NORMAN — What Oklahoma coach Pete Hughes did following the two-hour rain delay against Texas was telling. It didn’t pay off in the Sooners’ 8-1 loss that secured a series sweep for the Longhorns. But it declared where the Sooners are and that some changes needed to be made.
He moved freshman third baseman Sheldon Neuse to shortstop for the last five innings. Outfielder Mac James went from the outfield to third base. Taylor Alspaugh came off the bench and moved to the outfield with second baseman Keach Ballard going to the bench.
“If we’re going to play as bad as we’ve been playing defensively, then we’re going to put some bats in the lineup,” Hughes said afterwards.
Becoming as offensive as possible may be the Sooners’ only route to the NCAA tournament.
What the series exhibited was an enormous gap between the Sooners and Longhorns in two critical areas: starting pitching and defense.
Texas’ starting pitchers went 212⁄3 innings in the series with Sunday starter Nathan Thornhill, tossing a complete-game five hitter.
OU’s starters went just 92⁄3 innings with Friday starter Corey Copping lasting just 2⁄3 of an inning.
The Sooners’ strength all season has been their bullpen, but that’s just too much stress to put on a pitching staff.
Oddly enough Texas committed five errors in the series and still greatly outplayed the Sooners in that area. Those errors were offset by some tremendous defensive plays that snuffed out rallies and prevented OU from building any offensive momentum.
The errors have been OU’s Achilles heel all season. The three it committed over the weekend ran the season total to 59. The .959 fielding percentage ranks No. 220 in the country — out of 296 teams.
OU certainly had worse defensive series this season. However, beating good teams — which Texas has proven it is once again — doesn’t have much margin for error.