OU has conference, postseason hopes on line this weekend
This weekend is the definition of feast or famine for the No. 25 Oklahoma baseball team.
By the end of the weekend, the Sooners (35-17, 12-9 Big 12) either could be crowned the Big 12 regular season champions or potentially kicked out of the NCAA tournament. And the team that could send OU in either direction is the conference's top team, No. 19 Kansas State.
The series' first pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan.
If the Sooners sweep the Wildcats (37-15, 14-7 Big 12), then they will at least have a share of the regular season conference title. If OU gets swept, then it will have to win the Big 12 Tournament, which starts Wednesday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, in order to make the NCAA tournament, coach Sunny Golloway said.
"We control our destiny," he said. "Win three games, Big 12 champs. We'll be having a party in Manhattan — a big party in Manhattan. On the other side, we go up there and don't play well and get swept, we better win the Big 12 (Tournament) title."
The only problem with having too much confidence in this team sweeping Kansas State is the fact the Sooners have not swept any Big 12 opponent since the start of conference play against TCU in Norman.
OU has had two other chances of getting a sweep in Big 12 play after winning the first two games of the series. The Sooners got up 2-0 in the series against Kansas and Texas Tech — both series in Norman — but they could not complete the sweep as they were outscored 19-11 in the two series finales.
But the fact Golloway's club has had trouble sweeping series when it needs one the most does not bother his team.
"There's no concern," junior first baseman Matt Oberste said. "This is baseball; anything can happen. There's been some crazy things happened in the past, and I feel like something's going to happen this weekend."
And Golloway agrees. In fact, he compares this weekend to the last conference weekend of regular season play a year ago when his team swept then-No. 2 Baylor in Waco.
"What I do remember is we swept the last weekend of last year against the No. 2 team in the country," Golloway said. "I looked and I saw that Kansas State is not ranked No. 2 in the country. Good news.
"We have swept the last weekend of the year in the past — last year."
The road to a sweep starts with pitching, which is something junior pitcher Jonathan Gray likes.
"We're going to try to put (the Wildcats) down, shut them down the first game," the potential No. 1 overall pick said. "Hopefully they'll lose confidence in the second and third games if we beat them up in the first one pretty good."
Following Gray in the weekend rotation is a duo of lefties in senior pitcher Jake Fisher and junior pitcher Dillon Overton.
Fisher has made three straight starts after never making one during his OU career. In those three starts, he has posted a 1-1 record while throwing 17 2/3 innings and allowing three earned runs.
Overton is making his second start after returning from elbow injury. He did not fare too well in his four innings against Oklahoma State on Sunday despite missing two weeks, although he earned a no decision.
"After coming off an injury, I'm always excited to get out there and keep throwing," Overton said. "We're just taking it one day at a time, and we're going to kind of use these weekends as a stepping stone — just try to get longer and stronger as I go each weekend. Hopefully by the end of the season, I'm back to normal."
Whether the Sooners get everything put together after having a poor last two weeks is not the issue. The issue is whether they can put everything together for three games this weekend.
If they do, then a conference title and postseason berth is theirs. If OU doesn't, then it will have to play well in Oklahoma City in less than a week; otherwise, this team will be watching the NCAA tournament from home.
"You've got the complete opposite spectrum based on what happens this weekend," Golloway said. "Whoever thought one weekend could mean so much?"