COLUMN: Sweep is nice, but weekend showed some problems
The No. 11 Oklahoma baseball team just won its weekend series against Texas Tech and sits atop the Big 12 standings, but it has a couple of slight problems.
The failed attempt at a series sweep marks the fourth time this season the Sooners (33-11, 10-5 Big 12) did not sweep an opponent in conference play. They have one sweep against a Big 12 opponent, which came in their conference-opening series against TCU.
Otherwise, OU has won four Big 12 series and has lost one — against Baylor in a series the Sooners held a two-run leading going into the bottom of the eighth of the rubber game.
While winning series in conference play has been the team’s goal all season, OU needs to be earning a few sweeps if it wants to win its first regular season Big 12 title in the program’s history.
Currently, the Sooners are the Big 12’s best team simply because of percentage points.
Following the Baylor Bears’ sweep against Texas this weekend, they have an 11-6 record in Big 12 play. Their 11 conference victories are the most of any Big 12 team, but those six losses are the only thing keeping them from being switched with OU in the conference standings.
If the Sooners start sweeping some series against conference opponents, then they don’t have to worry about how Baylor or any other Big 12 team performs.
Although this is the perfect time to start scoreboard watching — you know coach Sunny Golloway and his staff have started, based on how they reminded players last weekend about Big 12 standings — the players are keeping an eye on only their final scores, freshman center fielder Craig Aikin said.
“We control our own fate,” he said. “I feel like we can go out and win every single game. It doesn’t matter (that) ‘Hey, so-and-so lost today.’ That’s not what we look at.”
The Sooners have one more series in Big 12 play remaining than Baylor does, and the Bears will finish the season playing one fewer conference game because of a cancelled game against Oklahoma State thanks to poor weather conditions. So every little loss in Big 12 play hurts.
The Sooners also failed to completely answer questions about their weekend rotation.
With junior pitcher Dillon Overton out for a couple weeks with an elbow injury, Golloway has the problem of filling out a rotation that once featured two potential first-round draft picks.
Based off who threw against Texas Tech this weekend, junior pitcher Jonathan Gray will continue to headline the rotation, and junior pitcher Ethan Carnes and senior pitcher Jake Fisher will battle it out for the Saturday and Sunday starter roles.
Fisher made his first career start at OU on Friday, throwing 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball in which he struck out a career-high 10 batters, so he should be a lock for a spot next weekend’s starting rotation against West Virginia.
Carnes did not throw too poorly in his 4 1/3 innings of five-run ball Sunday. Few of Texas Tech’s six hits against him were hit hard, and none of them went for extra bases, and Carnes realizes that’s just part of the game, he said.
“It’s just baseball,” Carnes said after falling to 2-2. “Sometimes [opposing hitters] find little holes and get little bloops off you, but you can’t let that shake you. You have to keep getting up on the mound and keep throwing.”
Although the Sunday starter role is not set in stone, the job should be Carnes’ for the time being. But Golloway has options, so Carnes and Fisher should not be too comfortable.
If the Sooners do not start sweeping conference series with three series remaining before the Big 12 Tournament starts and figuring out the back end of the weekend rotation, Golloway and his club could miss out on winning the first regular-season Big 12 title in program history.
Jono Greco is a journalism graduate student and assistant sports editor.