Oklahoma baseball: Young Sooners getting attention of college baseball world

Jun 19, 2022; Omaha, NE, USA; Oklahoma Sooners center fielder Tanner Tredaway (10) celebrates with second baseman Jackson Nicklaus (15) after making a diving catch in the eighth inning against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Charles Schwab Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2022; Omaha, NE, USA; Oklahoma Sooners center fielder Tanner Tredaway (10) celebrates with second baseman Jackson Nicklaus (15) after making a diving catch in the eighth inning against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Charles Schwab Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

Skip Johnson’s 2022 Oklahoma baseball team wasn’t good enough to get one of the 16 national seeds entering postseason play, but they now stand one win away from playing for the national championship.

In fact, at the midpoint of the season, it didn’t appear the Sooners would even make it into NCAA postseason play. On April 10, after losing two out of three games in a weekend series at in-state rival Oklahoma State, Oklahoma’s overall record stood at 18-12 and 4-5 in the Big 12 standings.

That’s hardly a resume of a team that makes it into the Men’s College World Series, let alone the postseason. No one really expected much more out of this Oklahoma team, whose lineup features just one senior and seven players who are freshman (3) and sophomores (4).

The Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll projected this group of Sooners to finish sixth in the conference. Interestingly, Texas, the Big 12 preseason favorite, did make it to the MCWS this season, but was eliminated in two games. OU was 2-2 against Texas this season and defeated the Longhorns in the Big 12 Championship.

Since that April series against Oklahoma State, however, the Sooners have turned it up not one but a couple of notches, winning 26 of their last 36 games and going a sensational 11 of 13 in postseason play, including a perfect 2-0 as an unseeded team in the College World Series.

No one following the Oklahoma baseball team, be it the media or even the fans, thought the Sooners had it in them. That was never, however, what the OU players believed.

"“Only we believed,” redshirt-sophomore outfielder Kendall Pettis told reporters after the Super Regional win over Virginia Tech. “I feel like a lot of people outside of OU didn’t really believe that we could do this.“But the whole time, no matter if it was the fall or the spring, we always knew that we had a chance,” he said."

And now the Sooners find themselves on the biggest stage in Division I college softball and just a step away from playing for what would be their third national championship and first since 1994.

Oklahoma is not there yet, but this bunch of championship hungry Sooners can start to smell the proverbial roses at the finish line.

They still have to beat either Texas A&M or Notre Dame a second time in the semifinals on Wednesday. Those two teams meet in an elimination game on Tuesday, with the winner moving on to face Oklahoma. Whoever makes it out of Tuesday’s elimination game will have to beat the Sooners twice to advance to the championship series.

Oklahoma has some history on its side in this exciting second-half national championship run. This is the third time the Sooners have won their opening two game in the CWS. Both of the other times, they went on to win the national championship (1951 and 1994).

The Sooners are manufacturing runs in multiple ways in the 2022 MCWS, and they are getting strong starting pitching to complement their productive offense.

"“That’s our identity, to try to create as much chaos as we can on the offensive side,” OU head coach Johnson said in his postgame comments after the Notre Dame win. “And our pitching has gotten a little bit better every time we went out.“I think our offense has really helped our pitching,” he said. “It’s kind of helped those guys just continue to attack.”"

OU is 23 of 69 at the plate in its two World Series wins for a .333 team batting average. The Sooners have scored 19 runs on 23 hits in their two wins, and their doing it largely with timely situational hitting and patience at the plate. Oklahoma drew six free passes in Sunday’s 6-2 win over Notre Dame and stole three bases.

Peyton Graham and Tanner Tredaway, who have been hitting second and fourth in the Sooner lineup, have wielded the hottest bats for OU so far in the MCWS. Graham is 5 for 8 at the plate with a couple of runs scored, and Tredaway has been the hardest Sooner to get out. The lone senior in the starting lineup has six hits in 10 official plate appearances, with three RBI and four runs scored.

Both OU starters in this MCWS, Jake Bennett and Cade Horton, have gone at least five innings in the Sooners’ two wins. Trevin Michael has closed out both wins, going two-plus innings in both.

Here are some fun facts to get fans ready for the Sooners Wednesday’s MCWS semifinal showdown:

  • This is Oklahoma’s 11th trip to the Men’s College World Series and first since 2010. OU is 17-16 all-time in the MCWS.
  • Sooner starting pitcher Cade Horton struck out a career-high 11 batters in the MCWS win over Notre Dame on Sunday. The freshman right-hander now has 27 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings in the 2022 NCAA postseason.
  • Sunday’s 6-2 win over Notre Dame saw several on-base streaks extended for Oklahoma players: Jimmy Crooks (23), John Spikerman (20), Tanner Tredaway (16) and Peyton Graham (16).
  • Peyton Graham had four hits and two stolen bases against Notre Dame. He is the first player to do that in a College World Series game since Barry Bonds did so for Arizona State in 1984,
  • Tanner Tredaway has a current 16-game hitting streak. During the streak he has collected 35 hits in 68 at-bats for a .515 average.
  • Oklahoma hitters have walked 368 times this season, fourth most nationally.
  • The Sooners are 27-6 this season when they score first.
  • Oklahoma is attempting to become the first school to win both the Women’s College World Series and the Men’s College World Series in the same year.