Bedlam baseball, like every other matchup between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, is a unique experience every year. Playing one game in Tulsa at ONEOK Field and two in Oklahoma City at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark gives more fans the opportunity to catch the games, intensifying an already emotional affair.
This year, there’s much more on the line than bragging rights. Both the Sooners and Cowboys are looking to move closer to NCAA tournament berths and at this point, the two teams are neck-and-neck in both the national rankings and RPI.
Not many people thought the Cowboys would be in this position at the beginning of the season, but here they are, riding a wave of momentum into the most meaningful series of the season thus far.
Across the diamond, the Sooners are reeling, trying to recover from a subpar past few weeks. A series against an archrival should be motivation enough to help the Sooners get back on track. If that doesn’t help the Sooners pick their play up, then there are some pretty significant issues going on in Norman.
The Sooners are currently No. 45 in the RPI despite being ranked at least as high as No. 18 in every major poll. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are right behind OU at No. 46 in the RPI and are ranked No. 19 in two polls and unranked in the other two.
There are only six teams out of the 110 total ranked teams in the four major polls that have a lower RPI than the Sooners and Cowboys. That’s pretty scary stuff for both teams’ NCAA tournament hopes.
The Cowboys are looking for their first NCAA tournament berth since 2011, while OU is looking to run its streak of consecutive tournament berths to six years.
Oklahoma is in a precarious position, having lost two of its past three conference series and its last three midweek games. Coincidentally, all this has happened since OU took two of three from Texas, winning a series against the Longhorns for the first time since 1998. Since that time, OU is just 7-8 and has fallen squarely on to the NCAA bubble, thanks to a mediocre performance in a weaker-than-usual Big 12 conference.
The Sooners were picked to win the Big 12 conference before the season and up until the Texas series had done nothing to cause doubt to creep into the minds of those who showed confidence in them at the beginning of the year.
The Cowboys are in rebuilding mode this year with Josh Holliday in his first season as skipper in Stillwater. Holliday took a page from Bill Snyder at Kansas State and how Snyder built the KSU football program from the ground up this season, scheduling plenty of smaller, less intimidating schools such as Iona and UC Davis to build confidence and enhance fundamentals.
All of those games were played in Stillwater as well. After a season-opening trip to New Mexico, the Cowboys played 24 straight games in Stillwater, from Feb. 19 until March. 30. OSU finally left town for its first Big 12 road series at Kansas April 5. The strategy paid off, as OSU has been ranked most of the season and has grabbed some impressive series wins of late, including taking two of three from Kansas State, which is tied for first place in the league.
Needless to say, this weekend poses a huge opportunity for both teams. Oklahoma needs this series to boost its RPI, regain control of the Big 12 and move off the NCAA tournament bubble a bit. The Cowboys need the series to also boost its RPI and give them another impressive set of victories over a quality opponent.
The Sooners and Cowboys aren’t finished with the season after this series. Both teams have another opportunity to enhance their resumes next weekend when the Cowboys take on West Virginia and Oklahoma takes on Kansas State in Manhattan. The Sooners’ opportunity is particularly good since Kansas State is currently ranked No. 24 in the RPI.
Bedlam always brings out a lot of emotions in both Sooners and Cowboys but this year, you can add desperation to that list.