By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The decision to delay the start of the Big 12 tournament until today allowed Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway to alter his pitching rotation.
Jonathan Gray will get the start when the Sooners face Baylor at 9 a.m. today at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Dillon Overton was originally slated to start in the tournament’s opening game.
Why make the switch?
“Because it’s the best arm in the country and it’s fresh and ready to go,” Golloway said of Gray, who is 8-2 with a 1.69 ERA. “Why wouldn’t you throw (Gray) right off the get-go?”
Gray hasn’t thrown since taking a no-decision in the Sooners’ 6-5 loss at Kansas State last Friday.
There’s another reason for using Gray today. There’s at least a 30 percent chance of rain today through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
“If it starts raining and we only played one game and I didn’t throw Jon, you guys would be asking to see my degree and making sure I actually graduated,” Golloway said.
Elite company: Gray has registered 115 strikeouts this season, crossing the 100-strikeout milestone for the second straight season. He is the sixth OU pitcher to accomplish the feat.
The previous five were Jackson Todd (1972-73), Marty Kunkler (1975-76), Bobby Witt (1984-85), Matt Ruebel (1990-91) and Mark Redman (1994-95). All five each was picked within the first four rounds of the MLB draft, three were All-Americans (Todd, Witt, Redman) and two became MLB All-Stars (Witt, Redman).
Playing loose: Golloway allowed catcher Anthony Hermelyn to call the pitches in the 7-3 victory over Kansas State last Sunday. It was the first time this season pitching coach Jack Giese didn’t do it.
Whether it carries over into the Big 12 tournament is still being debated, but in the regular-season finale it had the desired effect.
“I was excited for it. It was a new experience for me, a new challenge,” Hermelyn said. “It went really well.”
Running hot in neutral: OU second baseman Hector Lorenzana should be pleased to return to Bricktown. He recorded five hits in 11 at-bats (.455) with three runs scored and six runs batted in OU’s three neutral site games against Oklahoma State earlier this season. Couple that with OU’s neutral site games against Iowa, New Mexico and Notre Dame, Lorenzana is batting a team-high .455 batting average and 8 RBIs in neutral site games.
Ignorance is bliss: Freshman outfielder Craig Aikin, who hit .340 in Big 12 Conference games, hasn’t been keeping with NCAA tournament projections all season. He’s not going to start now.
“I think a beautiful thing has been being a freshman I’ve been ignorant to how all this works and the significance of a loss here or a loss in a midweek would have on the program,” he said. “I just go out every day and try to play. Things will work out like they’re supposed to as long as you’re giving 100 percent on the field.”
Against the field: OU will play Baylor today, Texas Tech Friday and Kansas State Saturday in Pool A of the Big 12 tournament. The Sooners went 1-2 against the Bears and Wildcats and 2-1 against the Red Raiders.
In the Big 12 tournament, the Sooners are 2-3 all-time against Baylor, 1-2 versus Kansas State and 6-3 versus Texas Tech.