcher of the Year James Bowker of Plainview took the ball on the mound, pitching five innings against Georgia, hanging tough after a rocky defensive start to get a no decision.
Oklahoma trailed 3-0 after three innings, but came back with five runs over the next two frames. Bowker exited in the sixth with the game tied 5-5.
It was Bowker's first outing on the mound since the first round of state, a 10-inning affair against Catoosa. Bowker gave up three hits.
"My arm was hurting pretty bad, but he asked me if I could throw and I said yeah," Bowker said. "We didn't really wake up until later in the game. Once we did, we knew we had to keep on it, but it didn't end up in our favor today."
Against Texas in the second game, Team Oklahoma trailed after just one inning, as Texas' Ryne Burk and Slayton Vaughn hit home runs for the 3-0 lead. Oklahoma was held to one run through six innings before scraping across two on an error and an RBI single by Carl Albert's Gavin LeValley in the seventh. Oklahoma outhit Texas 9-6.
As the designated hitter, Bowker was 2-for-4 out of the cleanup spot against Texas, and came on to catch in the sixth inning. Oklahoma had to make its comeback against a lineup full of Division I prospects.
Eighteen of Texas' 19 players listed on its roster signed with colleges, including 13 Division I signees.
"He's the best pitcher I've faced since I've been in high school," Bowker said of Texas starting pitcher Chris Falwell, an Arkansas signee who was throwing in the low-90s. "But for some reason since I've been up here, I've been seeing the ball a lot better."
Oklahoma will face No. 7 seed Arkansas in the first round of the playoff round today at 3:30 p.m. at Norman High. The winner plays the winner of today's Ohio-Colorado game at 7 p.m. in the semifinals.
Follow Horne and Heartland Classic on Twitter: @ekhorneARD and @HeartlandBB. Complete tournament schedule and information online at www.heartlandbaseball.org.