Baseball: OU Set for Regional

Norman, Okla. -- OU opens play against No. 4 seed Wichita State at 7 p.m. Friday, a team they have beaten a combined 23-1 in two games so far this season, including a 15-0 shellacking in Wichita and an 8-1 victory in Norman.

OU head coach Sunny Golloway has a little reason to look at his peers and smirk at them with a "that's why" grin.

"I had a lot of my peers around the country asking me, you know, ‘Sunny, what are you doing [going to Washington State in February]? It's cold, cold,' Golloway said. "But it served us well."

It served the Sooners well for obvious reasons.

"You've got to go to some cold weather places in the Big 12, and I've always said we try to prepare our guys," Golloway said. "We don't go on vacations early. We prepare for our conference. We want to be tougher, and Pullman made us tougher. It prepared us for our northern schools when we have to travel to Kansas State early in the year and [also] Missouri."

Now, the four-game split with the Cougars has served the Sooners well for another reason.

Washington State is the three seed in this weekend's Norman Regional.

And with the difficulty and quality opponents on the rest of the schedule, the Sooners were able to play and get a feel for the other two teams they will and might face.

OU opens play against No. 4 seed Wichita State at 7 p.m. Friday, a team they have beaten a combined 23-1 in two games so far this season, including a 15-0 shellacking in Wichita and an 8-1 victory in Norman.

"When you think about Wichita State, it's been a regional rivalry back and forth," Golloway said. "And we haven't hesitated going up against them, and I think we've played very well against them."

In fact, the last time OU hosted, in 2006, Wichita State stood just one victory away from winning the regional, but the Sooners fought all the way back from the losers bracket to take it.

In addition, should the Sooners win and the fourth team, second-seeded Arkansas, win, or should OU lose and Arkansas lose, the Sooners would face another team they are familiar with this season.

"You know, we played Arkansas; we got them back on the schedule for the first time in quite some time," Golloway said. "And it's a regional matchup that we'd like to play during the regular season, and I said this when we traveled to Arkansas that it was a tough [extra inning] loss for us but that I appreciated Coach Dave Van Horn playing us."

The Razorbacks loaded up the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the tenth inning in that game, and the Sooners were within one strike of extending the game to the 11th inning when OU closer Ryan Duke tossed a controversial ball four pitch that walked in the winning run.

Never mind, though, the results of the games earlier in the season.

The situation the Sooners find themselves in is definitely not an everyday one in postseason college baseball.

"That is very rare when you are in a regional and you've played all three of your opponents," Golloway said.

It could be a major advantage for the Sooners.

"You know, I mean, we have a good idea about their tendencies, the hitters that they have," said senior catcher J.T. Wise. "And, you know, [it's] just like we understand them. It's better than going in not having any idea [where] basically you just have to go off of notes. You know, it's a lot better that we have played everybody that we're about to play this weekend."

But in a way, it could also benefit the other teams from knowing their opponent in OU. "I would say it's an equal advantage knowing the other teams as well as they'll know us just because [they've played us too]," said junior center fielder Jamie Johnson. "That's what me and some of the guys, when we were talking about it this morning, we were talking that, you know, it's kind of good knowing what the other teams are going to bring to the table." Wise also agreed it could help all the teams in the regional.

"I mean, it's an advantage for I mean all four teams [that] they all know each other," Wise said.


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