Oklahoma, Oklahoma State hope to meet again
The Sooners and Cowboys would like nothing better than a showdown in the Big 12 Baseball Tournament championship game.
As the Sooners absorbed a wild Bedlam series loss to the Cowboys, a frustrated Sunny Golloway said that his guys could only hope to see OSU again in the Big 12 Tournament.
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The Cowboys and Sooners are together again in the Big 12 Tournament, with OSU back in the bracket after a two-year absence.
They're both legitimate contenders, too, which hasn't happened in the same season often since the formation of the Big 12.
Now, can one or the other — or both? — break through and end a 13-year drought of no state teams making it to championship Sunday in Oklahoma City?
Big 12 Championship history: OSU is 12-23 all-time in the tournament. The Cowboys won their only title in 2004 in Arlington, Texas. They do enter Wednesday's opener on a two-game winning streak, taking pool play games in 2008.
Reason to believe: The Pokes can claim a solid balance of pitching and hitting, although the bats have been scuffling of late. They're a club that has been tough in the clutch, too, with seven walk-off wins. Head-to-head against the top three teams in the Big 12 standings, the Cowboys took weekend series from Texas and Oklahoma.
Reason to doubt: With their hitting off, the Cowboys dropped their final two Big 12 regular-season series, losing two of three at home to Baylor and two of three at Texas Tech. Insiders suggest the Pokes got away from their hit-to-all-fields mentality, trying to muscle up the long ball. That approach isn't working this year. Pitcher Brad Propst, so good through much of the season, has given up six or more runs in three straight starts.
Quotable: “We've just got to get back to the fundamentals, take the ball up the middle and to right-center, not try to swing out of our shoes,” said third baseman Mark Ginther. “If we do that, the big hits will come.”
Big 12 Championship history: OU is 24-23 in its Big 12 Tournament history with its only title coming in 1997 — the league's first year. The Sooners won't miss pool play, after going 2-1 in three of the past four seasons and not making the final.
Reason to believe: This is a veteran club that still boasts most of the parts from last year's College World Series team. They know what it takes to win at this stage of the season. The return to health of pitcher Bobby Shore adds to what may be the conference's deepest starting staff, which should play well with the return to double-elimination play.
Reason to doubt: Since mid-March, the Sooners have struggled to string together wins outside of Norman. Just when they seemed to be building momentum with a nine-game winning streak, they dropped last weekend's series at Baylor 2-1.
Quotable: “Who's disappointed right now in the tournament? Oklahoma,” said Sooners coach Sunny Golloway. “We're not going to shy away from our disappointment. We're disappointed. We're 40-15 and we've had a disappointing year. And there's something to be said for that.
“Hopefully, we'll find our home right here. It'd be a nice picture of the Sooners dog-piling, coach saying, ‘Don't hurt yourselves.'”
“Hopefully, God's gonna allow us to play them in the Big 12 Tournament,” Golloway said at the time.
The title game, perhaps?
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are together again as true contenders in the 2011 event, which opens Wednesday with first-round games at RedHawks Field at Bricktown.
That's good for them and good for the tournament, which has dealt with the absence of the Cowboys the past two years.
Big 12 regular-season co-champions Texas and Texas A&M are the favorites, yet parity has marked this season in the league, with the Longhorns and Aggies each suffering eight conference losses. The Sooners finished third and the Cowboys fourth, separated by one-half game in the standings.
OU, at 40-15, ranks as high as No. 7 nationally and appears in the top 20 of all four major polls.
OSU, 34-21, just fell out of the rankings after losing series in the regular season's final two weekends. Still, they've proven capable, owning weekend series wins over the Longhorns, Sooners and others.
More importantly for the Cowboys, they're back in the tournament after failing to qualify in 2009 and 2010.
“My freshman and sophomore year we didn't make it,” said OSU junior third baseman Mark Ginther, “so this is my first time. This is more of what I signed up for.
“I'm going to enjoy it and hopefully get some victories.”
Joy for OSU's return doesn't stop with those in orange and black. The All Sports Association, the host and supporter of the event, welcomes the Cowboys back into the bracket.
“It's a hallelujah for sure,” said All Sports executive director Tim Brassfield. “One, they have such a rich history and heritage with the tournament. It seems like it's a tournament missing a fourth wheel when Oklahoma State is not here. We're sure glad they're back.
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