Saturday's Bedlam setback makes for Sooner uncertainty entering Big 12 tournament
What's required to get Oklahoma into NCAA regional play? Great question
Here’s the problem.
Even after coach Skip Johnson’s Sooners fell 11-1 at Bedlam’s last hurrah Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park, Oklahoma’s RPI appeared to remain in the middle 30s.
At WarrenNolan.com, a fantastic resource for college sports, the Sooners’ live RPI moved down just a tic after their regular season finale, from 35th to 36th, which happens to be the fourth best RPI in the Big 12 Conference behind No. 20 Oklahoma State, No. 21 West Virginia and No. 23 Texas.
However, OU (30-24, 11-13) will not be taking the No. 4 seed into this week’s conference tournament beginning Wednesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
Instead, it will be taking the No. 7 seed, a result of not just finishing behind Texas (38-18, 15-9), OSU (37-16, 15-9) and West Virginia (39-16, 15-9) in the conference standings, but also behind TCU (33-22, 13-11), Kansas State (33-22, 13-11) and Texas Tech (37-19, 12-12) and that may prove hard to overcome.
Interestingly, the Sooners went 5-4 in conference games against the triumvirate atop the league, sweeping Texas in Austin and grabbing one of three at West Virginia and against OSU. But will that mean anything to the NCAA’s baseball selection committee?
For that matter, what OU must do in Arlington to secure a spot in the NCAA draw, short of winning every game as it did last year, is an open question, too.
“I have no clue. I’m not the NCAA,” Johnson said moments after Saturday’s setback. “I mean, our RPI is really good because of our strength of schedule. I don’t think there’s anybody in our league that has a strength of schedule like hours.”
OU’s national strength of schedule is 15th and it’s out-of-conference strength of schedule is 18th and the nearest to those numbers among conference foes belong to Texas, 23rd and 24th; and TCU, 24th and 28th, while Texas Tech’s and Kansas State’s are outright embarrassing: 54th and 154th for the Wildcats, 47th and 114th for the Raiders.
If the selection committee can keep its head in those numbers, the Sooners might not have to worry about being left out. Should that same committee go deep on Saturday afternoon’s goings-on at the Sooner ballpark, they might be in real trouble.
OU just didn’t have anything.
Though starting pitcher James Hitt didn’t issue a bushel of free passes and plunk batters as Braxton Douthit did two nights earlier, nor could he retire Cowboys, who began the game with four straight singles.
Hitt didn’t make it through the third inning, allowing six hits, four runs, walking one and striking out nobody before giving way to Carter Campbell, who got out of the frame, and the fourth and fifth innings, too, unscathed, yet couldn’t keep it going in the sixth when he allowed a walk, a pair of doubles to Tyler Wulfert and David Mendham, and a sacrifice fly that created two more OSU runs.
Of course, because the Sooners weren’t hitting, the six runs the Cowboys scored through six innings felt more like 10.
If OU had one real chance to jump into the game, it lost it when Kendall Pettis was caught stealing in the second inning by OSU catcher Chase Adkison after leading off the frame with an infield hit.
His being caught meant not putting Sooners at the corners on John Spikerman’s center-field bloop.
It meant the double Easton Carmichael struck into the right-centerfield gap did not score two runners and leave a man at second base with nobody out, but only one with Carmichael standing on second with one out.
Nor did it help that Carmichael immediately committed a base-running blunder, running to third with no chance to get there safely when Diego Muniz hit sharply to OSU shortstop Marcus Brown, who easily threw Carmichael out on a non-force play.
“They kept stacking on top,” Johnson said, “and we could never get the offense rolling.”
The bottom of the second was the last half inning in which OU pushed a runner past second base, collected more than a single hit or sent more than four batters to the plate.
Given those results, the fact four of OU’s seven hits were doubles — after Carmichael, Bryce Madron lashed two and Spikerman one — amounted to very nearly nothing.
Looking forward, on the bright side, the Sooners should get their confidence back quickly. The last time they spent extended time at the Texas Rangers’ diamond it became a catapult into the Men’s College World Series.
On the not-so bright side, they’ll open at 4 p.m. Wednesday against, guess who, the same Bedlam rival that will have just beaten them by 10 runs the previous Saturday.
It’s not the greatest.
But it’s where the Sooners are.
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