The Norman Transcript

April 8, 2014

Sooners findingconfidence in the batter’s box

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — It’s astounding what one hard-hit ball that avoids a glove can due for a team’s confidence. Seeing it happen once reversed Oklahoma’s fortunes over the weekend against Cal State Bakersfield.

A team that struggled to get runners on base turned into one that scored them in bunches.

“It’s amazing that once you get to that one guy that hits a rocket, everyone just relaxes in the box,” OU coach Pete Hughes said after the Sooners claimed 17-4 and 4-3 victories over the Roadrunners on Saturday at L. Dale Mitchell Park to improve to 23-10 and 4-2 in the Big 12.

The 31 hits OU produced in Saturday’s doubleheader gave the impression that dam that had plugged its route to the base path and scoring runs finally crumbled.

Prior to Saturday, OU hadn’t scored more than four runs in a game since an 11-2 victory over Kansas State on March 22.

“I’m happy that our bats are back,” Hughes said. “Hopefully we can ride the momentum around for a while.”

If things have truly changed, it should be

apparent at 6 p.m. today when OU faces Oral Roberts (14-16) at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

The teams met two weeks ago in Tulsa. Oral Roberts pitcher Pepe Gomez dominated that meeting, tossing a complete-game three hitter in the Golden Eagles’ 3-0 victory.

ORU hasn’t announced a starting pitcher, but Gomez has not pitched since April 2 and has ample rest to take the mound tonight.

The difference between the first meeting and today’s is the Sooners’ confidence at the plate.

Last time they faced the Golden Eagles, they were coming off a 5-0 loss to Kansas State.

This time, things are a little different.

“Baseball is a game of momentum. We have to keep it,” OU shortstop Hector Lorenzana said. “We can’t get too high or too low. We have to keep battling every day to get better.”

Hughes thought OU did in the last weekend’s three-game series. OU’s bullpen put together another dominant performance in the series. The group threw 111⁄3 innings and didn’t allow a run.

OU’s defense also improved, but it was hard to tell from the raw statistics. It committed five errors in the series, running the season total to a Big 12 Conference-worst 56 this season.

Nevertheless, Game 3 of the series was a 4-3 victory in which the Sooners played error free.

“I thought it was a good weekend in that we won three games, our defense got a little bit better and we got our bats back on track,” Hughes said.

Retaining that momentum is important this week. The Sooners could pay a price in terms of an NCAA tournament seed or with an at-large bid if they were to be swept by the Golden Eagles.

Texas (26-7, 6-3 Big 12) comes to L. Dale Mitchell Park for the start of a three-game set on Friday. The series will feature the two teams atop the Big 12 standings.

The team that emerged from last weekend’s series against Cal State Bakersfield has a lot better chance of stringing some wins together than the one that entered it.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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