Last year's team ended the regular season the seventh of eight national seeds and one of 16 slots to host a regional round, and coming into the series this year's Sooners (37-14, 12-10 Big 12) had a shot doing almost the same by receiving one of those 16 regional hosts.
Those dreams may have ended after the first game of the series, though, by falling to the Tigers 4-3. OU took an early 1-0 lead, but a three-run sixth inning for Memphis off junior pitcher Zach Neal (7-2, 4.02 ERA) put them up for good.
The Sooners tried mounting a comeback in the final two innings, but fell short. Sophomore shortstop Caleb Bushyhead led off the eighth inning with a home run, his fifth of the year, and sophomore right fielder Cody Reine drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the ninth before the game was closed out when sophomore third baseman Garrett Buechele struck out.
The loss may have put OU on the road during the postseason, head coach Sunny Golloway admitted, so the final two games became must-win games.
Freshman pitcher Jack Mayfield (4-0, 1.29 ERA) pitched like a seasoned veteran rather than a first-year player once again when the team desperately needed a good start and win from him, and the offense supported him in the Sooners' 14-6 Saturday victory.
Mayfield threw a complete game shutout in his first start last Sunday against Oklahoma State, and he entered the seventh inning Saturday without allowing a run. His scoreless streak as a starter ended in the seventh inning when he allowed two runs and was pulled before the inning ended.
Mayfield went 6 2/3 innings, gave up two runs on seven hits and struck out three batters.
OU's offense gave Mayfield a comfortable cushion to work with by plating nine runs before the Tigers got on the scoreboard, and scored five runs in the seventh inning to take a 14-2 lead. The bullpen was shaky and allowed four runs in the ninth inning, but the runs were meaningless as the game was already wrapped up by that point.
Sophomore first baseman Cameron Seitzer, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, took the team lead in home runs by launching his 13th of the season in a game that the Sooners hit three home runs – freshman left fielder Max White and senior catcher Bryan Groth hit the other two homers. The multi-home run game was OU's 22nd on the year.
The Sooners followed the eight-run victory with a 9-2 win in the rubber game to lock up the series and keep alive any chances they have at hosting a regional round.
Junior pitcher Bobby Shore (7-4, 4.34 ERA) got back on track with a solid outing after failing to get out of the third inning in each of his last two starts. He threw six innings and allowed two runs on four hits, and was pulled when OU had a safe 8-2 lead.
Eight Sooners had hits Sunday, which was Senior Day, and two players – sophomore catcher Tyler Ogle and sophomore center fielder Chris Ellison – had two hits. Ogle went 2-for-3 with a solo home run, the team's only homer of the day.
Likely the only way OU can get itself back in considerations for hosting a regional is by winning all of its remaining five games before the Big 12 Tournament. The tricky part about that is the Sooners have to square off with the No. 14 Arkansas Razorbacks (38-14) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
OU lost all three meetings, including two during last year's regional in Norman, against Arkansas. Junior pitcher Michael Rocha will start on the mound Tuesday.
A victory against the Razorbacks could help increase the Sooners' RPI enough to change the selection committee's mind about hosting a regional round, but all of that would be undone if OU can't come back and beat Texas Southern (28-23) on Wednesday night.
The Texas Southern game is the second of two makeup games the Sooners will play this month and will be the their final home game before heading to Lawrence, Kan., for the last Big 12 series.