The Norman Transcript

Sports

March 23, 2014

Another big inning gives Sooners shot at sweep today

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s offensive style shifted with the arrival of coach Pete Hughes’ first season in the dugout. Sacrifice bunt attempts have nearly vanished because Hughes detests giving up outs. He wants a lineup stuffed with sluggers overwhelmingly confident that well-timed swings will produce runs.

The way OU continued to brandish the bats against Kansas State on Saturday at L. Dale Mitchell Park exhibited the approach’s merits.

The 11-2 victory over the Wildcats marked the second straight game OU (18-6, 2-0 Big 12) has had an eight-run inning, and fourth time in the last five games it has scored at least nine runs and belted out a minimum of 12 hits.

Kansas State (13-0, 0-2 Big 12) was that kind of team a year ago. It led the conference in virtually every offensive statistic en route to winning the Big 12 regular-season title. The Wildcats have put up similar numbers this season.

In the conference-opening series for both teams, however, OU has done the bashing.

“We’ve been able to out-hit these guys and compete with them at the plate,” said OU third baseman Sheldon Neuse, who drove in the game-winning run with a double off the left-field wall in the bottom of the seventh inning. “Putting up the runs we have has been big for us. I think it sends a message as well.”

The message: Good luck uncovering easy outs in the Sooners’ lineup.

On Saturday, Mac James went 2 for 4 with an eighth-inning grand slam homer, Hector Lorenzana went 3 for 4 with an RBI and Craig Aikin drove in a run during his 2-for-4 afternoon.

Where they hit in the lineup displays the dilemma the Wildcats’ pitching staff has faced.

James, who hit in the cleanup spot on Saturday along with catching all nine innings, has been the hottest hitter in the Big 12 for more than a month. Lorenzana has hit in the bottom of the order most of the season. Aikin is OU’s leadoff batter.

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