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Oklahoma St. drops to No. 6 seed
OKLAHOMA CITY -- With the losses beginning to pile up, it would be easy for Oklahoma State to head into the Big 12 baseball tournament thinking of the worst. Having been there before, the Cowboys know they're capable of resurrecting a disappointing season.
The Cowboys (33-23, 12-15 Big 12) fell into the sixth seed after losing nine of their last 14 games. The only way they can assure themselves of a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament is to repeat as tournament champions. Anything less and the picture gets fuzzy.
"We're kind of on the bubble. It kind of looks that way," starting pitcher Thomas Cowley said. "In all three years I've been here it's been like this, so it's nothing new to us. We usually do pretty good in pressure situations, and we've got a positive outlook on the tournament."
The Cowboys finished the regular season with a glimmer of hope last Sunday in a 9-3 win against Kansas. Shortstop Chris Gutierrez came through with the first five-hit game of his career and slugger Adam Carr broke out of a slump with three home runs.
It's enough to have coach Frank Anderson believing his offense might be coming around.
"We haven't had everybody on the same page for most of the year, and I think that's been our big problem offensively," Anderson said.
Gutierrez said the Kansas win, which snapped a five-game losing streak, was a big confidence boost. However, he doesn't want the Cowboys to put too much focus on the NCAA tournament just yet.
"Hopefully, there's life after this," Gutierrez said. "I don't want to think of this as do-or-die as of right now. I think we have to come in and win a ball game or two to keep ourselves in the running. I don't think we can go two-and-out. I also don't think we can worry about whether we go on right now to the regionals.
"We've got to come in and play these ball games and hope for the best."
The Cowboys' draw isn't an easy one. They face last year's national runner-up, Texas (43-12, 16-10), in the opening round on Wednesday. With a win, they face a potential matchup with regular season Big 12 co-champion Baylor (36-20, 19-8) or Kansas (36-26, 11-15).
The other side of the bracket includes top-seeded Nebraska (46-12, 19-8) as well as Missouri (37-19), Oklahoma (33-22, 14-13) and Texas Tech (33-23, 9-16).
"We weren't the favorite last year, and we're certainly not the favorite this year," Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said being an underdog could play to the Cowboys' advantage because they won't have the pressure of being loaded down with others' expectations. On the other hand, Cowley said the Cowboys must realize the situation they're in.
"We're gonna be fighting for position," Cowley said. "We just can't sit back and relax and act like the baseball gods are going to take care of it for us."
And despite their recent struggles, the Cowboys are confident in themselves thanks to last year's tournament run.
"I'm not guaranteeing a repeat or anything like that, but we've definitely got the capability," Cowley said. "We need a couple wins in this tournament. That's for sure."