Leading 3-1 in the top of the third inning, the Oklahoma Sooners were looking for something to put the Big 12 championship game in the bag early for them. A two-run home run by first baseman Matt Oberste did just that, giving the Sooners the cushion they needed as they won the 2013 Big 12 tournament title over the Kansas Jayhawks by a score of 7-2.
“[The home run] gave us some cushion and some momentum at the same time,” said Oberste. “It also took the momentum from Kansas I think.”
Sunday’s win over the Jayhawks completed a four-game sweep through the conference tournament for the Sooners. They beat the Baylor Bears, Texas Tech Red Raiders and K-State Wildcats to advance out of pool play.
“Just playing good baseball right now,” said Oklahoma head coach Sunny Golloway.
The Sooners wasted no time building a lead, as they hung three runs in the first inning off of RBI singles by second baseman Hector Lorenzana and catcher Anthony Hermelyn plus a wild pitch that Oberste scored on.
“One of the keys for us to be successful is to not get down 5-1,” said Kansas head coach Ritch Price. “If we get that far behind, it’s going to be hard for us to come back from that many down.”
However, the Jayhawks scored a run off a sacrifice fly by left fielder Michael Suiter in the bottom of the first inning to pull within two runs and kill some of the early momentum built by the Sooners.
“I always though we were still in it,” said Suiter. “Even when we were down five. Our energy in the dugout was still good.”
That two-run blast by Oberste, plus two insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning by the Sooners off a single by Oberste locked up the Big 12 tournament title and an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
Oberste finished the day with four RBI and two runs scored while going 2-for-4 at the plate.
“The guys in front of me and behind me, you know they did a good job of getting on and protecting me,” Oberste said. “[Craig] Aikin and Jack [Mayfield] did a good job of getting on base for me to get the situation to get those guys in.”
The Sooners, who ended the season on a bit of a slide that was capped by a 2-1 series loss to the Wildcats, performed extremely well in front of a crowd that was dealing with tragedy. The Sooners play in Norman, Okla., just a few miles south of Moore, where a tornado devastated the community last Monday.
“Watching a lot of what’s been going on in Moore,” said Golloway. “It’s been more than inspiring and inspirational. I think it’s made us realize that we probably put too much concern and emphasis on some of the bad breaks that we’ve got.”
With Sunday’s win, the Sooners now have an outside chance to possibly host a regional in the NCAA tournament, a privilege earned by the top 16 teams of the 64-team field.
But for now, as Oklahoma prepares for the postseason, they can enjoy winning the conference tournament after falling short in the championship game last year against the Missouri Tigers.
“After four years of playing in this great conference and coming up short last year,” said Sooners center fielder Max White, who scored two runs on Sunday. “This is a very rewarding and humbling experience.”
*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.