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May 10, 2013

Sooners looking to end skid, Overton returns

In football it's a match-up at the Cotton Bowl.

In baseball it's a pair of neutral sites in Tulsa and Oklahoma City that offer a setting that can only be described by those that have attended Bedlam baseball.

"They always say you can throw out the records. You can throw out the rankings, you can throw everything out when it comes to Bedlam," said Oklahoma head coach Sunny Golloway.

"And it's real simple. It's played at a neutral site. Someone is going to get a base hit in the first inning and the place is going to go crazy like someone hit a grand slam in the ninth and that's just the way it is."

A battle between emotion and reality that Golloway is well aware of as his club enters this weekend's 2013 edition. But also one they will need to manage from the get go with the winner of game one having gone on to win the past seven series.

"Everybody is ready for one thing to happen and when it does happen the place goes crazy. You've got to be able to differentiate the difference from what's actually happening on the field and the actual involvement the fans give."

"We're not going to allow that to happen on our side of things."

Which has been easier said than done with the Sooners posting only two series wins in the last seven years. Leaving Golloway and his club in what he calls a precarious situation and in a three way tie atop the conference standings with just two weeks left in the season.

"We are tied for first so we've got to win now but we've also got to be smart and not over do it with our guys so that they'll be strong in the postseason, too," Golloway said.

One luxury for Oklahoma (32-14, 11-7) is the fact that they enter Friday night's opener at Driller Stadium at full strength with the return of All-American ace Dillon Overton to the weekend rotation and a serviceable freshmen outfielder in Hunter Haley who's ankle continues to heal after missing the past two weekends.

Both important pieces to a line up that was forced to shuffle Justin Burba and Colt Bickerstaff in rightfield while Max White took over for the ailing Haley in left.

An equation that left Golloway hoping would workout nearly a month ago when he hinted they needed bats off the bench to start producing more at the plate. But one- unfortunately- that never came to fruition.

"We were 0-for-15 in that right field position in West Virginia and we left 30-something runners on base. That would have made a difference there's no doubt."

"If not for a couple of breaks we probably do a lot better at West Virginia. Two defensive plays and if we make just one of them we win two out of three but that's baseball and I understand," said Golloway.

"It's a game of inches and proves to be true late in the year."

What's uncharacteristic has been the game of inches that has played out up and down the Big 12 standings. Oklahoma State (34-12, 9-8) heads into the weekend sitting in No. 6 place but only a game out of first place while garnering the best overall record in the league.

Not to mention the fact both squads enter this weekend's series ranked right next to each other in this week's RPI with OU checking in at No. 44 followed by the Cowboys at No. 45.

Leaving an even bigger importance on this weekend's Bedlam series with not only conference standing implications on the line but also possible NCAA Tournament berths.

"We kind of just say it's not about this year. It's about the tradition at Oklahoma. Every year it's a big series for everyone," said senior shortstop Jack Mayfield.

"We lost it last year so we're trying to come back with a little revenge."

Overton returns to rotation

For the past two weekends he hasn't been himself.

Doing his best to support teammates from the dugout Dillon Overton couldn't help but feel 'useless'. An unlikely position for the junior starting pitcher while missing his last two starts with a muscle strain in his left elbow.

"It's been a tough two weeks not being able to get out there and help my team out. I've felt useless but I think it's going to be good this weekend," said Overton, who will likely be taken in the first or second round of next month's Major League Baseball draft.

"This could be my last season here and I wanted to go against Bedlam no matter what. I'm an in-state guy and it's a big series."

An ulterior motive that drives Overton could perhaps be the fact that Oklahoma State has- surprisingly- been a thorn in the Weatherford (Okla.) native side. Taking a pair of no-decisions in two career regular season starts versus the Cowboys allowing 16 hits over 6.2 innings.

"We've taken all the precautions the right way these last two weeks. I've worked out my legs very hard and done all of the rehab our trainer has been telling me to do so I think it'll be a good outcome."

Patience will now be advised for Overton who waits until Sunday to get that opportunity.

Schedule:

Friday, May 10 OneOK Field (Tulsa)

Jake Fisher (1-2 1.91 ERA 33 K) vs. Jason Hursh (4-4 2.63 ERA)

Saturday, May 11 Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (OKC)

Jonathan Gray (8-1 1.20 ERA 104 K) vs. TBA

Sunday, May 12 Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (OKC)

Dillon Overton (8-2 2.52 ERA 66 K) vs. TBA


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