TULSA — The lasting images of Bedlam baseball almost all involve booming bats.
Pete Incaviglia taking aim at the Marlboro Man above the old All-Sports Stadium's left-field wall.
Casey Bookout's sweet lefty swing launching moon shots into the Bricktown air.
Robin Ventura, Jimmy Barragan, Luke Scott and more for the Cowboys.
John Russell, Damon Minor, Garrett Buechele and others for the Sooners.
Good times? Not so much for the pitchers.
Until now, with million-dollar arms and 100 mph heaters – and also diminished bats – seemingly set to dictate the weekend ahead with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State resuming the Bedlam Series in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
The swagger is gone, at least from the batter's box.
The pitchers are the feature acts, particularly in Friday night's opener at ONEOK Field, with the Cowboys' Andrew Heaney facing the Sooners Jordan John in a pairing of elite left-handers. First pitch is at 7.
“I think pitching's going to definitely decide the series,” said OSU's Randy McCurry, who knows both sides as a starting pitcher and designated hitter.
“These new bats change the way people play.”
An equalizer for all those years of loaded aluminum, the NCAA's legislated deadening of the bats has transferred power to the mound.
The Cowboys and Sooners toil at the midsection of the Big 12's team batting average stats, hitting .268 and .267 respectively. But in the conference, only Baylor is batting better than .285.
Bunting is up. Blasts are down.
OSU, with all its renowned power history, has hit a league-low two home runs in 18 conference games.
The Cowboys do, however, lead the league in combined sacrifice bunts and flies in league play. Better than that, they're No. 2 in pitching, owning a team 2.74 earned run average.
OU's 3.85 ERA is stout, too, putting pitching at a premium as the two teams ready for a series that offers up an array of intriguing arms.
“You can't really help but notice it,” said Sooners shortstop Caleb Bushyhead. “You look at the arms and the depth that we've got and the arms and depth that they've got in their bullpen, just like we do, you can definitely see this being a big-time pitching matchup this weekend.”
And it starts in the opener.
Heaney, projected to be a first-round pick in next month's Major League Baseball draft, anchors the OSU rotation. He's 6-1 with three complete games and a 1.82 ERA over 11 starts. Named to the Golden Spikes Award watch list this week, Heaney ranks second nationally with 102 strikeouts in 84 innings pitched.
“It's a highly anticipated pitching matchup,” said OU's John, a 28th round pick of the Astros a year ago who has only improved his draft stock. “I looked at Heaney's stats, he's having a really good year. But Oklahoma's always up for the challenge.
“It's a huge honor for me. It's giving me goose bumps right now. I can't wait for the opportunity and to show everybody what I can do.”
John, also with three complete games, ranks second in the Big 12 with eight wins and is fifth in strikeouts (76) and sixth in ERA (2.36). He's gone at least seven innings in all six of his starts since moving out of the bullpen and has allowed but one earned run in each of his last two starts, both complete game victories.
“I don't really know a lot of guys on their team, but I know they can pitch,” Heaney said. “I know they've got some lefties that are good and obviously they've got a couple of righties who can run it up pretty high on the radar gun. They can pitch it.”
Like John, Heaney said he's looking forward to the matchup.
“It's going to be fun, pitching in Tulsa, it'll be sold out,” he said. “It's a game you get up for. If you win, it sets the tone early and you feel good about the weekend. You've already got an upper hand. It's a tone-setter.
“We want to let them know how we're going to play all weekend. It's not only setting the tone for the series, but for your own team and your guys.”
Strong pitching extends beyond the aces for both teams.
The Sooners, 26-4 when holding opponents to five runs or less, follow John with Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton, two starters with a combined nine wins who are capable of fronting a rotation. Then there's the wild card, Damien Magnifico, who can start or relieve and bring consistently bring fastballs at 100 mph.
Cowboys lefty Kyle Ottoson, who pitched in a Super Regional for Arizona State a year ago and has been drafted four times, has already beaten the Sooners once this season and carries a 3.12 ERA. And Vince Wheeland, who has emerged of late, is 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA. Out of the bullpen, relievers Blake Barnes and Chase Stephens have accounted for a combined nine wins and four saves.
Overall, OSU leads the Big 12 and strikeouts (375) and ranks fifth nationally at 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
“We've been pitching it real well this entire season,” Heaney said. “Early on we were struggling hitting, but at this point we've gotten really hot. We're on a little streak and we're feeling pretty good about it. Hopefully, we can keep that going.”
Up next for OSU and OU
Tuesday: Ohio State, 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Ohio State, 6:30 p.m.
May 11: Alcorn State, 6:30 p.m.
May 12: Alcorn State, 2 p.m.
May 13: Alcorn State, 1 p.m.
May 11: Baylor, 6:30 p.m.
May 12: Baylor, 2 p.m.
May 13: Baylor, 1 p.m.