NORMAN — Oklahoma’s Ralph Garza Jr., Jacob Evans and Kyle Hayes arrive at the ballpark believing they’re going to pitch. None of them bother to worry themselves with when anymore.
It could be to stop a rally early in a game. It could be in the middle. It could be the ninth inning.
“We’re not confined to one thing, so you always have to be ready,” Hayes said. “You never know who they’re going to go with, so it keeps you on your toes. It could be any of us three at any time or anyone out of the bullpen.”
It’s hard to call any of the three specialists. All of have been asked to do different things at different times. Evans (7-2), the freshman left-hander, has been OU’s closer most of the season. He has nine saves, but his role has expanded beyond getting three outs in the ninth inning.
Garza (5-1) is also a freshman. The right-hander has thrown 58 innings this season but has only two starts under his belt.
Hayes (1-0, two saves) barely saw the mound until the Sooners’ meeting with Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament two weeks ago. Since then, he’s made himself indispensable, logging six shutout innings in three of the Sooners’ last eight games.
If OU’s going to advance to the College World Series, the trio’s fingerprints will be all over the Sooners’ super regional series at LSU, beginning at 6 p.m.,Friday at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Reliable pitching is the ingredient just about all College World Series teams share. Slugging your way through the NCAA tournament virtually ended when the bats were changed prior to the 2011 season.
Just about every team has an ace starting pitcher and possibly more. The Sooners have that with Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton.