The Norman Transcript

May 9, 2013

Sooners’ Overton cleared to return in time for Pokes

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The nightmare Dillon Overton experienced 15 days ago faded after a couple nights. The pain he felt in his left elbow wasn’t the cause of a major injury.

Nevertheless, until he heard the comforting words from Oklahoma’s medical staff, the left-handed pitcher couldn’t help but think the worst.

“It was terrifying, not just for me, but for my team and my family, everybody was worried,” he said Wednesday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

Overton can look back on it now because the worries are over. He started throwing off the mound again this week. Overton (8-2, 2.52 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound this weekend when the Sooners (34-14, 11-7 Big 12) take on Oklahoma State (34-12, 9-8) beginning Friday at ONEOK Field in Tulsa.

It was the series Overton targeted for his return, for a number of reasons, after the elbow inflammation he suffered during an April 23 bullpen session.

First and foremost, the junior from Weatherford loves pitching in the Bedlam series. He’s taken the mound every year since 2011 and seen countless more games growing up. The other reason: if things go right for Overton in next month’s Major League Baseball first-year player draft, it could be his final chance to pitch against the Cowboys.

“I don’t want to miss Bedlam because it is one of the most fun series to throw in,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I have to make it, but I really want to make it.”

There’s no doubt the Sooners need him. With Overton joining Jonathan Gray (8-1, 1.20 ERA), OU possess the best one-two starting pitching punch in college baseball. Both entered the year as likely first-round draft picks next month. The dominant display Gray has put on this season has made him a possible No. 1 overall pick.

Overton doesn’t have Gray’s 100 mile per hour fastball, but he can run it up to the plate at well over 90 miles an hour. He also has the knack for hitting spots and three really good pitches that all major league teams covet.

The difference was obvious after OU dropped two of three at West Virginia last weekend and fell into a tie with the Mountaineers and Kansas State atop the conference standings.

“Those two guys can set the whole series by themselves,” OU outfielder Max White said. “Getting Dillon back is definitely comforting. We know what the rotation is gonna be … Going to West Virginia without him was tough.”

For Overton, however, why risk returning to the mound this season with so much money at stake?

Overton said that never crossed his mind.

“I’ve never been the type of guy to just stop,” he said.” My team needs me and I need my team for the support to come back. I never thought about just hanging it up.

“I’ve been working out with my legs really hard these last two weeks. I’ve been to every rehab that (OU trainer Rob Fulton) has given me to try to get ready. I’ve also been praying a lot for God to put his hand on my arm and heal me as quick as it can. The good thing is I’ve healed up really well.”

OU coach Sunny Golloway said Wednesday he might shuffle the pitching rotation for the Bedlam series. Jake Fisher (1-2, 1.91 ERA) will likely start Friday against the Cowboys. Gray will go Saturday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. Overton is slated to pitch in Sunday’s series finale in Bricktown.

There might be some rust, but Golloway isn’t concerned about Overton’s ability to compete.

“My gut tells me with all his experience, and he’s thrown his bullpen and played long catch, his spirits are tremendous and feels really strong. I’m not concerned he won’t have his best stuff,” he said.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn