In the midst of a challenging season, there is still a path for coach Skip Johnson’s Oklahoma baseball team.
Seemingly going nowhere after dropping three straight games, even in the friendly confines of L. Dale Mitchell Park, last weekend to now seventh-ranked TCU, the Sooners fell to 1-5 in Big 12 Conference play.
If that felt like rock bottom, a rockier bottom appeared imminent Tuesday evening, when Oral Roberts scored eight runs in the top of the first inning and two more in the top of the second.
However, the Sooners got eight runs of their own their first two trips to the plate and eventually prevailed 14-12, scoring three runs in the seventh and eighth innings to finally pull ahead.
“It was the first time all year we played through something that happened in the first inning,” Johnson said.
Beginning at 6:30 p.m. today, the Sooners will try pushing their winning streak to two games, when they play host to Kansas in the first of a three-game set that will be followed by a 3:30 p.m. contest Saturday and a 2 p.m. contest Sunday.
OU badly needs victories and right now and it’s hitting a portion of its schedule that gives it an opportunity to put wins together.
To their detriment or not, the Sooners opened Big 12 Conference play against maybe the two best teams in its league, Texas and TCU.
The Longhorns are No. 6 and the Horned Frogs No. 7 in the coaches’ poll, they’re Nos. 4 and 10 in the D1Basball.com Top 25 and Nos. 3 and 6 according to Collegiate Baseball.
Despite the Sooners’ conference mark, which has them tied for last alongside Baylor (19-10, 1-5) and Kansas (17-11, 1-5), OU somehow remains above every unranked team in its conference in the NCAA’s official RPI ratings, which are more important than any poll when it comes to postseason opportunity.
Among Big 12 teams, in addition to Texas (22-8, 7-2) and TCU (21-7, 6-0), Texas Tech (20-6, 3-3) and Oklahoma State (18-7-1, 6-3) are also ranked in every college baseball poll.
Yet, in the NCAA’s RPI, behind No. 12 TCU, No. 13 OSU, No. 18 Texas and No. 20 Texas Tech, it’s the Sooners at No. 80, followed by No. 85 Baylor, No. 96 Kansas, No. 109 West Virginia and No. 111 Kansas State.
Where might OU find itself if it can run off eight straight victories?
It’s a lot to ask, but it’s not out of the question.
After playing three against Kansas, OU has a pair of mid-week dates against Texas Southern, also at home, before traveling to play three games at Kansas State next weekend.
If the Sooners can win six, seven or eight of those, they ought to be feeling formidable enough to attack the rest of their season, hoping to come from nowhere and earn an NCAA regional invitation.
For the next 10 days, the competition will relax. and on the other end of those 10 days, many chances against high-quality opposition remain to make hay with.
Not only does OU have conference series remaining with OSU April 30-May 2, one game in Stillwater and two in Norman, and one at home against Texas Tech May 14-16, it also has a single non-conference game against Texas Tech on April 20 in Amarillo and another non-conference game against OSU May 11 in Tulsa.
Win even half of those games and win remaining series against Baylor and West Virginia, too, and OU might have a postseason case.
Of course, if the Jayhwaks and Wildcats have their way with the Sooners, the road becomes far more difficult.
It’s only Kansas this evening and the next two days, but they’re big games if OU’s looking to turn its season around.