Sooners' Big 12 hopes hinge on weekend sweep

NORMAN, Okla. — Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Well, that's certainly the case for OU's chances to win the outright Big 12 baseball title in the regular season heading into the final weekend of the year.

The Sooners must storm into Manhattan, Kan., and sweep the Kansas State Wildcats on their own field if they hope to emerge as the conference champion they were slated to be at the beginning of the season.

The good news is it's all in their hands.

With West Virginia's Thursday night loss to Oklahoma State, they simply have to win out and it's all theirs.

"Yeah, we control our destiny," said OU head coach Sunny Golloway. "We go up there and win three games, Big 12 Champs. We'll be having a party in Manhattan, a big party in Manhattan."

That's even with all their recent struggles, including just a 2-5 stretch in their last seven conference games with a pair of series losses.

Certainly has to be comforting there's still an opportunity considering the depth of those struggles.

"Definitely," said ace Jonathan Gray, who will be given the ball with the expectation of starting things off right Friday. "It can't get any worse than it's been. You know, we've reached our low point, but it only goes up from now. The sky's the limit. We gotta get better."

But while OU needs a sweep, it has only done the feat once this season in conference play, the first series when it wiped TCU.

Since then, it's been all one-game decisions in Big 12 play.

So, perhaps it's a bit of a concern the Sooners can accomplish that, especially heading into hostile territory of the conference's current best team.

Players, though, insist that's not the case.

"There's no concern," said first baseman Matt Oberste, who leads the conference with his .400 average. "I mean, this is baseball. Anything can happen. There's been some crazy things happen in the past, and, I mean, I feel like something's going to happen this weekend."

If it indeed is going to happen, OU will likely need to outslug K-State at least once or more in the series since the Wildcats lead the league with their .321 club average.

But the Sooner lineup, including Oberste, has slumped of late and despite still sitting at third in the Big 12 with a .287 average, that could be an issue.

Still, the confidence is there within the club to get that done.

"I think we are [capable of it]," Oberste said. "You know, our bats have been cold here lately. You know, they were pretty hot at the first of the season, but they can come back at any time. We expect that, and our pitchers, I think, are good enough to go in there and, I think, keep their bats quiet. So, I mean, especially John [Gray] and [Dillon] Overton is coming back and we have some good pitchers in the bullpen, I feel like."

See, that's just it.

The Sooners possess perhaps the two best arms in the Big 12 in Gray—he's projected in the top two of the MLB Draft and possibly could slide up to number one—and Overton, so that alleviates some of the pressure.

Even so, though, Golloway believes in his offense.

"Character all year," Golloway said to justify why he does. "Just when you don't think they're gonna score a run, they pop a big number. Then when you think they're gonna pop a big number like Tuesday, they won't."

Regardless of how they can get it done, the fact of the matter remains they CAN still win the Big 12 despite all their recent struggles.

Just have to get a sweep.

At least that's something to hang some hope on.

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