OKLAHOMA CITY — The Bedlam schools enter this week’s Big 12 baseball tournament looking to make a strong statement.
Oklahoma State wants a long run to solidify not only an opportunity to host an NCAA regional next weekend, but to capture a national seed that could ensure bringing an NCAA super regional to Stillwater.
While Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson thinks his team has done enough to earn an at-large bid to the 64-team field, the Sooners could add to their resume with a strong showing at Bricktown Ballpark.
Both teams are in the same four-team bracket that will feed a division winner to the championship game Sunday.
Third-seeded Oklahoma State will face No. 6 TCU at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, following the No. 7 Sooners’ 4 p.m. game against No. 2 Baylor. Wins by both state schools or losses by both would set up a Bedlam rematch Thursday.
Oklahoma State (32-17) is No. 8 in the latest NCAA RPI rankings, the best of all Big 12 schools. Since the top eight schools earn a national seed and the right to host all postseason games until the College World Series, it’s easy to understand why maintaining momentum this weekend is important for the Cowboys.
Plus, there is this storyline: How nice would it be for OSU to send out Allie P. Reynolds Stadium with more baseball games?
“We would enhance those opportunities and make those more likely by focusing on playing well,” OSU coach Josh Holliday said Thursday. “So knowing that we want that to be the result, our greatest chance to have that happen is to just stay in the moment, right? So we would very much like to have that be the result.
“But we know in order to get there we’ve got to play good. And so we won’t take our eye off what’s allowed us to play good. And that’s play each pitch and preparing for the game itself and playing it one at a time to where we don’t let what we perceive to be riding on it make the game any harder than it already is.”
Still, wouldn’t it be nice to send Allie P. Reynolds out the right way?
Holliday answered by talking about the Cowboys’ strength of schedule and pointing out they didn’t play anyone in the RPI’s bottom quadrant.
Then he conceded: “To play more baseball at this great stadium would be an honor and I think it’s something that, if the baseball gods believe that it’s meant to be, then it will happen.
“But I definitely think our team has done their part to try to put ourselves in position, that’s for sure,” Holliday added. “The history of the stadium, the great games that have been played here, all those things, it speaks for itself. It would be a lot of fun to add to that.”
Johnson spoke during the Big 12 Tournament luncheon at Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse in downtown Oklahoma City on Tuesday. He talked about the strength of the league as much as his own team.
Five teams are inside the RPI top 40. They are OSU, No. 9 Texas Tech, No. 15 West Virginia, No. 27 Baylor and No. 39 OU. The Big 12 Conference is ranked No. 2 in RPI.
So with those numbers, Johnson asked, why are only four teams — minus Oklahoma — being projected for the NCAA Tournament field?
“I would hope we wouldn’t have to win any (tournament games),” Johnson said when asked about winning games this week to get into the NCAA Tournament. “If we are really the No. 2 conference in the country, we wouldn’t have to win any. We would just play baseball. When you talk about a result, we’re 33-21.
“We can match up with anyone in the country. That’s not an issue,” Johnson later added. “The issue is getting in. We made the mistake of giving it to somebody else and letting those guys make the decision. When you do that, you have to take the brunt of the decision that they make.”
The Sooners are coming off a big weekend that included taking two of three games at Texas, locking the Longhorns out of the eight-team league tournament.
“Hopefully we have done a lot to get in the NCAA Tournament,” Johnson said. “We’ve won every Friday night except for two nights in this league. That ought to say something. I’m excited about that as much as anything.
“Our first season’s over with. Now it’s time for our second season.”