Tyler Wulfert HR swing.jpg

Tyler Wulfert hits a home run during a nonconference Bedlam baseball game earlier this season at O’Brate Stadium. The Cowboys have been tabbed as the No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will host a Regional – including Washington, Dallas Baptist and Oral Roberts – in Stillwater starting this Friday.

Roc Riggio hadn’t experienced anything like that before.

Oklahoma State baseball’s star second baseman didn’t have rivalries of such magnitude while growing up in Simi Valley, California.

Then Riggio, as a freshman in 2022, walked onto the diamond at O’Brate Stadium, took a good look around and realized what he got himself into. The Cowboys were about to embark on a weekend series with rival Oklahoma, and Riggio was officially introduced to Bedlam.

“I was like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of people here,” he recollected on Tuesday morning. “I went into that game thinking, like, it was just gonna be another game. … But now, kind of being here and realizing the history of OU and Oklahoma State, Bedlam and just the state of Oklahoma, I think it’s unique we can fight in a way where it’s organized.”

Ding ding.

The No. 25 Cowboys (35-15, 13-8 Big 12) will make the hour-plus trek south to Norman on Thursday for a matchup with the Sooners (29-22, 11-11 Big 12) in what’s expected to be a slugfest of a three-game series.

OU will enter the latest edition of the Bedlam Series vying to make the NCAA Tournament. OSU, on the other hand, will have a chance at catching up to West Virginia, which sits atop the Big 12 standings entering the final weekend of the regular season.

The Pokes can clinch a share of the league title with a pair of wins over the Sooners – and the Mountaineers dropping their three-game series at Texas. If OSU sweeps OU, and if Texas sweeps WVU, the Cowboys would win their first outright Big 12 regular-season crown since 2014.

“It’s what we’ve been playing for all year. It’s only fitting that it comes down to OU, so that’s a little extra to it,” said OSU pitcher Isaac Stebens, a Stillwater native. “But at the end of the day, it’s still just another series that we gotta go out and win.”

That’s how Cowboys coach Josh Holliday views it, too. He doesn’t want his players trying to change their routine just because the opponent is who it is and the stakes are what they are.

That isn’t what got them this far. And Holliday doesn’t want that to be what follows them into the weekend.

“Baseball is played at its highest level when you’re under control, you’re focused, you’re on the perfect balance – of relaxed yet focused, intense yet calm,” Holliday said. “So, that’s how you want to play the game, for sure. And that really doesn’t matter who you’re playing against.

“Now, if you ask yourself, ‘Do you want to win the games?” Absolutely. Are they meaningful games? Absolutely they are. But how you play them and the way you prepare to play them should always be the same.”

There won’t – or at least shouldn’t – be any jitters come Thursday. There won’t be a Riggio-like welcome into the coveted rivalry. The two have already met, with the Cowboys overcoming a quirky start to beat the Sooners 19-8 on April 18 in Stillwater.

OSU has won 10 of its 12 games since then behind an offensive surge that’s posted an average of 11.75 runs per game. The Cowboys have scored double-digit runs in four of their past five, including 19- and 12-run outings during a series win over Kansas State.

All of that – everything that’s transpired between the Pokes’ initial win over the Sooners and the opportunity at three more – has kept OSU within striking distance. Rallying to jump West Virginia? That’s a big blow. And against OU? That’d be a knockout.

“You always want to be in a position to play for something meaningful. The last weekend of the year, that’s how you want to be. You want to be fighting for something,” Holliday said. “If we win, play good and prepare right, then we keep putting ourselves in a position for the next game to matter. You keep doing that until the final bell rings.”

Follow News Press sports reporter Jon Walker on Twitter @ByJonWalker for updates on Oklahoma State athletics and more.

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