A day before Oklahoma faced off against Texas A&M in the Men’s College World Series semifinal Wednesday, the Sooners coaching staff had an idea.

They took the team to nearby Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska, where the MCWS was held from 1950 to 2010. It’s the stadium where the Sooners won the program’s two national championships in 1951 and 1994.

Why was the trip to the most historic site in college baseball so important for OU coach Skip Johnson’s team?

“I explained to them before they got off the bus that this is what college baseball is about,” Johnson said. 

24 hours later, the Sooners celebrated a 5-1 win over Texas A&M in the MCWS semifinal to secure a berth in the championship series. They’re just two wins away from the program’s first national championship in nearly 30 years.

The win is the latest in a remarkable run for the Sooners. Since the end of the regular season, the Sooners have won 12 of 14 games — all on the road. They’ve outscored opponents 104 to 59 over that stretch.

They’ve had key contributions from different facets of their lineup. But they’ve gotten this far, in part, by embodying what college baseball is all about.

They’re playing like a team of destiny.

The expectations were low coming into this season. The Sooners lost their only two games in the Big 12 Tournament last season, finishing the year with a 27-28 record and missing the NCAA Tournament. Heading into this year, the Sooners finished sixth in the annual conference preseason poll.

Not even the most optimistic of OU fans likely saw a run like this coming. But what fans and experts couldn’t have accounted for was a vast improvement in the Sooners’ team culture.

During the Sooners’ media day before the season, Johnson didn’t focus on the low expectations and didn’t highlight any pressure his team faced. Instead, he emphasized the importance of rebuilding the team’s culture.

It worked. Multiple players have spoken about how close the team is this year compared to last season. OU redshirt senior Tanner Tredaway told ESPN heading into Wednesday's game that this was the closest the team has been during his Sooner tenure.

The Sooners are seeing the benefits of that in Omaha.

It was redshirt freshman Cade Horton that got the start against Notre Dame in Game 2 of the MCWS. He found success with throwing a slider, finishing with a career-high 11 strikeouts to help the Sooners to a 6-2 win.

After the game, Horton credited redshirt junior Ben Abram, who’s pitched 21 innings this season, with teaching him the slider during the Big 12 Tournament.

“When you see your teammates teaching each other and not really caring what the outcome of it is but they're really teaching each other, that's when you really have a great culture,” Johnson said. “And sometimes it will get out of hand. They'll get mad at each other, too, which is great. We're all brothers; we get mad at each other. I think that's great.”

Of course, the team has taken care of business on the field, too. The offense has been firing on all cylinders during the postseason. The team’s pitchers have recorded 34 strikeouts to just six walks during the MCWS.

But there’s been something about this team that has transcended the X's and O's on the field.

In recent weeks, Johnson has referred to the Sooners as a “team full of Davids”, referencing the biblical story of David and Goliath and the underdog mentality the team has played with all season.

So it felt fitting that David Sandlin was the story of the team’s win against Texas A&M Wednesday.

Sandlin, who had struggled on the mound in his last few outings, came alive against the Aggies, recording a career-high 12 strikeouts in seven innings pitched to tie the Big 12 record for strikeouts in a MCWS game.

The irony was not lost on Johnson.

“It's really special [that it was] a guy named David,” Johnson said. “That's really kind of what started this deal. It started with the lines back at the beginning of the year, and then it's transitioned to David and [our team] being just a bunch of Davids. I'm really proud of those guys. They really have been selfless.”

It’s been that kind of season for the Sooners. And they’re just two wins away from one of the most special, and most unexpected, championship seasons in college baseball history.

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580


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