Player-Only Meeting Pays Dividends

NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners were down in the dumps after falling in extra innings in the series-opener against arch-rival Texas and two games later suffering a sweep at the hands of the Longhorns.

That came after OU tossed away a 7-0 lead against Oregon State the previous weekend and a 6-3 advantage in the ninth inning in a mid-week duel against Dallas Baptist, sandwiching that conference sweep in the middle of a five-game losing streak.

Then, OU fell in the series-opener last weekend at Texas Tech, rounding out a stretch of six losses in eight tries.

It was enough to bring the seniors--second baseman Caleb Bushyhead, designated hitter Evan Mistich, injured center fielder Erik Ross and right fielder Cody Reine (catcher Tanner Toal did not make the trip)--together to have a heart-to-heart with head coach Sunny Golloway.

"You know, we had our four seniors met me in our hotel room after the loss on Friday, and we had a long talk," said Golloway, who admitted he overlooked and even didn't realize the fact that he'd only have four seniors with him. "And then Bushyhead asked if they could have a player-only meeting and I said, ‘To be quite honest with you, it's about time.'"

The two meetings, especially the players-only meeting, have seemed to do the trick.

OU has since won three straight, seizing last weekend's series against Tech the hard way by winning the final two and defeating Oral Roberts 5-2 the other night.

It's part of a stretch of five wins in six games following that five-game skid.

So, apparently the words from those veterans were enough to instill some of that lost mojo.

Junior center fielder Max White, who has since shifted from first base to the outfield following Ross' injury, said it was just about getting confidence and the swagger back.

"Yeah, we just knew we had to get the momentum back on our side," White said. "We knew what was ahead of us. We knew what we had to do, and we actually had a couple player only meetings to kind of motivate the young guys and, you know, just get the dugout going. And it proved to help over the weekend."

One of those young guns, Hunter Lockwood, who has also shifted positions from catcher to first base recently, outlined the things the four seniors emphasized.

Something Golloway has tried to emphasize as well.

"Coach has just stressed a lot just keeping our heads up, that if we keep putting balls in play, working the other way, then things will end up working out for us," Lockwood said. "Keep hitting the ball hard, you keep doing things right, then eventually it's going to turn around."

What else was discussed?

Well, for one, the obvious fact that several of those losses should have been wins, had OU just simply executed in key situations.

"And the things that they talked about was we've been put in position to win and we got a seven-run lead against Oregon State, we got a three-run lead down at DBU, you know, we got a tie ball game in the 11th inning against Texas, we got bases loaded and we don't finish the game," Golloway said. "And like what they talked about is they looked within every position and it comes back to us. We got to execute, and you know, what has coach been talking to us about? About going the other way and doing things like that."

Tuesday night against Oral Roberts, although one never really felt as if the game was in jeopardy, the Sooners found themselves in a similar situation.

Leading 5-1 in the ninth inning, Oral Roberts put a pair of runners in scoring position.

Only, this time the Sooners worked their way out of it, allowing just one run and holding onto the victory.

Certainly some signs of growth, growth in a season that is still somewhat young.

"Right, just motivating guys, telling them it's still early," said White about another topic of discussion. "Conference you never know what's going to happen. You never know who's going to come out and play well and beat the other team, so player-only meetings always help."

With OU welcoming Kansas State (13-11, 2-4 Big 12) for a crucial mid-pack conference series this weekend, it at least appears the Sooners may be turning the corner.

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