By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Each regular season brings its share of “big” games. After 30 of them, Oklahoma knows the next four are elevated in importance. Coach Sunny Golloway hadn’t gotten into specifics prior to Monday’s practice. He just assumed they would figure it out on their own.
“I told them they have a game on Tuesday and then we’re on the road Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” he said. “I think based on the media and social networking, they know who we’re playing.”
The Sooners (25-5) face Oklahoma State (21-6) at 6:30 p.m. today at L. Dale Mitchell Park. This one-game edition of Bedlam won’t count in the Big 12 Conference standings. The three-game series that begins in Tulsa May 10 and continues in Oklahoma City May 11-12 holds that designation.
However, this one game will kick-start, a four-game stretch that ends with a three-game series at Texas, which begins Friday.
The Sooners have shown they can handle the swings of a season thus far. Tonight, they’ll have to demonstrate what they can do when the emotions that pour out in Bedlam games and the Red River Rivalry are added.
For some, it’s old hat. OU right fielder Max White is going to square off against the Cowboys for the 14th time in his career, dating back to 2010.
White, along with shortstop Jack Mayfield, designated hitter Matt Oberste and third baseman Garrett Carey, have been in these games many times before.
The rest of OU’s lineup and starting pitcher Ralph Garza Jr. have not.
“I’m very interested to see how they handle it. I can’t wait to be honest,” White said. “I remember my first Bedlam experience and I had the nerves going early. I think this club has shown we can handle it.”
They have. Saturday’s loss to Kansas ended the Sooners’ 13-game winning streak, but it was their second double-digit winning streak of the season.
Consistency has been the key to the run that has put OU atop the conference standings. One of the reasons for it is that the first-year players haven’t been overwhelmed by anything.
“I think this group of freshman will handle themselves as well as any freshmen group that’s represented this program because of their experience to this point,” Golloway said.
However, there’s a difference between playing a game in front of 1,200 fans and the kind of crowds that emerge for rivalry games.
“I still think the bigger games are tougher. You play these games — even though they are really important at the time — you play them to handle the bigger games down the road — the Big 12 tournament, the NCAA tournament and, hopefully, God willing, in Omaha,” Golloway added. “It’s all part of the process and it’s all part of the growing and the growth they go through as individuals and performing in front of crowds.”
What kind of crowd Bedlam draws tonight remains to be seen. Typically, at least 2,000 flock to L. Dale Mitchell Park for this game. However, temperatures in the low 40s and a 70 percent chance of rain aren’t typically part of the April weather forecast. They are tonight. Just getting the game in the books is going to require a break from Mother Nature.
OU doesn’t need this game to get washed away. Games like tonight’s and the weekend series at Texas are pivotal parts of the season. They bring emotional challenges that cannot be simulated elsewhere.
The veterans have made sure the newcomers understand what’s coming.
“We’re playing Oklahoma State and Texas, and they’ve been preaching about the importance of these games,” second baseman Hector Lorenzana said. “I can’t wait for it. It’s gonna be awesome.”
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