NORMAN — Coach Patty Gasso said before last weekend’s road trip to Baylor that the Big 12 championship would run through Waco. The Sooners took care of that, taking two of three from the Bears to take control of the title race.
Now that road runs through Norman, and the Longhorns hope to have something to say about that.
The 12th-ranked Sooners host Texas in a crucial Red River rivalry series that will determine which team has the inside route to the conference crown.
The Sooners (32-9, 9-1) lead the race but are even with Texas (26-16, 6-1) in the loss column. That means the winner of the series, which begins at 8 tonight, will have both the conference lead and tiebreaker should it be necessary.
With just a series against Texas Tech and pair of games against Oklahoma State remaining on the conference schedule, the stakes are huge for the Sooners if they hope to rule the Big 12 roost. The Longhorns still have series against Oklahoma State, Kansas and a pair of games with Baylor remaining.
The rest of the country will be watching. OU’s 14-game winning streak that Baylor snapped Sunday demonstrated how far the team has come since some early season scuffling, and the lineup, from top to bottom, has consistently improved despite losing Lauren Chamberlain, the nation’s top slugger, last month. The pitching staff’s ERA has fallen by nearly half a run, to 2.58, while they’ve maintained the same batting average at .309 even through conference play. Tonight’s game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and will surely be pivotal when regional hosting rights are awarded next month.
“We’re excited to have this at home,” Gasso said. “I think we’ll feel the home-field advantage, especially if we come out and play the way I think we will.”