After winning a midweek affair against Arkansas-Little Rock on Wednesday, OU (32-13, 10-9 Big 12) is returning home to play the Kansas Jayhawks in one of its two final weekend series at home.
Here are three reasons why you should keep a close eye on this weekend's series against the Kansas (22-24, 9-12 Big 12) starting at 6:30 p.m. tonight at L. Dale Mitchell Park:
1. It's now or never – If the series loss against Texas didn't kill OU's chances of hosting a regional, then a loss at home against an unranked team with a losing record would crush that goal. Simply, the Sooners can't afford to lose another series before the Big 12 Tournament if they want to host. If OU wants to be realistic, this series with Kansas may have to not only end in a win but with a sweep. The Sooners need to prove to the selection committee that they are worthy of being one of the top 16 teams – eight receiving national seeds (that's out of the question) and eight getting just regional hosts – and they have to begin their climb up to at least third in the conference. OU is in fourth and is one game behind Oklahoma State (12-8 Big 12) in the loss column. The Big 12 is at most going to get three host seeds, so the Sooners can't afford to waste any more time and do what they did a year ago and get hot in the final weeks of the regular season.
2. Sunday's two-headed monster – Yes, senior pitcher Michael Rocha has clearly proven he's the team's ace, and junior pitcher Burch Smith has been throwing well during the past month, but everyone should pay attention to Sunday's rotation. Senior pitcher Bobby Shore is scheduled to start, but his recent bout of tendinitis and the forearm/elbow injury that forced him out of the Sooners' only win against Texas should cause head coach Sunny Golloway to side on the err of caution. So, like what he's done with Shore in the past, Golloway will most likely use the righty for the first four or five innings and then bring in freshman southpaw Dillon Overton, who was named the Big 12's Newcomer of the Week last week. Everybody likes seeing one pitcher go deep into games and be dominant, but this borderline pitching by committee has worked multiple times this season and will be key this weekend. The Sunday game can't be taken lightly if the Sooners win Friday and Saturday's games, and how Shore and Overton perform in that game will be key not only to the weekend but to continuing the eventual jumpstart into a good end-of-season streak.
3. This is the last series in conference at home – The Sooners play New Mexico next weekend in their final home series of the year, but obviously conference games are more important. This team has been playing with a different attitude in the past two weeks, and the players seem to at times build off the crowd's energy. So, as previously mentioned, this is a huge series, and the team would benefit from having a good presence at home both on the diamond and in the stands.