Oklahoma still has work left polishing NCAA resume

Oklahoma sophomore pitcher Levi Prater, a former Byng High School All-Stater, has a 2.17 earned-run average entering today’s battle with Baylor, scheduled for 4 p.m. at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

NORMAN — Oklahoma enters the first week of the postseason with positive vibes after claiming its series in convincing fashion at Texas.

But there’s work remaining.

As of May 15, the Sooners were still projected to narrowly miss an NCAA regional, according to Baseball America. The website lists OU (33-21) among the first five teams out, based on its 4-11 record against top-50 teams.

That could always change. The Sooners, who are up one spot to No. 39 in the NCAA RPI, can improve with a win over Baylor to open the Big 12 tournament.

OU earned the No. 7 seed and faces the No. 2-seeded Bears at 4 p.m. today in Oklahoma City. Baylor and Oklahoma State — No. 26 and No. 8, respectively, in the NCAA RPI — provide the Sooners two chances to improve their top-50 record.

TCU is the other potential second-round opponent, but beating the Horned Frogs (No. 75 in the RPI) wouldn’t carry as much weight. And Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State all won two of three games against OU earlier this season.

The Sooners will have to redeem themselves.

Baylor (33-15) came back with wins of 7-3 and 3-2 (12 innings) after a 7-5 loss to the Sooners in the series opener. The Bears won two meetings in last year’s conference tournament by a combined score of 14-3, the second one coming in the semifinals.

OU could take the decision out of the NCAA committee’s hands by winning the Big 12 championship. That’s only happened twice (1997 and 2013). The Sooners are 38-37 all-time in the tournament.

Leaders

Tyler Hardman (.308 average, .460 slugging) still leads OU’s offense. But Brylie Ware’s 8-for-13, 3-RBI week — he hit two home runs — upped his average to the .300 mark for the first time in a while.

Levi Prater (7-4) — a graduate of Byng High School — has been the Sooners’ most electric pitcher. His 2.17 earned-run average and 97 strikeouts lead a pitching staff ranked 28th nationally in ERA.

In the polls

OU’s No. 39 in the latest NCAA RPI.

Question

moving forward

Can the offensive improvements continue?

The Sooners feel good about where their pitching staff is, with plenty of depth to navigate tourney play. But last week’s 13-0 win over Texas — the most lopsided victory in the teams’ Red River Rivalry series — was a big development too.

Until then, OU hadn’t scored double-digit runs in a game since April 9. Run support will come in handy against Baylor, or if the Sooners happen to face Oklahoma State’s heavy-hitting lineup in the second round.

Up next

OU plays Baylor at 4 p.m. today at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. (TV: Fox College Sports)