By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Was it the lineup adjustments or simply a three-game feast against substandard pitching that led to Oklahoma’s three-game offensive onslaught against New Orleans?
The Sooners were hoping the question would be answered today at Arkansas. Instead, they’ll have to wait until Friday for proof.
Today’s scheduled game with the Razorbacks was canceled Monday. The weather forecast in Fayetteville today calls for temperatures in 30s and a high probability for thunderstorms.
OU (31-10) loses an opportunity for a quality non-conference victory because of the weather. Also, not getting a chance to see the lineup changes against better competition is another missed opportunity.
“I want to see how we look against some power arms,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said
following Sunday’s 14-3 run-rule victory over New Orleans. “If things go well, we’ll stick with it.”
The lineup changes were not monumental and didn’t even involve personnel changes. Matt Oberste moved from the cleanup spot to leadoff. Anthony Hermelyn moved from fifth in the order to third. Max White moved from third to cleanup. Jack Mayfield went from the lead-off spot to the nine hole.
The intention was to get Mayfield, who’d been slumping, more aggressive and get Oberste to be a little more selective.
That’s what happened against the Privateers. Oberste hit .571 in the series to push his batting average up to .421. He scored seven runs in the series.
“Obe can hit anywhere in our lineup,” Golloway said, “but I think it sets a precedent from the get-go that if you leave one up, he’ll get after you.”
Oberste has 10 home runs and 46 RBIs this season. If all else fails, moving him to the lead-off spot will get him more at-bats over the regular-season’ final month.
“The only time I’ve ever hit leadoff before was back in my high school days. I was slumping when it happened then, too,” Oberste said. “I guess I’m working out of it.”
Oberste has put up huge numbers this season, but he’s only hitting .199 in conference play. The Sooners need that to change. The chance arrives at 6:30 p.m. Friday when Texas Tech comes to L. Dale Mitchell Park for the opening game of a three-game series.
At the top of the order, there’s less of an opportunity to pitch around Oberste because teams don’t want to put the leadoff batter on base.
“I’ve been striking a lot and not getting many walks,” Oberste said. “This gives the opportunity to see some more fastballs and help other guys out in the lineup.”
Igniting Mayfield was the other bonus. He had two homers and drove in a team-high eight runs. He’s still hitting just .249 on the season, but showed what he can do when he’s hot against New Orleans.
It would have been better if the Sooners could have taken all the confidence it built against New Orleans to Arkansas.
Instead, OU must wait for the Red Raiders Friday. If the Sooners can carry their success forward, they should be hitting their stride at the right time.
Dominant starting pitching has allowed the Sooners to win a lot of games this season. Adding a penchant for scoring a lot of runs to that formula could take them a long way.
OU hopes what happened against New Orleans is only the beginning.
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