The grind of catching every day was part of it. But he’s dropped 20 pounds since last season and feels like a different player and hitter.
“The game has really slowed down for me at the end of last year, and going into the fall it slowed down even more,” Hermelyn said. “I’m excited to get out there and face a real opponent.”
Hughes admitted one thing he hasn’t adapted to since arriving from Virginia Tech six months ago is the state’s weather. The only thing he knows for sure is there is no guarantee which way the wind will blow or whether to wear short sleeves or a parka to the ballpark.
Saturday, the Sooners scrimmaged with the temperature below 40 degrees most of the day. The previous weekend it was in the 60s. They’ll likely spend a lot of this week practicing indoors.
Hot or cold, the Sooners must figure out a way to score runs. They averaged just 5.48 runs per game last season and hit .282 as a team. The only .300 hitters from the everyday lineup — Matt Oberste and Max White — are gone. They, along with Jack Mayfield, connected for 21 of OU’s 31 home runs. Mayfield also graduated last spring.
Hughes admits he doesn’t know for sure how OU will replace them at the plate. The best way to build hitters is to let them hit. But that doesn’t mean wild hacks are welcome.
“Our focus is on not striking out,” second baseman Hector Lorenzana said. “When we get two strikes, we choke and get close to the plate and make sure you don’t strike out. Our mentality is to not give up outs.”
The Sooners may not have guaranteed high-round draft picks on its pitching staff like Jonathan Gray or Dillon Overton last season. But Hughes called OU’s current pitching staff the deepest and most talented he’s been associated with as he enters his 18th season as a college head coach.