For a lot of teams in college baseball, selection day is one of the more anticipated events of the entire season. It is a chance to celebrate the accomplishment of qualifying for the postseason and begin to scout the teams placed in your region.
Though this was the case for Oklahoma last season, the 2023 Sooners were not 100 percent sure their name would be called for postseason play. After picking up one victory in the Big 12 tournament, OU felt they had done enough to compete in a regional, but they would have to leave it up to the committee to decide their fate.
After hours of jam-packed stress on Sunday, the Sooners finally heard their name called. Opponents aside, OU had to be pleased just to make it back, considering their cinderella run from a year ago where they nearly took home the national championship.
Oklahoma, along with Arizona, Louisiana Lafayette and Troy were announced as the last four in the field. Among the first four left out included K-State, who swept Oklahoma early in the season. One of the biggest reasons OU was able to edge out K-State was due to having the better overall RPI, which is a quantity used to rank sports teams by their wins, losses and strength of schedule.
OU played a much tougher non-conference than K-State, which likely had a big say in the final decision. Current K-state and former OU skipper Pete Hughes did not take a liking to the NCAA’s decision to leave the Cats out.
While OU narrowly squeezed in the field of 64, the committee did the Sooners no favors with the region they were placed in. OU will be headed to Charlottesville, Virginia, where the UVA Cavaliers will be hosting. UVA makes its third consecutive appearance to the tournament, and will host for the first time in seven years.
The Cavs finished first in the Coastal division of the ACC. While they claim an astounding 45-12 record, it was only good for second best in the ACC, behind the #1 overall seed of the NCAA Tournament, Wake Forest. Led by ACC player of the year Kyle Teel, Virginia has plenty of firepower stowed away. Teel also patrols the plate at catcher extremely well, which could play a big part in a potential matchup with Oklahoma, as the Sooners like to use their legs on the base paths as much as anyone in the country.
The two seed in the region belongs to the East Carolina pirates. ECU has become quite the mid-major powerhouse in college baseball, as they have qualified for regional play in 19 of the last 24 seasons. The pirates have won four straight AAC regular season championships, though they suffered a surprising loss to 19-40 Tulane in their conference championship game.
The pirates claim six batters in their starting lineup who bat .300 or better, which could fair poorly for Oklahoma. Though the Sooners pitching has improved in recent weeks, the staff still has the tendency to give up big outings. OU and ECU will square off in the 2v3 matchup on Friday at 7pm.
The final team in the region is Army, who comes in at 37-16 overall and fresh off their fifth straight Patriot League tournament championship. The Midshipmen are more of the unknown squad of this region, though they are still very dangerous. Backed by solid pitching, Army has a lineup of four players that all have over 12 home runs.
Both top seeds taking care of business on Friday would result in an OU-Army matchup for the right to stay alive in the tournament.
If we learned anything from OU’s run to the CWS final last year, it’s that no team in this tournament can be overlooked. If you get hot at the right time, anything can happen.
Friday’s matchup between the Sooners and Pirates will air on ESPN2. Braden Carmichael will get the ball for OU, who has been the best starter by a wide margin this season.