The Oklahoma Sooners are one of 16 teams that earned the right host an NCAA Baseball Regional, which will get underway this Friday at Dale Mitchell Park. Reserve tickets are sold out for the event, but there are still plenty of tickets remaining for the regional and Sooner fans still have time to get out and get tickets for what promises to be a great event.
Oklahoma will play host and open with TCU in the opening round. The Sooners beat the Horned Frogs twice during the regular season, winning 12-11 in Norman and 10-5 in Fort Worth. The Sooners has also played Wichita State twice during the regular season losing in Norman 12-2 and in Wichita 9-5. OU didn not play Houston during the season.
The Sooners are 40-19 on the year, while TCU will go into the contest with the Sooners 36-21. Wichita State is 44-20, while Houston is 39-20 on the season.
The opportunity to host the regional will only pay dividends for the Sooner program in the future.
"I am really proud of our student athletes and really proud of the support our administration gave us to secure the regional," said OU Head Coach Sunny Golloway. "There is a lot of effort that goes into getting to the point where you can host a regional, so it is a group effort from our student athletes all the way up to our President, our Athletic Director, our coaching staff. Everybody has really done a great job of bringing it to Norman.
"I am excited for our fans here in Norman, Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas who get to roll out and see some great baseball. Then you think about the local flavor with the teams that they have sent with TCU, a team that we have played twice, Wichita State, a team that we have played twice, and Houston, a team that we have tracked very closely.
"They are playing very well right now, and they made it to their tournament finals. For them to get into the tournament finals against Rice speaks volumes about the job they are doing down at Houston. It is a great field and who wins will be whoever rolls out and plays the hardest and the best this weekend."
Many times the NCAA will try to place teams in a regional where their fans can make it out to games, and this regional is no exception.
"I am not surprised because I know that proximity does have a lot to do with it. They want to have a lot of fan interest," said Golloway. "I think it is great and our Sooner fans are going to have to get on the phone and buy up those tickets because we know what kind of following the Shockers have as well as TCU.
"I am not sure how many people will follow Houston in here, but I would think they are going to have a pretty good following because they are playing well right now. We are going to have limited tickets so I just don't hope our fans will really turn out and try to get those tickets bought up before those other schools do."
The Sooners have played TCU and Wichita State with mixed results during the regional season, but in baseball past game experience doesn't always seem to matter.
"When you think about playing TCU twice, it is hard to beat anybody three times," said Golloway. "We are going to really have to have our best effort on Friday night. You think about Wichita State, well, we didn't play well against Oklahoma State early on, but in that last game it was much different results. I know this...I know baseball and I know the fact that it is hard to go ahead and duplicate results a lot of time. It really comes down to just clearing your mind and coming back fresh, and understanding that game is the all important game. What has happened in the past means nothing."
"I like the fact we are playing at home," Golloway continued. "You can bring the Yankees in here right now and we would play them. You can bring Boston and we would play them right now. We are glad to be home and glad to be hosting. You have to beat good people at this time of year. They wouldn't be in this tournament if they weren't a good college baseball team. So, congratulations to all the participants. Now it's time to 'Let It Fly'."
While the competition will be tough, OU will without question receive some benefits from playing at home.
"When you think about people playing in 56 games and then going on and playing in conference tournaments, you have student-athletes taking finals, and they are going to school and they do get tired," said Golloway. "They do get worn down to a certain point. At the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City we tried to stay in our own environment staying in Norman for a couple of nights and we took them the last two days to the city.
"I think being able to sleep in your own bed and being in your own environment, one that you are comfortable with, and being in our routine is going to be really good for us. I think there is an advantage for those teams hosting around the country. It is that fatigue factor from playing 56 games all across the country and playing in conference tournaments."
All four teams have good solid baseball teams, but all four bring a little different style of play outside of OU and Wichita State, who love to play small-ball.
"We have seen TCU at mid-week, so we threw our mid-week starter against theirs down there and we handled that pretty good," said Golloway. "We had to come from behind in a slugfest. Now, when we face them in a tournament it is going to be much different because we will roll out a weekend guy and they are going to roll out a weekend guy. TCU was leading the nation late in the year in strikeouts per nine innings, so they have two arms that are very, very good and as good as anybody in the country. We are going to see one of those two arms.
"(Brad) Furnish is a transfer from Nebraska, who is a very good pitcher. He might be the guy that we see. When we find that out we will know better how to match-up with our pitching staff. There will be a couple of days of jockeying back and forth to see who everybody is going to roll out with their rotation before they are set. I feel good about who we can roll out in game one. We have been very good on the mound on the weekends and pretty good out of the bullpen. So we like our chances."
The Sooners have floundered against Wichita State this season, but in the postseason they have a chance to get even.
"I don't think there is anything about Wichita State that really bothers us," said Golloway. "I just think it comes down to, in a game, there are certain breaks within that game that cost us. Early on they got some breaks against us and they ran away from us. Then when you think about the game there, it was the same thing. It will be much different when you roll out a weekend starter.
"They have really good arms in their rotation and we have really good arms with ours, but right now we have TCU and Wichita State has Houston. So, still, some things have to happen before the two teams can match-up. We are going to take it one game at a time. We are thinking about TCU."
The Sooners appear to be at 100 percent. Senior infielder Russell Raley's hamstring is back at full strength and OU is expected to have every pitcher available for the regional.
The fact that seven Big 12 teams earned regional berths is a great credit to the quality of baseball in the Big 12.
"That is what we needed. All seven teams are very deserving," said Golloway. Know this ... that Missouri is going to go into that regional on the West Coast (Pepperdine). They have a great club and when you think about (Nathan) Culp and (Max) Scherzer, they are going to be as strong as anybody. The SEC gets eight and we get seven, it is getting closer to being fair. We have said all along that our conference is as good as any other conference in the country. Having seven teams in the tournament doesn't necessarily prove that yet, but when they do well in the tournament that will be the deciding factor."
The Sooners feel like they got a little momentum back beating OSU 21-6 in the final Big 12 Tournament game, and they feel they have a good chance to get out of their regional. If the Sooners win and Rice wins their regional, then OU would head to Houston to face the Owls in the Super Regional.
Tickets are still available at 325-2424.
Golloway says it's time to 'Let it Fly'
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