OU's opening game vs. Appalachian State has been moved to Saturday at 5 p.m.
By Andrew Gilman | SoonerSports.com
NORMAN, Okla. -- By their own admission, the Sooners have been an up-and-down kind of team this season.
Safe to say, they're up right now.
In the middle of their best stretch of the season, OU has played its way back into the NCAA tournament and now heads to Virginia as one of the hottest teams around.
"We went through some tough times this year," said pitcher Dillon Overton. "But it seems like we're starting to pick it up. There's lots of smiles in the dugout and we're having fun playing baseball. That's what we came out here to do."
Fun because the Sooners finished their season with a sweep of powerful Baylor, winning two of three from tournament-bound Samford, two more wins against Baylor in the Big 12 tournament before finishing runner-up to Missouri.
The strong finish came because the pitching, which was expected to be the strength of the team, has shined.
Overton threw 7 1/3 innings without giving up a run against Oklahoma State in the first round of the Big 12 Championship. Jordan John threw seven innings in a win over Baylor. Jonathan Gray threw into the eighth inning against Baylor and Steven Okert has been outstanding out of the bullpen.
John will pitch game one of the regional - against Appalachian State - Friday. He is 8-6 with a 2.30 ERA.
"Our staff is really hitting its stride right now," John said. "We're confident that if we take care of our stuff we'll find some success."
Hard to argue. The Sooners have limited the opposition to five or fewer runs in 34 of the past 40 games, including three-of-four games in Oklahoma City during the Big 12 tournament.
Overton is 5-3 with a 3.24 ERA and Gray is 8-4 with a 3.47. Meanwhile, Okert has saved four games after being moved to closer.
"We have tremendous confidence right now," Overton said. "We knew the pitching would be our strong point. We just had to get into a rhythm."
Now, the 38-22 Sooners are back on a hot streak they will take into the NCAA tournament. They are the No. 2 seed in the regional. Virginia, a team OU topped in 2010 on its way to the College World Series, is the No. 1 seed. Appalachian State is the No. 3 and Army is No. 4.
"It's a great opportunity," John said. "We've taken a lot of momentum and we're going to continue it and see if we can get back to Omaha. We're coming in with a lot of confidence."
OU will play the Mountaineers at 1 p.m. CT Friday. The game will be on the Sooner Sports Network (KREF 1400 AM or KOKC 1520 AM).
"Going into the regional last year, we weren't playing our best baseball," OU coach Sunny Golloway said. "At this point, we are. I'm excited about our opportunity. And I'm excited about the way we're pitching it. We're going to be able to roll guys out on the mound who give us a chance to win every day."
The result has been wins in 20 of the past 28 games.
"Two years ago we were pitching it really good at the Super Regional in Virginia," Golloway said. "We clearly have three pretty good starters now, and a strong bullpen. I don't think anyone wants to rely on their bats anymore. You have to be able to pitch and play defense. I don't think there's going to be any slugfests."