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OU Big 12 Title Game Recap/Regional Look Ahead

By: Dave Myrick

The Oklahoma Sooner baseball team had a productive week in Arlington, Texas. The Big Twelve regular season champs won three games, most, including myself, thought that would be enough for the Sooners to secure a top eight national seed. It turns out the committee did not value anything about the league as a whole, so OU was denied the coveted 1-8, instead coming in at the ninth seed in the nation. What does this mean ? Glad you ask, it means that the possibility of hosting a super-regional still exists… but they would need some help. Like the eighth seed, the Florida State Seminoles, to lose their regional this upcoming weekend. Then the Dale would indeed see a super-regional on its field weekend after next.

We will dive into more of the who/what/when later. In the meantime… we have a conference tournament game to discuss.

FILE – Oklahoma’s John Spikerman (8) runs to third during an NCAA college baseball game against Tennessee Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Arlington, Texas. Oklahoma clinched its first Big 12 regular-season championship with a three-game sweep of Baylor over the weekend. Leadoff man John Spikerman, who missed five weeks following hand surgery, is batting .407 after going 12 for his last 19.(AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)

Big 12 Championship Game

Much to OU fans chagrin, the opponent ended up being, the Oklahoma State Cowboys. And for whatever reason, the Cowboys under head coach Josh Holiday, have owned Oklahoma in his tenure. Coming into the game, coach Holiday’s record against Oklahoma was a pristine 27-10. The chatter coming in was pitching. What does Oklahoma have left ? After Braden Davis’s stellar outing against TCU, followed by a gutty effort by Kyson Witherspoon, and some spot duty by some of the relievers we have seen all season, the question was warranted.

Head coach Skip Johnson answered this by starting senior Carter Campbell (5.93 ERA). Campbell, much like most of the Oklahoma bullpen in 24′, has struggled at times. He gave Oklahoma a fighting chance with an outstanding outing against an OSU line-up that can score runs in bunches. Campbell would go 4.0 innings full, allowing four hits, three earned runs and six strikeouts. Personally I think Skip tried to get just a little greedy, for good reason, by leaving Campbell in one inning too long. Be that as it may, the Oklahoma offense was really the missing piece in this game, which is odd to say as prolific as it has been. But on a night OSU started a late reliever, most thought the OU batters would feast. That was not the case as Tommy Molsky would toss 4.1 inning, allowing only two runs on four hits. Dylan Crooks and Will Carsten would allow six more Cowboy runs to cross home-plate later, putting the game out of reach.

There wasn’t a whole lot of highlights or offensive plays to point to for Oklahoma. Mike Snyder (.355 BA) would collect two hits, along with senior Kendall Pettis (.272 BA). So it might be a good sign moving into post-season that the human highlight real is starting to swing a hotter bat. We all know what Pettis can do on defense, pretty much erase one side of the outfield. He made some catches in Arlington, watching live, from the angle I was at… that literally looked impossible.

The Jax’s, mercy. Jaxon Willits (.267 BA) and Jackson Nicklaus (.316 BA) both swung hot bats in Texas. With Nicklaus walking off Kansas in the bottom of the ninth to advance Oklahoma to the title game. Willits has just come to life, is one way to put it, since the OSU series in Stillwater. I think he is hitting .330 with nine homers since the series, which the kids say is good.

The game was kind of a yawner, as Mike Snyder would double in Easton Carmichael (.363 BA) to score OU’s last run late on a Saturday night at Globe Life field (as all the games played at 7 PM did), and OSU won the Big Twelve tournament by a final score of 9-3.

Regional

I spoke with head coach Skip Johnson on the top steps of the dugout on the field of Globe Life before his Sooners took on the Kansas Jayhawks. I asked how important it was to be a regional host, more specific a super-regional host. As much coach-speak as one gets from Skip, and don’t get me wrong I’m here for it, his answer caught me off-guard. Expecting something along the lines of we will play anybody anywhere, all we do is try to hit, throw and run… or something along those lines, he actually said, “it’s very important. It’s everything.” Thus what I had said earlier in the week about throwing Davis and Spoon back to back in the tourney, telling me that shows they really want to win at least a few, was correct. They wanted the top eight. And in my opinion, deserved one.

I said on air all week I thought two wins in this tournament got them in, and I stand by that. That being said if you dig deep, you also see that OU lost series to the #2, #3, and #4 teams in the league, going 1-4 against their in-state rival in the process. So, in a league there just was not a whole lot of wiggle room by not being able to improve your RPI or SOS via playing conference opponents, I get it.

Nobody is complaining, mind you. I think disappointed would probably be apropos, and they have a chance to show it. They did not get an easy draw as some would say by first impression of this regional.

Duke, is damn good. And one of the hottest teams in America. They can hit and hit with power, as they have six guys in their line-up with over thirteen home-runs, and have a pitching staff that as a whole is pretty good, but deep would be how I describe them.

ORU, a college World Series team from a year ago also visits the Dale. The Golden Eagles aren’t what they were a season ago, but never a team Oklahoma baseball can or do take lightly. They are led by their Friday night guy Jakob Hall, and he is good. He sits 10-2 on the year, with a 3.71 ERA, has fanned 105 batters while walking only 19. That is who Oklahoma will face Friday night at 6 PM CST.

Uconn is Uconn. Cannot be overlooked coming in at 32-23 on the season. Stephen Quigley is their ace. Quigley down under is 5-3 with a 3.89 ERA. Beyond that it drops off pretty fast.

Conclusion

Oklahoma head coach Skip Johnson during warm-ups before an NCAA regional championship baseball game against Liberty on Friday, June 3, 2022 in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

Really, the obvious observation and prediction would be OU to take on Duke. Twice. For the right to advance to a super-regional. And, Duke is the prohibitive betting favorite to walk in to Norman and walk out as regional champs. To avoid this, Oklahoma must solve the riddle of their third starter. Grant Stevens was it, has been it, and Skip confirmed to me the Monday after the tourney that it would be Grant. Now, what do they do with the rotation, days wise ? Do you risk throwing your day three starter… day one ? Fire Stevens out against a good but not great ORU team and roll the dice ? If you get the win, guess what, you then have Braden Davis and Kyson Witherspoon back to back, for Duke. I can see merit in this, but I also understand you HAVE to win game one to have any shot. So don’t mess with it.

It will be interesting to see how they configure everything on the mound, but in my opinion, OU has to do what they do well: hit and score runs. Jump out on teams early and keep the pressure on with that offense and speed. If they do that I will write one of these next week from Tallahassee. If they do not, this might be the last one. In my opinion… I will talk to you from Florida in seven days.

OU returns to action Friday, May 31st at 6:00 PM CST in the NCAA tournament