Big 12 preseason pick Oklahoma stops skid with first league tournament title since 1997

Posted Sunday, May. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
Big 12 All-Tournament team Pitchers: Jonathan Gray, Oklahoma (Most Outstanding Player); Jordan Piche, Kansas; Trevor Seidenberger, TCU; Catcher: Anthony Hermelyn, Oklahoma; First base: Matt Oberste, Oklahoma; Second base: Hector Lorenzana, Oklahoma; Shortstop: Kevin Kuntz, Kansas; Third base: Garrett Carey, Oklahoma; Outfield: Max White, Oklahoma; Jacob Rice, West Virginia; Michael Suiter, Kansas; Designated hitter: Connor McKay, Kansas.

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Oklahoma was the coaches’ preseason pick to win the Big 12 and for more than a month into the season it seemed to be prescient.

The Sooners started 25-4 and 5-0 in the league and ranked No. 11 in Baseball America’s Top 25. But Oklahoma struggled down the stretch, finishing 11-15 overall and 8-11 in league play to limp into the Big 12 tournament as the fourth seed.

The Sooners, however, regained some of that early-season swagger over the last four days at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, culminating with a 7-2 win Sunday over Kansas in front of 5,967 to earn their first Big 12 title since 1997.

Oklahoma (40-19) came out fast, scoring three runs with two outs in the top of the first. Kansas starter Frank Duncan, who was torched by the Sooners for eight runs March 28, was pulled after three innings, but not before Matt Oberste tagged him with a two-run home run in the third. It was Oberste’s 11th homer of the season. He hit a three-run homer against Duncan in that 12-1 OU win in March.

Oberste’s two-run single in the ninth added insurance runs for good measure. Oberste enters NCAA tournament play with a Big 12-best 58 RBIs.

“He made a mistake on a 2-2 pitch, left it up again, and this time I put a good swing on it,” Oberste said of the homer. “I think it gave us some cushion and some momentum and also took the momentum from Kansas, I think.”

Kansas (34-25), playing its first Big 12 championship game since winning it in 2006, needed a win Sunday to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament. Oklahoma had already secured an at-large berth with its regular-season résumé, despite the struggles the last month of the season.

“We led the league for eight of the 10 weeks,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said. “We had a very taxing schedule. It’s not the conference’s fault, it’s just the way the schedule ended for us.”

Golloway said ending the last three weekends on the road at West Virginia, against OSU in Tulsa and Oklahoma City and at Kansas State took a toll on his team.

“We had a 4-0 lead [with Jonathan Gray pitching May 17] and we watched them dog pile,” he said of the K-State’s regular-season, title-clinching win. “That was tough. It was tough for these guys to get off the canvas. But I knew in my heart if you put us at a neutral site I believed ... I believed that the preseason No. 1 fit. I know this team and I kept telling myself we’re going to get a chance to prove that this weekend.”

Key stat

56,859 Total four-day attendance for the Big 12 tournament at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City, despite a delay and format change after a deadly tornado struck in nearby Moore, Okla. The largest total tournament attendance was 150,053 in 2002 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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