Tough road ahead
Sooners try to build off of Bedlam win to get NCAA bid
Early Sunday night, Oklahoma felt re-energized. It snapped a five-game losing streak and avoided being swept by Oklahoma State with Sunday's 5-3 victory.
There were reasons to feel good about the present. On Sunday, the Sooners held the Cowboys to five hits and finally came up with some critical two-out, timely hits.
"To end the losing skid for us, I mean losing five in a row is pretty tough. I think it helped us to get back on track and hopefully gain some momentum going into this next series," OU's Kolbey Carpenter said. "Hopefully we can play better these next two weekends and get some wins."
But the future OU faces -- specifically, whether it can receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament -- isn't rosy.
Sunday's win lifted the Sooners six spots in the Ratings Percentage Index -- to No. 83. Finish the conference tournament outside of the top 50 and an at-large bid is virtually impossible.
OU coach Pete Hughes knows Sunday's win was momentous because it ended a five-game losing streak where OU had lost every way imaginable. It was during that week of games where it plummeted nearly 20 spots in the RPI.
The performance showed OU wasn't ready to check in its cleats.
"It was good that I have a group of guys that come to play and don't feel sorry for themselves or panic," Hughes said. "A lot of teams are done for Game 3, especially when there's so much emotion in a rivalry. Our guys showed up swinging. They're in the fight for the long haul here. It's nice to get out of that rut. Now we have to keep building and get on a winning streak and build on our resume."
There was a time when a top three finish in the Big 12 guaranteed an NCAA tournament bid. OU (30-21, 11-7 Big 12) occupies the No. 3 spot. It still has six conference games left. OU goes to Kansas State this weekend. League-leading TCU comes to L. Dale Mitchell Park May 14-16 to wrap up the regular season.
In between, the Sooners host Stephen F. Austin in its final non-conference game May 12.
All seven games will be vital for the Sooners. Winning both series could be enough. Losing either likely means winning the Big 12 tournament is the path to the NCAA tournament.
Players try not to think about it in those terms. Baseball seasons are arduous journeys. There are just rewards at the end for those who deserve them.
"You've just got to stay calm and relaxed and know that it's going to go your way eventually. Keep playing hard and play Oklahoma-style baseball," said catcher Anthony Hermelyn, who delivered Sunday's game-winning blow with a two-run home run. "The baseball gods will reward you."
There are seven regular-season games and a Big 12 tournament remaining to find out what OU deserves.