Second Place Is On The Line This Weekend

It's that point of the season where series become must-win situations, and the No. 15 baseball team's series with the No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats this weekend in Norman is one of those series.

The Sooners (30-11, 8-8 Big 12) and Wildcats (29-10, 9-5 Big 12) have their eyes set on second place in the conference, and this series, starting at 6:30 tonight, would give the victor the upper hand in reaching that goal.

Neither team has a shot at winning the Big 12 because the Texas Longhorns are so far ahead of everyone else in the standings with their 16-2 conference record that they can comfortably coast to the conference title, both during the regular season and the Big 12 Tournament in late May in Oklahoma City, Okla. Texas is in the midst of a 17-game winning streak that started on April 1 when it won game one of a three-game sweep against the Sooners in Norman.

So, second place is the prize to be won for every other Big 12 team.

The Wildcats currently hold that position, with the Texas Tech Red Raiders (24-21, 10-8 Big 12) following in third and OU in fourth.

Both the Sooners and Wildcats have dropped two of three games against Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, so this weekend's series is the last head-to-head matchup between the three teams to help determine conference standings.

The only way the Sooners can overtake both the Wildcats and the Red Raiders for second place in the Big 12 is if OU sweeps this weekend's series and Texas Tech wins just two of its three games against Missouri at home. If that scenario plays out, the Sooners will have a .579 winning percentage and the Red Raiders would have a .571 winning percentage.

But "ifs" don't help teams get victories and put them in favorable positioning in the standings.

The Sooners are going to try to turn those ifs into realities by going back with the original three weekend starting pitchers, juniors Zach Neal and Bobby Shore and senior J.R. Robinson, which started the first series of the season against San Diego State.

Neal (5-1, 4.05 ERA) and Shore (6-2, 3.25 ERA) will go back to their Friday and Saturday pitcher roles after throwing on Saturday and Sunday last weekend, and Robinson (1-3, 5.08 ERA) will start the series finale Sunday.

Junior second baseman Danny Black has been on a tear during the past five games, and he will be instrumental in producing runs for OU. He has hit .364 with three home runs and 15 RBIs this past week, and all of this came while he was hitting at the tail end of the batting order.

If Black can continue to both drive in runs while hitting in either the seventh or eighth spot in the order and continue innings to allow the top of the order and power hitters to have opportunities to drive in runs, then things should go well for the Sooners against Kansas State.

The final two games of the series will be at 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. All three games can be seen on the Sooner Sports Network on Cox Channel 3 (Oklahoma City and Tulsa) and can be heard on KREF 1400 AM.

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