One game can mean a lot to a season in college athletics.
Just up the street from L. Dale Mitchell a loss on the gridiron brings with it a gut punch to team's shot at a national title. As Lon Kruger's club learned Thursday a loss this time of the season in college hoops means you're sitting at home before the 'Electric Slide' portion of the Big Dance.
College baseball is one of a kind in this regard.
"Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you get your butt handed to ya," said Oklahoma head coach Pete Hughes.
Wednesday night he saw the third- and worst- option unfold as Arkansas Little Rock snapped Oklahoma's five game winning streak, scoring 11 runs on 13 hits en route to an 11-2 victory.
"That's what happened tonight," Hughes said. "We're going to let this thing sink in. We're going to figure out what we did wrong. We're going to work on our mistakes and get fired up for Kansas State."
A little less than 48 hours removed from the program's most lopsided home loss in three years, Oklahoma (16-6) returns to the yard this evening in hopes of righting those wrongs. Conference season is here. And with it comes one of the hottest teams in the country.
Picked as the favorite to defend its regular season Big 12 title from a season ago Kansas State (13-7) heads to Norman winners of 12-straight after a lowly 1-7 start.
The turnaround comes thanks in a large part to doing what Brad Hill's squads have done best. En route to a regular season title last season Hill's squad lead the conference in eight offensive categories, while boasting the No. 2 team batting average in the country (.322).
During its current win streak those characteristics at the plate have returned.
Hitting .359 over its last 12 games, Kansas State has averaged 12 hits and 10 runs a game. An on-base percentage of .458 has also been aided by 60 walks and 26 hit by pitches.
Thus leaving little room for error for Sooner pitching who have collectively struggled at times this season consistently finding the strikezone. In just 22 games, Oklahoma pitchers have issued 77 walks and hit 22 batters.
In the Sooners midweek loss to Arkansas Little Rock, freshman hurlers Alec Hansen and Octavio Rodriguez combined to walk 5 and plunk two in 4 innings of work.
"You walk that many people and it's just going to give the other team a lot of opportunities to score runs," said Hughes. "These are young guys trying to grow and get better and that's our job trying get them along and minimize those mistakes."
A task that Hughes now faces as Oklahoma enters conference play. Something that will be even new to him.
Thomas makes first career start
Despite the loss on Wednesday night Oklahoma fans got their first good look at freshman outfielder Cody Thomas.
The name- perhaps- more familiar than the other freshman on the Oklahoma roster Thomas made the first start of his career batting No. 8 and playing rightfield going 1-for-3 with a walk.
"I thought he did a good job," said Hughes. "I thought he thought he tried to do a little too much in his first at-bat. When you do that you get long and he got jammed."
While splitting his time between football and baseball during the early part of the season Thomas had seen plate appearances come sparingly (0-for-5, two strikeouts) in the Sooners first 21 games.
After drawing a four pitch walk in his second plate appearance in the botom of the fourth, Thomas delievered his first career hit driving the first pitch of the seventh into rightfield.
"The more and more at-bats he got the more relaxed he got," said Hughes. "He looked comfortable in the box. He looked good out there."
Friday - Corey Copping (2-0 3.63 ERA 17.1 IP 5 BB 10 SO) vs. Levi MaVorhis (3-1 2.70 ERA)
Saturday - Adam Choplick (2-1 3.86 ERA 28.0 IP 6 BB 27 SO) vs. Jared Moore (4-1 3.68 ERA)
Sunday - Jake Elliott (2-2 2.87 ERA 31.1 IP 9 BB 21 SO) vs. TBA