The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — All it took was 16 years. All it took was 16 years and four more days at Bricktown Ballpark.
All it took was 16 years and four days at Bricktown Ballpark and two terrific pitching performances, one gutty-as-all-get-out win and one day of fantastic defense and the resurgent bat of Matt Oberste.
All it took was everything coming together, on the diamond, and maybe amidst the destruction a few miles south, too, for Oklahoma to claim in its first Big 12 baseball tournament championship since 1997, year of the very first Big 12 baseball tournament.
For the last several days, Oklahomans have been showing the world what they’re made of, how well they work together, how they refuse to be deterred, how, really, a whole bunch of things, far too many to list.
And so, simultaneously, it has played out on the diamonds big and small, at Marita Hynes Field, where OU’s softball team punched its Women’s College World Series ticket, getting past Texas A&M in two run-rule victories to remain on schedule toward its first national championship since 2000, as well as Brickdown Ballpark, where Sunny Golloway’s baseball team did what the past 15 bands of Sooners couldn’t do, finally yet again finishing atop the conference heap by topping Kansas 7-2.
It’s the story that keeps on giving, day after day.
Both teams have been very affected by what’s happened to so many of their neighbors and fans, so many of whom you can see wearing Sooner garb when television cameras catch them cleaning up among the destruction.
Both teams have been a part of the relief effort. Both sets of Sooners have the sense they’re playing for a cause bigger than themselves. Both have delivered in a very big way.
Sunday, it was baseball’s turn, in front of a fine crowd of almost 6,000, probably 4,500 of them in crimson or cream, who watched the OU play defense like its hair was on fire.
· Maybe the best 5-4-3 double play you’ve ever seen — Garrett Carey to Hector Lorenzana to Oberste — a play that looked more like a double than a double play off the bat of Ka’iana Eldredge in the second inning.
· Pitcher Jacob Evans’ spear of a knee-high line drive off the bat of Kevin Kuntz, saving two runs in the fifth inning.
· The long-run and sliding-foul-territory catch from left fielder Craig Aikin, retiring Jordan Dreiling to lead off the bottom of the ninth.
“I’ll be honest,” Kansas coach Ritch Price said, “I was really happy with the way we swung the bat.”
Yet it was only good for seven hits and two runs. Not nearly enough on a day OU played like a team of destiny.
It seems like it, anyway.
There was Oberste, who looked like maybe the best hitter ever to put on a Sooner uniform at one point this season only to enter Bricktown on the low side of the .400 average he carried so much of the season, waiting to hit his first home run since April.
He got it in the the third inning, a two run shot, his first after 17 games without going deep. Then, just to make the day really complete, he lashed a two-run single in the ninth. The Sooners didn’t need the insurance, but gladly took it.
There’s a sense of everything coming together.
Before the Big 12 tourney began, Wednesday, at L. Dale Mitchell Park, players said they were in the midst of something all teams go through. They’d lost two of three games in each of their last three conference series, but they were trying to shrug it off, because no sport has more peaks and valleys than baseball and they were in their valley.
Of course, if they closed the Big 12 tourney still in their valley, it would become the postcard to their season and maybe end their season. Oh, what a difference four days of winning baseball can make.
Golloway said he never lost sight of the fact his team was picked atop the conference way back in the preseason. Turned out he was right to keep the faith.
What a week.
In so many ways.
Soon, the softball world will descend upon Oklahoma City. Just as soon, Golloway and his Sooners will leave for regional play somewhere.
One of them should win it all. The other, all of a sudden, it’s become very hard to bet against and impossible not to pull for.
Today, that’s Oklahoma.
On the diamond.
Follow me @clayhorning