With Big 12 and Gonzaga University rumors flowing freely, the Bulldogs baseball team (18-27, 14-10 WCC) will get a chance to take on Big 12 competition Sooner rather than later.
The Oklahoma Sooners will pay a visit to Hertz Field for a three-game weekend series. GU has not hosted a three-game series against a power-conference foe within the last decade.
The Sooners are a formidable adversary, despite what their 26-22 record might indicate. They reached the NCAA College World Series last year before losing in the championship series against Ole Miss, 2-0.
A year ago, this matchup may have had more intrigue, with both teams on course to make the playoffs. Though each side is diminshed from last season, both teams have what it takes to make a fascinating series.
For the Zags, this is a chance to make a statement as a tough season begins to come to a close. The Zags are 3-14 against power conference foes this season and desperately need momentum as the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas nears.
Fortunately, the Bulldogs might have pushed themselves in the right direction on Sunday with a 3-0 win over conference rival Saint Mary’s. Junior Jacob Rutherford pitched a complete game and freshman Sam Stem notched a trio of RBIs in a win that was sorely needed.
Saint Mary’s had won the previous two games of the series, with the Zags losing to Washington State in the midweek game.
While winning a series against the Sooners would not push GU into at-large consideration for the playoffs, it would signify that the Bulldogs are playing some of their best baseball at the time of year when it matters the most.
For the Sooners, this is a vital series for them to win. Sandwiched between a 1-2 series loss against nationally ranked West Virginia and Texas-San Antonio, these three games represent a chance for the Sooners to right the ship and avoid more losses.
Oklahoma already boasts a number of damaging losses on their resume. They have lost to Cal Baptist, Abilene Christian, Rider and Wichita State, all of which are games that the Sooners probably should have won.
Combined with a tough run through conference play that has made momentum hard to come by, these losses have made for a forgettable season for the Sooners.
One thing that is undeniable is that the Sooners leave it all out on the field every game, reflecting head coach Skip Johnson’s attitude.
"Do I want to win a national championship?" Johnson said to The Oklahoman. "There ain't no doubt. That burns a hole in my soul every time I go out to practice. I'm focused on doing that."
Though the Sooners have the ability to knock the ball out of the park (43 homers this year), they thrive by putting the ball in play and drawing walks (278).
They are led by a quartet of players batting over .300, led by junior Kendall Pettis. Zags’ pitchers have had a tough time preventing other teams from scoring, with Rutherford’s 4.10 ERA leading the club.
One thing that Oklahoma does not do well is prevent the long ball themselves. Sooner pitchers give up about 1.2 home runs per game. Look for Zags batting leader Brian Kalmer and sophomore slugger Cade McGee to take advantage of this throughout the series.
After the Oklahoma series, the Zags will head down to Santa Clara for their regular season finale.
Both the Friday and Saturday games will begin at 6 p.m. PST, with the first pitch on Sunday coming at 3 p.m. The Saturday game will be broadcast on SWX for local audiences.