The Norman Transcript

March 6, 2014

Middle infield shift aids Sooners in win

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Hard to win when you’re giving up extra outs. It’s an affliction that’s plagued Oklahoma through its 11 games. Coach Pete Hughes tried something unconventional to solve the problem in Wednesday’s 4-1 win against Abilene Christian at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

He used Hector Lorenzana and Keach Ballard as interchangeable shortstops and second basemen. Lorenzana was a shortstop unless it was a double-play situation. Then he and Ballard flipped.

“There is no one in our program that can turn a double play like Hector, and that is such an important play,” Hughes said. “In one play you get two outs. He is very skilled at that play but he is also, I think, our best defender. So I am trying to get the best of both worlds. When I let him play shortstop he is a veteran presence and he gets everyone settled down and then when you get into a double play situation you aren’t going to lose anything because you put him back at second base to turn the double play for you. I think he is that talented defensively.”

The Sooners (8-4) didn’t turn a double play Wednesday, but they didn’t commit an error either. They are 4-0 when they’re flawless in the field and 4-4 when they are not. There have been 17 unearned runs in those eight games.

This isn’t the first time Hughes has situationally flipped his middle infielders. He tried a couple years ago at Virginia Tech.

But he didn’t inform Lorenzana or Ballard of his decision until a few hours before Wednesday’s game. The change ended a streak for Lorenzana. He had been at second base for the last 75 games.

“It’s been while since I played (short stop). The last time I played it was in high school,” Lorenzana said. “But I felt pretty confident out there.

The move helped get Ballard into the lineup. He made just his fourth start of the season Wednesday. He went 1 for 3, but the lone hit was clutch. He delivered a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning that gave OU the two insurance runs.

The rest of OU’s runs came via the long ball.

Taylor Alspaugh gave OU the lead with a solo home run in the second inning and Hunter Haley added a solo shot in the third.

Octavio Rodriguez only pitched two innings, but picked up the victory in a predetermined start. He, Robert Tasin, Kindle Ladd, Kyle Hayes and Ralph Garza Jr., who picked up the save, combined to hold Abilene Christian (6-3) to one run on six hits.

Garrett Demeyere (2-2) took the loss. He went five innings, allowing two runs on six hits.

The teams return to L. Dale Mitchell Park at 3 p.m. for the finale of the two-game series.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com

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