COLUMN: Big 12 title within reach, but not greatest concern
OKLAHOMA CITY Junior first baseman Matt Oberste wears a wristband that reads, “Baseball is life.”
After losing two of three against Oklahoma State this weekend, the No. 18 Oklahoma baseball team is close to being on life support.
The Sooners (35-16, 12-9 Big 12) defeated Oklahoma State, 5-4, Sunday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark to avoid being swept for the first time in conference play this year. The victory also snapped a four-game losing streak.
It also was the difference from OU being a bubble team and having a shot at the Big 12 title.
Before Sunday, coach Sunny Golloway’s club was on the outside looking in and had a shot of not making the NCAA Tournament. But the come-from-behind victory put the Sooners in position to keep things going well into June.
“Regardless of as difficult as it’s going to be, I jus think winning ballgames are important this time of year and winning series are important,” Golloway said.
But winning the next series is not going to cut it if the Sooners want to win their first Big 12 regular season title.
They play Kansas State, who sits atop the conference standings with a 14-7 Big 12 record, and a single loss in the series will give the Wildcats the title. But the sweep or settle-for-less scenario is not a bad situation to be in, Golloway said.
“If you told a group of guys, hey, you have a chance to win a conference championship the last weekend, there’s not a team in our league that would say, “I wouldn’t want that’,” he said.
Although winning the Big 12 has been the team’s goal all year, Golloway does not seem too concerned if his club takes home the trophy as long as his team makes the NCAA Tournament.
For most of the year, the Big 12 has been down, but the last few weeks has seen a resurgence when teams realized there possibly could be only two representatives in the postseason. Now, Golloway believes five or six teams from the Big 12 could make a regional and possibly one could host.
And he’s right, although the more realistic number is probably four teams. But that number could improve to five teams if a surprise school wins the Big 12 Tournament, which starts May 22 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
After Sunday's action, the Sooners’ RPI sat at No. 45, with Oklahoma State being No. 34, West Virginia’s being No. 89 and Kansas States being No. 22. Those four teams seem to be the top contenders for the four postseason bids, and they all have a shot of finishing first or second in the Big 12.
The two teams fighting for that possible fifth spot, Kansas and Baylor, have RPIs of 59 and 58, respectively, but their chances of making the NCAA Tournament are fading considering their recent struggles. The best way for either of these teams to play into June is by winning the Big 12 Tournament.
OU not winning the Big 12 would not be the end of the world.
It is not a requirement to be one of the 64 teams vying for a spot in Omaha, although it probably will be a requirement for hosting a regional this season.
Remember, the last time the Sooners made the College World Series was in 2010, a year they finished second behind Texas. So, making a run is not out of the question.
Whether or not someone pulls the plug on this OU squad has yet to be determined. As long as there’s a faint, flickering pulse, there’s a chance.
And that’s all Golloway is asking.
Jono Greco is a journalism graduate student and sports editor.