NORMAN — Historically, Oklahoma has played its best baseball at the end of season. The last few years were characterized by runs late in the regular season and into the postseason.
The position the Sooners (27-6, 7-2) occupy atop the Big 12 Conference standings hasn’t happened very often. How will they handle the pressure of being the leader instead of one of the chasers?
Some evidence will be provided when OU opens a three-game series with Baylor (17-16, 5-3) at Baylor Ballpark in Waco, Texas, at 6:30 p.m. today.
Claiming the series against Texas removed a huge burden on the program. OU had not taken a series from the Longhorns since 1998 and the Big 12 Conference was just two years old at that point.
However, another burden remains.
OU has never won a Big 12 regular-season baseball championship. It has finished second by a half-game twice (2004 and 2009), but hasn’t put that trophy in the case.
“Because of the way we’ve started out we’ve built a lot of confidence,” first baseman/designated hitter Matt Oberste said. “Having a lead in the Big 12 standings is something that is very important for us.”
The Sooners have been over .500 in conference play after three series just five times since 2004, and 2004 marked the last time OU won its first three series to start the conference slate.
Traditionally, the stumbling block had always been a late March or early April encounter with the Longhorns. Now that OU has successfully navigated that series, it can look toward bigger things — like winning the Big 12 Conference.
“It’s an important step for this team,” right fielder Max White said. “We want to get a ring and then we want to host a regional and super regional and get to Omaha. To get that experience of winning a Big 12 championship would be awesome.”