The Norman Transcript

OU Sports

March 14, 2014

Spring cleaning time for Sooners

NORMAN — It’s become a familiar refrain for Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes, no matter the end result of a game.

“We need to play cleaner,” he said after OU dropped the final game of a three-game series against Rutgers last Sunday.

Clean means making the routine plays, cutting down on the errors, throwing strikes and getting clutch hits. In other words, stop making errors, both physical and mental.

The Sooners (12-5) are improving in that regard. Tuesday’s victory over Texas-Arlington was their fifth in the last six games.

But the performance still had stains. Only one error, but allowing eight walks and hitting two batters was far less tidy. Only Taylor Alspaugh’s 10th-inning homer allowed OU to escape with a 3-2 win.

Getting cleaner will be the goal when OU opens a three-game series with Belmont (7-9) at 6 p.m. today at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

“I want to play cleaner baseball,” Hughes said. “We’re not gonna win in our league if we keep giving up extra base runners and can’t take care of the baseball … We need to be a better fundamental team before we head into Big 12 play.”

This series is one of the last times to get everything in check before the conference season begins. OU will host Kansas State next weekend for the Big 12 season’s first series.

OU will stick with right-hander Corey Copping (2-0, 2.51 ERA), left-hander Adam Choplick (2-1, 3.13 ERA) and right-hander Jake Elliot (1-2, 3.20 ERA) for the weekend rotation for the second straight week.

Hughes would love to see all three make quality starts and solidify the rotation. It’s a matter of consistency throughout the pitching staff, the bullpen and the lineup that needs to arrive.

In that sense, the Belmont series is a critical one for the Sooners. They’ve shown potential over the season’s initial four weeks. Dependability needs to emerge now.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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