Weekend Series Vs. Missouri Looms Large

NORMAN, Okla. – Last weekend's series loss against the No. 8 Texas A&M Aggies at home to start the conference season was a tough one for the No. 9 Sooners.

But they have a chance to right the ship this weekend against the Missouri Tigers in Columbia. And you know OU players and coaches have been anxiously waiting for this series to start.

The Sooners have lost five of their last six games. During that stretch they have accumulated more strikeouts (57) than hits (38), and senior pitcher Michael Rocha was the only pitcher to have anything that resembled a good outing.

He struck out 13 batters and allowed three hits in 8 2/3 innings en route to a 1-0 victory over the Aggies in the series opener.

After the series' conclusion, head coach Sunny Golloway claimed that his team had not played like a good team all season despite jumping out to a 16-0 record and in a brutally honest way called all but two players – junior designated hitter Evan Mistich and junior shortstop Caleb Bushyhead – entitled.

That's why this once seemingly easy series has become more important than ever.

The Tigers, who were picked to finish last in the Big 12 by the coaches, stand between the Sooners and their path back to their winning ways.

Rocha, who has thrown at least seven innings in all five of his starts and will be on the bump in tonight's doubleheader opener, has been one of the best Friday-night starters in the nation. So don't be surprised if he throws OU to a 1-0 series lead, but the big question marks with the rest of the weekend rotation and the hitters' woes are going to determine Friday night and Sunday's headlines.

The Sooners don't need to sweep the series – they proved last year that the lack of series sweeps during conference play doesn't keep a team out of the College World Series – but they need to start manufacturing runs and get a quality start from a second pitcher to leave Columbia with the series victory.

If OU doesn't and heads back to Norman with a 1-5 or 2-4 record in Big 12 play, then things could spiral out of control.

Not only would a series victory prevent the Sooners from getting too behind in the hunt for a conference title, but it would also be a good psychological boost.

Like many other areas of baseball, winning is contagious. The players had a winning attitude to star the season, but they have been pressing and hanging their heads after recent games.

A couple wins would put a spring back in their step and could turn this bad spell into a culture of winning.

Let's see if the Sooners play like the team that caused so many people to pay attention in the season's first few weeks or like the team that seemed lost on the diamond and couldn't find a win if it tried slapping it in the face.

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