Oklahoma wasn’t too upset when it learned its NCAA tournament regional destination would be in Virginia.
The Blacksburg (Va.) Regional might be against three teams — No. 1 Virginia Tech, No. 3 Coastal Carolina and No. 4 Connecticut — the Sooners have never seen, but the Sooners have had great fortune within the Old Dominion’s borders.
“Right when we found out we were in Virginia, I had no worries,” OU center fielder Max White said. “I like traveling there. It’s a great state and it’s beautiful up there and you usually get good weather. Playing there is going to be fun.”
The Sooners can feel that way because they advanced to the College World Series by winning a Super Regional in Charlottesville, Va,. against Virginia in 2010 and won a regional tournament at the same site last season.
White and shortstop Jack Mayfield, both seniors, and OU coach Sunny Golloway collected some of the biggest wins in the program’s recent history in Virginia.
“Clearly, the Virginia Commonwealth feels like a home away from home for us two of the last three years in the postseason. I think we have that going for us,” Golloway said. “The veterans that we have, Mayfield and White, they’ve gone in there a couple times and had success.
“I realize we’re going to be going against a different ACC school, but it’s still the same proximity as far as travel and how we’ll go about doing things.”
The site has changed. Virginia Tech and Virginia are conference rivals. Outside of the rolling hills and 1,000-mile trip, the similarities end.
Nonetheless, the Sooners will take any positive vibes they can muster. They’ve known for some time the possibility of hosting a regional at L. Dale Mitchell Park had slipped through their fingers.
They’ve long known advancing through the postseason would mean winning road games and that hasn’t been OU’s forte this season.
OU (40-19) has gone 14-13 away from L. Dale Mitchell Park this season. Remove every game played in Oklahoma City or Tulsa — Oral Roberts, Bedlam, Big 12 tournament — and the away-from-home numbers drop to 8-11.
OU’s regional opener against Coastal Carolina (37-21) at English Field will be a neutral site. Still, it will take some major upsets for the regional championship to not require beating the Hokies (38-20) on the their home field.
Can what happened over the last two months — losing road series at Kansas State, West Virginia and Baylor — be washed away?
“No doubt. Like I said before, it’s a new start,” second baseman Hector Lorenzana said. “We have some fans coming out. We know we’ll be away and we have to be stronger mentally, but we’ve gotten stronger as a team.”
Winning the Big 12 tournament for the first time in 16 years has created some much-needed confidence. Lorenzana, however, believes the Sooners had an epiphany before playing four straight days at Bricktown Ballpark.
“We’ll make the decisions about who should be on the mound at particular time and we’ll make the decision about when we should hit-and-run, bunt and steal,” Golloway said. “They have a sense of ownership about them and they’re playing inspired.”