By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Oklahoma team that opened the season Friday bore little resemblance to the one celebrating its second straight win after Sunday’s 15-6 victory over Seton Hall at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The one started that the series was timid. The one that banged out 18 hits and scored runs in six of the eight innings in the game showed no fear.
“The last two days we came out and attacked and that’s what our main goal is,” OU right fielder Taylor Alspaugh said after going 2 for 3 and driving in three runs. “We want to attack and set the tempo and that’s what we did and that’s why we got the ‘W’ both days.”
Sunday’s win secured for the Sooners a 2-1 record and capped an impressive offensive performance. Six of OU’s starters had at least two hits and four had multi-RBI efforts at the plate.
Catcher Mac James went 4 for 4 and drove in two runs and second baseman Hector Lorenzana went 3 for 5 with three RBIs.
OU unleashed the offensive onslaught early, putting up four runs on Seton Hall starting pitcher Luke Cahill in the bottom of the first inning.
“Anytime you start a game with a four-spot in the first inning, that takes the pressure off of everybody and you can feel relaxed,” OU coach Pete Hughes said.
OU needed to play that way Sunday. Freshman right-hander Jake Elliott made his first career start. He flashed a lot of the potential that moved him into the weekend rotation so early in his career. He held the Pirates (1-2) to three runs (two earned) on two hits while walking four and striking out three.
But it helped that he walked out to the mound in the second inning with a four-run lead.
“It was awesome. Every pitcher wants that,” Elliott said of being able to pitch with a big early lead. “When you have a big lead you know can just go after hitters because you’re not worried about making mistakes and things like that.”
He made a couple, but the biggest adjustment he had to make was learning to pitch after long breaks. The Sooners tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning, two more in the fifth and four more in the sixth.
Haley kicked the rout into high gear with a three-run homer — the Sooners’ third of the series — in the fourth inning.
For the second straight day, the wind was blowing out to left field at L. Dale Mitchell Park and the Sooners took advantage.
“Perk of playing here on some days. You get a good wind and it’ll go out,” Haley said.
In every sense, OU resembled the team Hughes envisioned for this season. The Sooners pitched well and slugged their way to an easy win. The nervousness that surrounded the season-opening loss on Friday dissipated with Saturday’s 8-2 victory over the Pirates on Saturday.
By Sunday, the Sooners were a care-free bunch.
“They played to win the last two days. Just look at how we ran the bases. Guys were going to first to third and forcing pressure on the defense. That’s playing to win and not being tentative,” Hughes said. “It was, completely, two different ball clubs from the one we coached on Friday to the one we coached yesterday and today.”
Just in time for the Sooners start building some early-season momentum. They return to L. Dale Mitchell Park at 3 p.m. Tuesday for the start of a two-game series against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Next Friday, OU heads to Orlando, Fla., where it will face the Citadel, Central Florida and Ohio State over the weekend.
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