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.
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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.'”
Even the Sooners are pleased, partly for the opportunity of another shot at the Cowboys, but also because Bedlam in the Big 12 Tournament can only come in the championship game.
“That would actually be a great matchup,” said OU pitcher Michael Rocha. “We owe them a little something.
“Definitely, if we can see them in that championship round, that would be a great game.”
The Sooners are set up for a revenge tour, of sorts.
They didn't win a conference series outside of Norman. And two of the teams that took them down — A&M and Kansas State — are on their side of the bracket, along with Texas Tech, a team OU swept at Mitchell Park.
Then there are the Cowboys.
“The way we've been set up, we'll actually be playing a bunch of teams that beat us in series, so that's kind of nice for us,” said Sooners third baseman Garrett Buechele. “We want a little redemption against K-State, A&M, and Oklahoma State, because we feel like we have a good ballclub and we want to show the rest of the country we have one.”
After the past two years, the Pokes would be thrilled to stand in that line.
“I'm sure the atmosphere would be unbelievable out here — and a lot of fun,” said OSU second baseman Davis Duren.
Getting there, of course, is the trick.
Neither the Sooners nor Cowboys have played on a Big 12 Tournament Sunday in Oklahoma City since 1998. OU's last tournament title came in 1997, the conference's inaugural event. OSU, which rolled up so many championships in the old Big Eight, claimed its only Big 12 title in Arlington, Texas, in 2004.
“Our job obviously is to do all we can for all the teams,” Brassfield said. “But sometimes, this event and all events need a shot in the arm. That would be a great shot in the arm for the 2011 baseball tournament.”
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