NORMAN – Entering their final Big 12 weekend, the Sooners fully acknowledged the pressure of their situation.
And owned it.
Oklahoma ended No. 2-ranked Baylor's unbeaten Big 12 winning streak, rejuvenating its postseason hopes in the process, sweeping a Saturday doubleheader at Mitchell Park.
OU took the opener 1-0 in 10 innings, then followed with a 2-1 win in the second game, claiming the series.
Baylor, which has already clinched the Big 12 regular season championship, hadn't lost a conference game all season, rolling into Norman at 18-0 in the conference and 39-8 overall.
The Sooners, meanwhile, were coming off a Bedlam series loss that spurred serious talk about a lack of substance in an NCAA Tournament résumé.
Saturday's sweep put a fresh spin on the chatter.
“This game, it was huge for our season,” said OU left fielder Erik Ross, who delivered the game-winning hit in Game 1. “Hopefully it made a statement in some other people's eyes. Hopefully our RPI will jump up.
“And maybe we can finish it off right (Sunday).”
The Sooners improved to 32-19 overall and 12-10 in the Big 12, assuring themselves of a winning league record. More than that, they secured two quality wins, something that had been lacking much of this season, with just three wins in 15 games against teams in the top 50 of the RPI before Saturday.
“It's the body of work,” said Sooners coach Sunny Golloway. “We played a tough schedule. And our RPI has a chance to improve and improve drastically.
“It's all about the RPI. It's going to be goofy. If we can come out and find victory tomorrow, and win Tuesday (against TCU), by Wednesday you might look at our RPI and it might be second or third best in the league, but we might still be sitting in fifth place.”
According to warrennolan.com, one of the popular RPI tracking sites, OU's sweep provided a plus-17 boost to its RPI, spurring a jump from No. 72 at the start of the day to No. 55.
“We've had some ups and downs,” said Sooners reliever Steven Okert. “This weekend was huge. They came in undefeated in the Big 12. To beat them in a series, especially in one day, is big for us.”
Okert had a huge role in both games, earning a win and a save, finishing up strong starts by Jordan John and Jonathan Gray.
Going against the Big 12's best statistical pitching staff, it was the Sooners' pitching that prevailed.
John worked 8 2/3 scoreless innings of the opener, outlasting Baylor stopper Josh Turley, who was lifted after seven.
“I felt like I set the tone for us in the first game,” John said, “gave our team some momentum and some confidence.”
Okert got the final out in the ninth, then was rewarded with the win in the 10th, when Evan Mistich raced home with the only run.
Mistich led off the 10th with a single, then moved into scoring position on a daring play, tagging and advancing to second when Bears catcher Josh Ludy made a sliding catch of a popped up bunt in foul ground near the screen. He scored one out later when Ross lined a single into right-center field.
Okert, improving to 6-6 with the Game 1 win, didn't allow a runner over the final 1 2/3 of Game 2. That preserved victory for Gray, who pitched into the eighth and allowed only an unearned run.
“We needed to get things turned around, get back on the winning track and win a Big 12 series,” John said. “We're not done yet. We've got another game. And we want to win that one too.”