Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
With game one of the LSU/Oklahoma Regionals series in the books, the Oklahoma Sooners find themselves in a 0-1 hole against the Tigers – although to no fault of ace pitcher Jonathan Gray. The third overall pick in the MLB draft by the Colorado Rockies this year, Gray allowed two runs over 7.1 innings while striking out nine batters. And although Oklahoma still fell to #1 LSU 2-0, it got The Jug curious about how K-State performed earlier in the season against the second pitcher taken in the draft.
Gray demonstrated potential before this year, and was taken in the 13th round of the 2010 draft by the Kansas City Royals followed by a 10th round selection in the 2011 draft by the New York Yankees. However, he stuck around Oklahoma and had a breakout season this year. One the best pitchers in the
nation, Gray finished 10-2 this season with a 1.59 ERA and 138 strikeouts (second in the NCAA) over 119 innings, and walked just 22 batters. He rarely struggled this year, but that wasn’t the case when he visited Manhattan.
K-State struggled early on when Oklahoma visited Tointon Stadium on May 17, falling behind 4-0 when the Wildcats came up to bat in the bottom of the sixth. Yet in the game that secured the Big 12 Championship for K-State, the team rallied with three runs of its own before finally taking the game, 6-5. Four of those runs came against Gray.
K-State’s biggest inning came in the sixth, when the team strung together three straight singles and scored three runs on four hits to take the lead before grounding into a double play. However, the Wildcats continued exploiting the crack in the foundation in the seventh, tagging Gray for another run before he was pulled from the game.
Gray is a tremendous pitcher, capable of scorching batters with a triple digit fastball. However, the nation’s #2 team in hitting average (.314) was able to push him out of the game after 6.1 innings of work with four runs on nine hits. But that point in the game, Gray had already thrown 103 pitchers with no chance of going the distance.
Jonathan Gray had an incredible season this year, and was a major contributor to how far Oklahoma has gone this year. That he was pulled after just 6.1 innings while allowing nine hits and having to throw 103 pitches is a testament to how consistent and dangerous K-State’s bats have been this year.