OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson held on to the possibility his baseball team might somehow reach NCAA regional play.
“If our conference has three top-eight seeds, or three teams hosting, it would be pretty advisable to see five or six teams get in,” he said. “It’s the No. 1 or No. 2 RPI league in the country.”
He just can’t like his chances.
A few minutes before he said those words, Thursday afternoon, the Sooners were eliminated from the Big 12 tournament, falling 4-1 to Texas.
OU joined Baylor, the team it tied for the fifth spot in the conference standings, yet was seeded in front of, as the first two teams bounced out of the conference tourney’s main draw.
Kansas was eliminated on Tuesday by West Virginia, trying to reach the main draw.
In OU’s short stay at Oklahoma City’s Bricktown Ballpark, it played 18 innings and went scoreless in 16 of them.
The Sooners scored five runs in Wednesday’s 9-5 loss to Bedlam rival Oklahoma State, all in the ninth inning after the Cowboys had scored all their runs, and one against their Red River rivals, coming in the second inning.
That run, produced by Conor McKenna’s single to right-center field that plated Peyton Graham, who’d led off the inning with a single to left, briefly tied the game. By the time the frame was complete, however, Texas, the home team, had answered, taking a 2-1 edge that would only get larger.
Wyatt Olds was terrific on the mound for OU, entering with two runners on base, inherited from starter Braden Carmichael, in the third inning. He stranded them and wound up pitching five innings, total, allowing two hits and two runs while striking out 11 and walking two.
He was also the only pitcher to have any success in either of the Sooners’ tourney games.
Prior to Olds arrival against the Longhorns — and not counting the scoreless two-thirds of an inning he pitched Wednesday against OSU — six other Sooner pitchers had combined to walk 14 batters in less than 10 innings.
Five of those free passes came around to score against OSU. Two more of them did the same against Texas.
In the second inning alone on Thursday, Carmichael walked three Longhorns and hit another. Because he left the bases loaded by striking out Zach Zubia, a big Texas inning was averted, but it was still emblematic of the disaster Sooner pitching flirted with throughout the tournament.
OU got five hits against the Longhorns, two of them from Tyler Hardman, who finished the tourney 2 for 8, his season batting average falling to .399, leaving Greg Dobbs as the last Sooner to eclipse .400, way back in 2001.
Hardman didn’t think OU failed to produce good turns at the plate.
“We still put quite a few good at bats together,” he said. “There were plenty of times we’d have a runner on and somebody would line out … they just wouldn’t fall.”
The loss dropped OU to 27-28. The Sooners went 11-13 in Big 12 Conference play, 1-3 against conference foes in non-conference games and, with an outside shot at reaching the NCAA draw, 0-2 at the conference tourney.
“We finished fifth place in our league. We beat some good baseball teams,” Johnson said. “We played pretty good baseball today. Yesterday, we didn’t play as good.
“We were kind of getting a little bit better as we went through it. In a regional setting, we have a chance, I think, to hit somebody in the mouth.”
OU’s not been officially left out yet, but losing twice in Bricktown was not part of the recipe to get there.