I’m not going to lie, I’m a little surprised by Oklahoma’s inclusion in this year’s NCAA Tournament as was Kansas State head coach Pete Hughes who felt his Wildcats were snubbed in favor of the Sooners. And I can’t say I blame him. Despite an RPI of 40, the Sooners were 11-13 in conference and lost five out of eight weekend series. Not only that, Oklahoma was swept by K-State in their head to head weekend. But alas, the Sooners are in Charlottesville and will face off against East Carolina Friday night
Leading the Sooners on the mound is All-Big 12 First Team selection Braden Carmichael. Carmichael went 7-0 on the year with a 3.15 ERA. While not a big strikeout guy (none of the Sooners pitchers are), Carmichael is effective at getting outs while also not giving up a lot of walks (13 in 74.1 innings pitched). He spent most of the season as the Saturday starter, but looks to open the regional against the Pirates. Braxton Douthit was the regular Friday starter but struggled down the stretch while compiling a record of 4-6 with a 5.89 ERA. Batters only hit .236 off him, but 53 walks in 70 innings pitched wasn’t getting it done for an “ace.” James Hitt picked up most of the Sunday starts, but was the frontline guy to open the Big 12 Tournament. He earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention while going 6-1 with a 4.50 ERA. The key to the Sooner staff however may be Carter Campbell. He appeared in 57.2 innings over 32 appearances with only one of those being a start. He pitched chunks of middle relief and was able to close out games over multiple innings. He went 6-4 with a 4.84 ERA and, much like Carmicheal, didn’t surrender many walks giving up just 14 free passes. He’s the type of guy who can come in after a starter struggles or provide the Sooners a solid arm to preserve a lead.
At the plate, the Sooners are a middle of the pack offense who doesn’t generate a lot of power. They only hit 44 home runs as a team with Bryce Madron leading the team with 11 and was the only Sooner reaching double digits. Madron batted .308 with a 1.024 OPS helped by his 59 walks drawn. He was named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention along with Kendall Pettis, Dakota Harris, Anthony MacKenzi, and John Spikerman. Pettis, Harris, and MacKenzi all batted over .300, but where this team excels is getting on base and making things happen once they’re there. The team swiped 109 bases (Virginia had 72) with five guys stealing at least nine bags and Spikerman and MacKenzie stealing 24 and 21 bases respectively. They’re not likely to outslug anyone in this regional, but can certainly wear down their opponents and make for a long day for the defense.
Oklahoma has a rich baseball history making their 40th NCAA Tournament appearance and having gone to the College World Series 11 times and winning the whole thing in 1951 and 1994. They’re just a year removed from a trip to Omaha where they lost to Ole Miss in the College World Series Final. They’ve also had success in Charlottesville winning the 2010 Super Regional two games to one over Virginia (Cody Reine just homered again) and prevailing in the 2012 Charlottesville Regional eliminating the home team by the score of 5-4 before having to beat Appalachian State twice to move onto the Super Regionals.
East Carolina and Oklahoma meet Friday night at 7 p.m. in a game televised by ESPN2. The winner moves on to face the winner of UVA and Army while the loser is forced to battle.