CHARLOTTES-VILLE, Va. — Oklahoma dug into its video archives earlier this week. For those that weren’t around in 2010, Sooners coach Sunny Golloway wanted them to see what happened the last time he took a club to Virginia’s Davenport Field.
They watched some at-bats, and a couple plays in the field. Above all else, they watched the dog pile after OU clinched the Super Regional to advance to the College World Series for the first time in 15 years.
“The guys have clearly seen what the field is like and how we’ve played there,” Golloway said. “We might want to roll that tape a little more.”
It was a special moment for the Sooners’ baseball program. That 2010 team possessed something that can’t be conjured up on a whim.
It did what teams that advance in June routinely do — it heated up at the perfect time.
“In 2010, that’s what happened,” said senior shortstop Caleb Bushyhead, who has been a three-year starter. “We caught some breaks, and guys were peaking at the right time.”
When a team manages to do it, the sum becomes greater than its parts and special things happen.
The Sooners (38-22) hope they re-ignite when the face Appalachian State (39-16) today in the second game of the Charlottesville Regional and stay that way throughout June.
That’s the dream, at least. The reality is much different.
“You can’t sit there and plan it. No one knows when they’re gonna get hot. There’s nothing that can be taught; it just happens,” OU rightfielder Cody Reine said. “Things have to click, you have to lucky, and you have to get some breaks to go your way. That’s what happened two years ago.
“I feel like we’re starting to play that way again.”
Reine knows all too well. He had two of the best games of his college career (11 RBIS and four home runs) in the 2010 NCAA Super Regional series at Virginia. He admits he still doesn’t know why or how it happened.
It’s far from a science. If there was a tried-and-true formula, someone would have put it in a book years ago, and it would never go out of print.
The Sooners believe they’re rounding into that form. OU won its final three regular-season series and went 3-1 in the Big 12 tournament. It’s been a while since any team has beaten them twice in a three-day span. During that run, OU has beaten Big 12 regular-season champion and NCAA Tournament national seed Baylor five times. It beat an All-American pitcher in Oklahoma State’s Andrew Heaney.
“I don’t know how it all works, and I don’t think anyone else does,” OU centerfielder Max White said. “Peaking at the right time gets you through the postseason; it’s a grind. We feel the way we played in the Big 12 tournament with Baylor and Oklahoma State — going up against Heaney. We feel we’re prepared for what’s coming.”
Every team in the field “feels” that way. But few really hit their stride. The Sooners have players who know what it feels like when all the pistons are firing at the right time.
So does top-seeded Virginia (38-17-1). The Cavaliers, who face fourth-seeded Army (41-13) have been to the College World Series two of the last three years. The only reason they’re not going for their fourth straight trip the NCAA Tournament is that they ran into a very hot Sooner team in 2010.
“This time of year is all about peaking at the right time and having a few breaks go your way and having luck on your side. It’s how you make your run,” Bushyhead said. “It’s do or die for all 64 teams.”
The hot teams win and advance. The rest go home.
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