Any direction Oral Roberts turns, it is surrounded by Power 5 baseball and basketball programs that are supposed to be stronger than the small private school’s programs located in Tulsa.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State nab nearly all the in-state headlines. What’s left over often goes to cross-city rival Tulsa, a mid-major itself. Just two hours to the east, Arkansas has been just as logical as a nonconference opponent while also getting the benefit of a “Big Brother” perception over Oral Roberts.
But, as the College World Series begins this week, the Sooners, Cowboys and Hogs will be watching on as it’s the Golden Eagles and their five northwest Arkansas natives who will be in Omaha playing TCU on Friday afternoon. This is ORU’s first CWS appearance in 45 years.
Before College World Series, A Rich Legacy
The Golden Eagles’ baseball tradition dates to 1978 when they made their College World Series debut. Since then, they have made 22 NCAA regional appearances and qualified 15 straight times between 1998 and 2012. ORU played in the regional finals in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011. The Golden Eagles won the regional title in 2006.
ORU has dominated its various leagues (currently the Summit League), which include mostly northern, cold-weather institutions. ORU has the distinct advantage and smartly administrators have capitalized on the success adding newer facilities in 2008 which sets the program apart from others its size.
Hogs fans are familiar with ORU because they have been regular nonconference opponents due to the close proximity of the campuses and that has also led to the Golden Eagles playing at Baum-Walker Stadium twice in the postseason.
History with Arkansas Baseball
The two teams first met in 1999 with ORU winning 14-3 in Fayetteville, but the Hogs own a 22-8 series edge and are 14-6 in games played in Fayetteville. They are 7-2 at ORU. They also took both regional games – one in 2018 and another in 2015. The teams last played in April of 2019 with the Razorbacks winning 15-8.
A game this year would have been interesting as both teams had stellar regular seasons.
Oral Roberts beat Oklahoma State in two regular-season meetings and lost to Oklahoma. The Golden Eagles then stayed perfect against the Cowboys, beating them in the Stillwater Regional and knocked off Dallas Baptist for the regional title.
Oregon hosted ORU in the Super Regionals and the first two games were wild, high-scoring games that the two teams split, but the Golden Eagles ran away with the deciding game, 11-6. ORU has now won 22 of its past 23 games as its 21-game winning streak was snapped in the first game of the Super Regionals.
“We’re playing well at the right time,” ORU coach Ryan Folmar said following the series-clinching win.
Oral Roberts Baseball Reps Northwest Arkansas
A handful of players with Northwest Arkansas ties dot the Golden Eagles roster. Included are a pair of Springdale Har-Ber standout teammates in second baseman Blaze Brothers, the son of former Arkansas football cornerback Richard Brothers, and shortstop Mac McCroskey. Brothers, a Northeastern (Okla.) State transfer, is hitting .302 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI.
McCroskey, a East Oklahoma Community College transfer, homered 13 times with a 62 RBI and owns a .310 batting average. The former Wildcat teammates, who have known each other for about a dozen years, won a state title together in 2018 before beginning their college careers together at Cowley (Kan.) Community College.
The Har-Ber alums are joined by pitchers Reed Ronan (Bentonville), Andrew Roach (Springdale) and Conner Floyd (Lifeway Christian).
Brothers recently told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette the familiarity of the ORU roster set the stage for his transfer for his final collegiate season.
“That was one of the deciding factors,” Brothers said. “Signing with ORU is where I felt most comfortable. It is close to home, and they win games. It is the best fit for me.”
As a fun aside, Best of Arkansas Sports’ very own Andrew Hutchinson recalls working his first job ever as a scorekeeper at the little league fields at the Springfield’s Tyson Complex and saw Brothers and former Arkansas/KSU pitcher Blake Adams form the core of an absolutely stacked team of wee ones that ran roughshod over the competition. “Basically, they’d just massacre every team they faced, even as 7/8-year-olds,” Hutchinson said.
“I loved getting their games because I got paid the same whether it was a 30-minute run rule or a full 1- or 1.5-hour game.”
Oral Roberts Basketball Shows Out
The small, private university has made a name for itself without football. While the baseball team has dominated the different leagues it has played in, many fans know more about the basketball team. ORU has played in seven NCAA Tournaments and was led for 18 seasons by Scott Sutton, the son of former Arkansas head coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Eddie Sutton. Sutton was fired in 2017 as the school’s all-time winningest coach with a record of 328–247.
Paul Mills led 15-seeded ORU to the Sweet 16 of the NCAAA Tournament in 2021 with upsets over Ohio State and Florida while Magnolia naive Solomon Bozeman, now the head coach of UAPB, served as an assistant. Arkansas ended its season with a 72-70 win.
This past season, with former Hogs seven-footer Connor Vanover leading the way, ORU was a 12-seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament but fell to Duke in the first round, 74-51. On the season, fellow Little Rock native Issac McBride chipped in nearly 12 points a game on 41% three-point shooting.
It isn’t easy to move out of the shadows of the two Power 5 schools inside the state’s borders and one across the border, but ORU has established itself as a mid-major force in baseball and basketball.
Now, the program has a golden opportunity to really put itself on the map with a good showing in Omaha. In the video below, McBride talks about his own “arrogance and pride” leading him to overlook ORU as a choice when he first came of high school and went to Kansas instead. He’s not the first, nor will be the last, person to overlook Oral Roberts athletics in this way.
But thanks to the recent efforts of at least eight native Arkansans, the number of such folks shrinks by the day.
More on Blaze Brothers and Mac McCroskey in College World Series:
More on Arkansas baseball and Connor Vanover from BoAS: