In an effort to get you as fired up as possible for WSU's return to the NCAA baseball tournament, here is the second of our three capsule previews of WSU's potential opponents at the regional this weekend at Oklahoma. We'll culminate Thursday night with the Cougs' opening opponent, Arkansas.
If you're unfamiliar with any of the statistics we reference -- you'll remember from basketball season how much we hate raw statistics and love rate statistics -- just click on the link for an explanation. You can find all the stats we're referencing here.
Record: 41-18 (17-10 Big XII)
Coach: Sunny Golloway (5th Season, 127-78-1*)
How they got here: At-large bid from the Big XII conference. Oklahoma is ranked #10 in the current ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.
NCAA Tournament history: Two National Championships (1951, 1994). This is their second straight NCAA tournament appearance, and 32nd overall. They have 22 regular season conference titles. So yeah, they've been there.
The season in a nutshell: The Sooners roared out to a 5-1 start, before becoming the first traditional baseball power stupid enough to travel to Pullman in February. There, they split with the good guys, two games apiece. They'll have the weather on their side this time around.
The split in the Palouse must've motivated OU, as they won their next ten, including a three game sweep of UCLA. Then the Sooners just kept on winning, with an occasional loss here and there. The team was 29-8 heading into a three game series against eventual number one NCAA tournament seed Texas. They were swept in Austin.
OU recovered and finished strong, 11-5 down the stretch, including an 8-1 win over fellow regional opponent Wichita State. Promise of a Big XII tournament championship eroded quickly as the Sooners dropped two of three close games to Texas A&M and Missouri.
Standing in the batter's box, you don't want to face ... Ryan Duke. Yes, I know ERA is a flawed stat, but just humor me for a second here. Duke's 2.78 ERA in 24 appearances for the Sooners is pretty impressive, considering his aluminum-bat wielding opposition. If you prefer more advanced stats, his 4.52 FIP (fielding-independent pitching) is one of the best on the team. His 29.2 strikeout percentage is equally imposing. WSU has to hope the game doesn't get into his hands in the ninth. Duke has 15 saves on the year and holds opponents to a .197 batting average. He also boasts a nearly 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Not a bad hurler at all.
Looking down from the hill, don't give anything to hit to ... J.T. Wise. The 2009 Big XII Player of the Year, Wise posted a dominating 1.131 OPS. His 17 homers and .374 average led the Sooners. His .329 ISO blows away most of his teammates. He's also a catcher, a position that normally finds itself an offensive liability.
The Sooners could win the regional if ... The pitching staff comes through. The best batting team in the Big XII, Oklahoma is only mediocre in the conference rankings when it comes to pitching. OU has to shine on its biggest stage yet after a disappointing Big XII tourney appearance.
Incredibly, OU has only played seven games this season against Top 25 teams, and went 3-4 in those games. As highly ranked as they are going into the tournament, one has to wonder if they are truly battle tested.
The Sooners will be 0-2-barbecue if ... The offense flames out and the Sooners are forced to play some pitchers' duels. Not likely, but possible. The 2-2 record this season against WSU bodes well for the Cougars' chances. However, OU will still be able to put its best pitchers on the mound early in the regional, and can easily overpower anyone in the bracket. The Sooners are a good defensive team as well, playing with the added element of home-field advantage. It will be hard to bet against the Sooners in this regional.
* there are ties in baseball?